The progress report finds that just eight countries have met both targets agreed at EU level for availability and accessibility of childcare services. The so-called ‘Barcelona targets’, agreed by EU leaders in 2002, say that childcare should be provided for 90% of children between three years old and the mandatory school age, and for 33% of children under three. Meanwhile, a new study also released by the Commission today sheds light on the phenomenon of the ‘gender pension gap’, showing that on average across the EU, women’s pensions are 39% lower than men’s.
“Every parent knows only too well how crucial affordable and accessible childcare is not only for the development of the child but also for working parents. Yet, so far, fewer than 1 in 3 Member States has managed to reach their own childcare targets," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship. “Member States have to buckle down if they want to reach the 75% employment goal they have signed up to. Childcare provision should not be seen as a cost, but as an investment in tomorrow.”
Figures for 2010 show that most EU countries have missed their own targets for childcare provision: only eight were able to meet the targets for both age categories (0-3 years; 3 years to mandatory school age): Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Only 10 Member States reached the first category target (0-3 years) and 11 the second category target (3 years to mandatory school age) (see Annex).
Meanwhile, data just released for 2011 show a fall in the provision of childcare for older children, meaning some countries that reached the target in 2010 now fall behind the threshold of 90% (Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland).
Policies for better work-life balance – in particular childcare services – are key to promoting women's employment. More women working is essential to reaching the EU’s employment targets and improving overall economic strategy. That is why on 29 May, the Commission proposed country-specific recommendations to the Council under the third European Semester for 2013 (see IP/13/463). Recommendations have been addressed to 11 Member States1 on female employment, on childcare availability/quality and/or full-day school places and on care services.
On 29 May 2013, under the European Semester, 11 Member States (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom) received country specific recommendations on female employment and on childcare availability/quality and/or full-day school places. In 2012, nine Member States (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom) received such recommendations. Back in 2011, seven of these countries had already received a recommendation (Malta and Slovakia were not part of the 2011 round).