Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Investing in children


Children that grow up in poverty are more likely to suffer from social exclusion and health problems in the future, and also less likely to develop to their full potential later in life.

Breaking the cycle of disadvantage in early years and investing in children through a preventative approach allows reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion.


  • Thanks to the economic recovery, child poverty in Europe has declined, but it is still unacceptably high. In 2017, 24.9% of children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

  • Investment in children should address challenges such as:

    • disincentives deterring parents from working,

    • inefficient or inadequate child and family benefits,

    • lack of access to quality child care services.

Policy response

The 2013 Recommendation on Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage stresses the importance of early intervention and an integrated preventative approach. It  calls on EU countries to:

  • support parents' access to the labour market and make sure that work 'pays',
  • improve access to affordable early childhood education and care services,
  • provide adequate income support such as child and family benefits, which should be redistributive across income groups but avoid inactivity traps and stigmatization,
  • support children's participation in extra-curricular activities and in legal decisions affecting them.

In 2017, when presenting the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission and the experts of the European Social Policy Network prepared an evaluation of the implementation of the Recommendation on Investing in Children:

Principle 11 of the European Pillar of Social Rightson says that children have the right to:

  • affordable early childhood education and care of good quality,
  • protection from poverty and
  • specific measures to enhance equal opportunities.

The Commission monitors and supports the implementation of the Recommendation and the European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular by:

Child guarantee for vulnerable children

At the request of the European Parliament, the Commission is currently investigating the feasibility of a child guarantee for vulnerable children.

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