Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Studies and reports - Policy briefs

Researchers associated with EPIC have authored a number of policy briefs relating to family and child well-being. The topics covered include the impact of the financial crisis on childcare, children with special educational needs and parental leave arrangements.

 

EPIC policy brief on the quality and impact of Centre-based Early Childhood Education and Care [November 2016, pdf, 1,4 MB]

There is a strong association between the quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provision and the outcomes for children, with high quality ECEC being associated with better child outcomes later in life. This brief reviewed the broad range of indicators that have been linked to quality, with a focus on understanding how these indicators relate to quality and eventual child outcomes later in life. We found that the interaction between different indicators of ECEC quality is complex, and varies significantly across socio-economic, cultural and national contexts, which reflects the beliefs, needs, roles and motivations of the different stakeholders involved in defining ECEC services. Despite this complexity we identify several structural indicators which are frequently considered indicators of high process quality. For each of these indicators we present policy levers for improving ECEC quality, and discuss the context these policies work in, i.e. whether they act at national level, family and community level or at the level of the childcare setting. 

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on paternity and parental leave policies across the European Union [October 2016, pdf, 2,3 MB]

Across the EU, there are various types of leave available to parents following the birth of a child. The vast majority of this leave is still taken up by women. This remains to be the case despite efforts to increase the uptake of leave by men, such as policies that reserve part of leave for fathers. Research has shown that there is a large number of interlocking factors that affect uptake of leave by fathers, including the level of compensation, the availability of affordable childcare, the flexibility of leave arrangements, gender norms and cultural expectations about fathers’ and mothers’ roles. Parental leave taken by fathers contributes to the ability of parents to reconcile family and work responsibilities, yet policies affording men the opportunity to share parental responsibilities in the early stages of a child’s life have received relatively little attention. This policy brief focuses on providing a synthesised overview of paternity leave policies and policies which encourage sharing parental leave between new parents as currently implemented in Europe.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on maternity leave policies: trade-offs between labour market demands and health benefits for children [October 2016, pdf, 643 KB]

In recent years, many EU states have made changes to the design of maternity leave provision, reflecting research findings that long periods of leave can have negative effects on women’s labour market attachment and career advancements. At the same time, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies should be exclusively breastfed up to the age of 6 months to provide them with the necessary nutrition for healthy growth and development. Returning to work early can be a factor preventing exclusive breastfeeding, and therefore potentially carry negative health impacts for babies. The aim of this brief is to examine the relationship between leave provision and the health benefits for children. We examine maternity leave provision across EU countries and its potential impact on the breastfeeding of very young babies (up to 6 months of age). We also consider the economic aspects of a potential extension of maternity leave provision to 6 months, such as costs to businesses, effects on the female labour market attachment, and wider consequences (benefits and costs) for individuals, families, employers and the wider society.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and long-term effects on the educational and labour market outcomes [October 2016, pdf, 3,5 MB]

US studies have shown that the provision of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is associated with positive social and economic outcomes, both in the short and long term. This brief reviewed the available evidence on the short and long term outcomes of ECEC within the European context: how do existing differences between EU countries in ECEC implementation relate to outcomes? The brief notes that optimizing the potential outcomes related to ECEC attendance depends on the successful integration of different policies: Increasing the number of places where ECEC is provided from an early age up to school age within one integrated setting will contribute to higher quality ECEC. At the same time, lowering the age of guaranteed access and providing sufficient financial support to bridge the gap between sufficiently paid parental leave and the age of guaranteed access will contribute to higher participation.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on the use of childcare and education services by EU migrant children [September 2016, pdf, 2,3 MB]

This policy brief focuses on the disparities in educational attainment of migrant versus non-migrant children, and examine some of the challenges they face in the classroom. On average, migrant children perform less well than non-migrant children, and EU migrant youth are more likely to be at-risk of poverty and exclusion and less likely to be in employment, education or training than non-migrants. We look at some policy responses at Member State level towards the inclusion of migrant children in education, and through case studies from selected regions, we illustrate how particular initiatives in Member States respond to these challenges.  When feasible, this brief draws on the comparative EU data to examine differences between EU migrants and non-migrants (for instance LFS and EU-SILC data) and other statistical sources.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on education of migrant children: education policy responses for the inclusion of migrant children in Europe [September 2016, pdf, 2,7 MB]

Roughly 10% of the EU population were born in a different country from the one in which they reside, 5% of whom are children under the age of 15. Although the pattern varies by EU Member State, children with a migrant background (either first-, second-, or higher-order-generation migrants) tend to have lower educational performance and are more likely to leave school early than children from a native background. Evidence suggests that socio-economic disadvantage can have a more negative effect on educational outcomes than being from a migrant background. It is more likely that a high concentration of children from a socio-economically disadvantaged background, or from families with low educational attainment, has a greater impact on peer outcomes than a high concentration of migrant children. Nonetheless, there are some solutions to the intersectional challenges faced by migrant children in education such as ensuring that migrant students learn the language of instruction and maintain a relationship with their mother tongue, if different.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on the role of the European Social Fund in supporting childcare provision in the European Union [April 2016, pdf, 964 KB]

Parents’ access to employment can sometimes hinge on the availability of good quality childcare. Some EU policies exist that relate to the question of childcare, social inclusion and access to employment. This policy brief discusses the role that the European Social Fund (ESF) plays in supporting childcare provision in the European Union (EU). Specifically, this brief looks at some of the Operational Programmes from the current funding cycle (2014–2020) which incorporate an element of childcare into their plans. In addition, this policy brief categorises and compiles different examples of ESF funded projects from across the EU, which relate to childcare, from the previous 2007–2013 funding cycle, with the aim of encouraging new applicants to access the ESF.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on how childcare, parental leave and flexible working arrangements interact in Europe (2014) [June 2014, pdf, 1 MB]

Most parents in Europe combine a variety of methods to reconcile their working lives with childcare duties, and their arrangements are related to their preferences, the age of their children, and the labour market opportunities to which they have access. These arrangements include formal childcare settings such as nurseries, preschools or registered child minders; informal arrangements where care is most often provided by grandparents or unregistered nannies, and parental leave arrangements.

Paternity and maternity leave provides opportunities for parents to provide their own childcare, though length of leave, compensation and the share of leave between parents varies considerably between EU Member States. At the same time women are much more likely to reduce their working hours in order to care for their children and assume childcare responsibilities than men. This is the main cause of low labour market inactivity and low female employment rates in Europe. High participation rates in formal childcare settings are however not a prerequisite for high levels of female market participation but it seems also questionable whether informal childcare is enough to support women’s full-time labour market participation.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on early childhood interventions and progression to higher education in Europe (2014) [June 2014, pdf, 866 KB]

The early years of childhood are crucial for the development of the cognitive and social-behavioural skills of an adult. Thus, they represent a unique challenge and opportunity to invest in children. Extensive research has shown that Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is effective in tackling the inequality which can tend to spring from different experiences during these early years, and that ECEC can help to break the cycle of disadvantage. Experts have concluded that most of the gaps in cognitive ability that partly explain discrepancies in adult outcomes already exist at the age of five, emphasising the crucial role of early intervention, and the relatively minor role of subsequent schooling by comparison.

One potential long-term measure of the success of ECEC is access to higher education, particularly for underrepresented groups, such as those from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. However, the magnitude of this unused potential has not yet been fully investigated in Europe, although the long-term returns of interventions and their ability to raise academic standards have been documented, as have the benefits of ECEC in the United States. What is clear is that in the long term, ECEC can boost the academic abilities of disadvantaged students, thus enabling them to pursue higher studies.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on the impact of changes to benefits systems on children during the economic crisis (European Platform for Investing in Children, 2014) [June 2014, pdf, 4 MB]

Children are more likely to be at risk of poverty and social exclusion than adults. A handful of European countries have proceeded with measures to mitigate the impact of economic crisis on children and families. Austria, Germany, France, and Italy have put in place new cash allowances, increased tax credit/breaks, childcare provision, and increased parental leave. Such initiatives aim to sustain and increase effective support for vulnerable members of society, who tend to be hit hardest by economic crises.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on children with special educational needs (SEN) (2013) [July 2013, pdf, 687 KB]

A strong political consensus has emerged in Europe on the importance of inclusive education, and ensuring children with SEN (about 15 million in Europe) are included within mainstream education. Many Member States have made good progress in developing coherent, localised and inclusive early intervention strategies, which provide for consultation with affected families. However, mutual learning and the sharing of best practices on the provision of support for children with SEN are lacking at the European level.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on demography and inequality (2013) [July 2013, pdf, 560 KB]

Education, migration, and family structure are just a few of the factors which effect financial and social inequality in the EU. Children are particularly susceptible to the risk of poverty in Europe, due to the knock-on economic and social effects of population aging, labour supply and demand, and earnings inequality. The predicted fall in the GDP growth rate is also likely to have a negative impact on living standards, and would affect those not-in-employment most, a group which includes children, depending on their parental income. The education performance of children of migrants in EU countries has been lower than that of native-born children, and the high levels of unemployment  and low levels of income which migrants tend to experience have predictable effects on child poverty rates. The decreasing stability of marriage, and the growing proportion of the population of the EU-27 living in single-adult households – which face higher at-risk-of-poverty rates – are both factors which have a significant impact on inequality in Europe, though the impact of family  structure varies by country. What is clear is that single-parent households and families with a great number of children face higher risks of poverty, and that the proportion of household types that face these higher poverty risks is set to rise.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

EPIC policy brief on parenting support (2016) [June 2013, pdf, 431 KB]

This policy brief reviews the variety of initiatives related to parenting which have been introduced by different European Members States to improve children’s chances in life through childcare and parental leave arrangements. The ultimate aim of these policies is to ensure the well-being of children, caring for their physical, emotional and social needs. These efforts are also said to bring economic benefits as they allow parents to engage in paid work.

The views expressed in these briefs do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.

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