Early childhood education and care in family-friendly policies

Briefing 04-05-2016

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services for children – from birth to compulsory primary school age – form an essential part of policies for work-life balance and for better social cohesion. A policy mix of flexible labour market arrangements, generous leave policies and quality ECEC services allows choices for parents, and at the same time supports the healthy development of their children. Member States are increasingly establishing well-functioning, efficient systems. Investing in early-years services brings the greatest returns, and is generally more successful than later remedial action. Until recently, ECEC was mainly considered as a vehicle for helping parents, primarily women, to (re)integrate into the labour market across the EU. Lately, there has been a growing awareness about its multiple benefits for children's personal development and social integration, including mitigating inequalities and preparing for later employability. This is particularly the case for disadvantaged children. The quality of life of young children is an important element in building smart, inclusive and productive societies. Quality accessible ECEC is an indispensable part of ensuring a quality childhood and building a resilient society.