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In March 2002, the European Council decided to set targets for the availability of childcare facilities: “Member States should remove disincentives to female labour force participation, taking into account the demand for childcare facilities and in line with national patterns of provision, to provide childcare by 2010 to at least 90 % of children between 3 years old and the mandatory school age and at least 33 % of children under 3 years of age”. These objectives became known afterwards as the “Barcelona Targets”.
The Barcelona Targets should be viewed in the context of Europe 2020 and previous EU strategies as many women, and to a lesser extend men, still see their employment opportunities reduced because of the lack of affordable and high quality childcare facilities. Consequently, the European Commission continues to include recommendations relating to childcare availability in the National Reports in the framework of the European Semester process.
The targets are a tool to measure the availability of childcare facilities for different age groups in all Member States. In June 2013, the Commission published an analysis of the progress made. Six out of 28 Member States have reached these targets and others made considerable advancements. To read "Barcelona Objectives. The Development of Childcare Facilities for Young Children in Europe with a View to Sustainable and Inclusive Growth" click here.
It should be noted that there is no common system for the funding, organisation and governance of childcare facilities across the Member States. In addition to enhancing female employment levels, the reduction of poverty and increasing education levels are important objectives.
At the request of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee (FEMM), the European Parliament's Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs is organising a Workshop on 25 November 2013 from 16.00 to 18.30 to take stock of the situation in the Member States. Experts have been invited to present details of the availability of childcare facilities in Belgium, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Slovakia. As well as national perspectives, analyses will be presented of the effects of the crisis and to what extend the offer of childcare services has been combined with other policies to encourage female employment. To view the programme, please click here.
In their 2011 study in relation to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, “Reconciliation of work and family life as a condition of equal participation in the labour market”, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) observed that “despite various policies and measures for the advancement of gender equality promoted and implemented in the European Union Member States, women still remain the main carers of children and the elderly. Today, in Europe, women between the ages of 25 to 44 spend three times longer than men in childcare per day. Likewise, care responsibilities account for the main reason women work far longer hours than men. As a result, this limits women’s prospects to a balanced work and family life”. To read EIGE's Report: Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the area F: Women and Economy click here.
By holding this discussion on EuroGender, the EU-level debate between experts and Members of the European Parliament can be extended to civil society organisations and the wider public. This will help to include them in the stock taking exercise and to prepare future discussions in relation to the broader aspect of reconciling work and family life.
The Workshop will be webstreamed live and available to view later on the FEMM homepage, and it is hoped that its findings will feed into the online discussion.