ETUCE Position on early childhood education within the European Care Strategy


On 7-8 November 2022, the ETUCE Committee adopted a position paper on the European Commission proposal for a Recommendation on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care within the new initiative, the so-called European Care Strategy. The Strategy is accompanied by two proposals for Recommendations to Member States on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care, and on access to affordable high-quality long-term care, that will be adopted on the Council of ministers responsible for employment and social affairs in their meeting on 8-9 December 2022. The Commission proposes to the Council of ministers to review the Barcelona targets (2002): participation of 50% of children below the age of 3 are in early childhood education and care (ECEC) (former benchmark: 33%) and participation of 96% of children between the age of 3 and the starting age for compulsory primary education are in early childhood education and care (former benchmark : 90%). The EU Member States are also invited to ensure that early childhood education and care is available to allow participation of children, which could gradually increase with the age of the child, of at least 25 hours per week for children below 3 years of age and at least 35 hours per week for children from age 3.

The adopted ETUCE position paper stresses that the right to quality and inclusive education should be granted to all children, in accordance with the European Pillar of Social Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. ETUCE member organisations strongly believe in the importance of ensuring that early childhood education (ECE) is a universal and free entitlement and accessible in both urban and rural areas of Europe. Sustainable public budget, attractive salaries and decent working conditions are of utmost importance to ensure accessible and high-quality early childhood education for all. In this regard, ETUCE member organisations welcomed that the Recommendation mentions the ILO policy guidelines on the promotion of decent work for early childhood education personnel as a guidance. ETUCE explains that countries are struggling to attract skilled and motivated ECEC staff, since the average salaries of pre-primary teachers are substantially lower than those of full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education, as shown by the OECD Study “Education at a Glance”. ETUCE remarks that high and attractive salaries should be granted to all teachers and that the status of early childhood teachers, and the value placed on their education, should be at an equal level with other teachers, with equal rights and entitlements. All teachers should have the highest level of qualifications and be paid appropriately. The intention of the proposal for a Council Recommendation to combat gender stereotypes in the early childhood education sector is welcomed and it is in line with ETUCE values. Furthermore, while ETUCE welcomes that the European Commission motivates the EU Member States to increase their public investment in ECE, the privatisation trends of ECE should be discontinued. ECE should be free for all children and not considered a commodity.

ETUCE member organisations are concerned about whether the objectives of the Recommendations can be achieved when the benchmarks concerning the weekly participation rates of children younger than 3 years (25 hours) and older than 3 years (35 hours) are too low to allow parents to work full time. It is important that the maternity and parental leave and free and quality ECE efficiently support children’s needs, their well-being, as well as fair employability of the parents.

Finally, ETUCE welcomes that the European Commission underlines the importance of effective social dialogue with education trade unions.

The position paper can be found here: LINK