© 2021 All rights reserved. Dr Ingela K Naumann | The University of Edinburgh
Based on our own and international research and policy learning, we support an integrated childcare system for all children aged 0-12. This system should be able to cater both to children’s developmental, social and educational needs as well as to parents’ needs to reconcile work and family life. A system like this is fit for the 21st century and can meet key social investment goals.
This consists of:
- Access to both early childhood education and care/early learning and childcare (ECEC) and Out of School Care (OSC) needs to be available to all age groups of children, from 0 to 12 years of age (at least). It also needs to be coordinated with other leave and care policies so that there are no gaps between parental leave entitlements, ECEC entitlements, school times and out of school care.
- ECEC/OSC needs to be available universally, to all children. This includes quantity (there need to be enough spaces available) and affordability; but it also includes logistical coordination: rigid opening times, geographical distance, lack of transport and similar can create barriers for parents to access ECEC/OSC for their children.
- Quality of ECEC/OSC needs to be universally high and responsive to all children’s needs. Quality in turn includes a holistic approach to the child and the child’s development in its emotional, social, physical, creative and cognitive aspects. Quality is conditional upon fair working conditions and attractive career pathways for childcare professionals and practitioners.
- ECEC/OSC needs to be flexible and responsive to labour market structures and demands; including catering for asocial and irregular working hours of parents;
- ECEC/OSC needs to be planned and designed in more long-term view as part of the economic infrastructure of today’s society to meet social investment goals.
When these conditions are not met the investment in ECEC/OSC systems can lead to contrary effects of widening the gap rather than creating equal opportunities due to higher access barriers for more vulnerable children. Inadequate childcare systems also perpetuate gender inequalities and stymie future aspirations of girls and boys.
ECEC/OSC in and by itself cannot solve the pressing challenges of modern societies and welfare states:
- Labour market policy needs to be responsive to family and caring needs, e.g. (sufficiently paid) parental leave; flexible working hours; care leaves or sabbaticals.
- Financial support of families and other policy areas such as housing, health care, public transport remain important.