Access to childcare

In which cities do parents pay the most for kindergartens? And how many places are available for small children? We have mapped the availability of kindergartens and different regulations concerning childcare across seven European capitals. The result is: the access to daycare varies immensely.

In late 2022, the European Commission updated these targets with the European Care Strategy. By 2030, the new goals are to ensure that 50 percent of children under 3 years old and 96 percent of children between 3 and the compulsory school age are enrolled in early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs.

How does the situation look across Europe? The attendance of children in childcare facilities varies significantly across Europe. Currently, in Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, France, Belgium, Sweden, and Portugal, over half of children under 3 attend formal childcare for at least one hour per week. 

In contrast, in Czechia, Slovakia, and Romania, less than 10 percent of children under 3 are in formal childcare. For children between 3 years old and compulsory school age, the highest attendance rates are in Iceland, Spain, France, Belgium, and Sweden.

Denmark and Germany are at the bottom of the list, with less than 50 percent attendance in this age group. The EU average attendance is 32.3 percent for children under 3 and 80.5 percent for children between 3 and compulsory school age.

Several factors prevent children from attending childcare. The availability of places in kindergartens, nurseries, and preschools is one issue, but it is not the only one. Whether parents choose to enrol their children also plays a significant role. Challenges include the cost of care, accessibility, and quality of services. Perceived accessibility, or how easy parents believe it is to use childcare facilities, is a crucial factor. According to a recent study, perceived accessibility is higher in countries where private profit-making services for children aged 3 to 6 are not allowed, where the systems for 0-3 and 3-6-year-olds are harmonised, and where there is generous public support.

Cultural differences also influence childcare attendance. Parenting styles and the involvement of grandparents significantly affect whether children under 3 are sent to daycare and vary greatly between, for example, Nordic countries and Southern Europe.

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