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The Recommendation proposes that Member States take and/or encourage initiatives to create childcare services, to provide for flexibility in the organisation of special leave, to adapt the working environment, working structures and work organisation to the needs of workers with children and to encourage a more equal sharing of parental responsibilities. It sets out the cases in which childcare services are desirable and the arrangements for creating them.


Recommendation 92/241/EEC of 31 March 1992 on childcare [Official Journal L 123 of 8.5.1992].


It is recommended that Member States take and/or encourage progressively initiatives to help men and women to reconcile their responsibilities concerning their work, their studies and their families. They must take into account the respective responsibilities of the national, regional or local authorities, the social partners and private citizens and/or work in collaboration with these parties in the following four areas:

  • the provision of childcare services while parents: (a) are working, (b) are following a course of education or training in order to obtain employment, (c) are seeking a job or a course of education or training in order to obtain employment;
  • special leave granted to working parents who have responsibility for the care and upbringing of children;
  • the environment, structure and organisation of work, to make them responsive to the needs of workers with children;
  • the sharing, between men and women, of occupational, family and upbringing responsibilities arising from the care of children.

Childcare services

In this context, efforts should be made in particular to ensure that:

  • the services offered to parents are reasonably priced;
  • the services combine reliable care from the point of view of health and safety with a general upbringing and a pedagogical approach;
  • the services take into consideration the needs of parents and children as far as access is concerned;
  • the services are available in all areas and regions of the Member States, both urban and rural;
  • the services are accessible to children with special needs, e.g. from the linguistic point of view, and to children in single-parent families, and meet the needs of such children.

Steps should be taken also to:

  • encourage flexibility and diversity of childcare services as part of a strategy to increase choice and satisfy the specific preferences, needs and circumstances of the children and their parents, while maintaining consistency between the various services;
  • ensure that the training, both initial and ongoing, of workers in childcare services is commensurate with the importance and the social and educative value of their work;
  • encourage childcare services to work closely with parents and local communities through regular contact and exchanges of information, thus meeting the needs of parents tailored to the particular local circumstances;
  • encourage national, regional or local authorities, the social partners, other competent bodies and individuals, in accordance with their respective responsibilities, to make a financial contribution to the creation and/or operation of coherent childcare services which can be afforded by parents and offer them a choice.

Special leave

The Member States should take and/or encourage initiatives with a realistic approach to women’s increased participation in the labour market, e.g. in the form of special leave giving employed parents, both men and women, the opportunity to discharge properly their occupational, family and child-raising responsibilities, with, inter alia, some flexibility as to how the leave may be taken.

Environment, structure and organisation of work

The Member States should take and/or encourage initiatives aimed at:

  • providing support for action, particularly within the framework of collective agreements;
  • ensuring that due recognition is given to persons engaged in childcare services as regards the way in which they work and the social value of their work;
  • promoting action, especially in the public sector, which can serve as an example for developing initiatives in this area.

Sharing of responsibilities

The Member States should promote and encourage, with due respect for freedom of the individual, increased participation by men, in order to achieve a more equal sharing of parental responsibilities between men and women, and to enable women to have a more effective role in the labour market.


The aim of the recommendation is to promote equal opportunities for men and women, enabling them to reconcile their occupational, family and child-raising responsibilities arising.


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 3 March 2008 on the implementation of the Barcelona objectives concerning childcare facilities for pre-school-age children [ COM(2008) 638 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The Council met in Barcelona in March 2002 and adopted a series of objectives aimed at removing the obstacles to woman participating in the labour market, in particular by establishing childcare facilities for 90% of children over three years old and 33% of children under 3 years old by 2010.

The availability of childcare facilities also contributes to European strategies for growth and jobs, social inclusion, equality between men and women and the reconciliation of work life with private life.

This report presents a mid-term review of the progress made by Member States towards achieving these objectives. The competent authorities at national, regional and local levels must play an active part alongside their social partners in ensuring access to quality services which are affordable to everyone.

In the current situation the demand for systems of early childcare are not being met in the majority of Member States, despite some progress being made. These systems concern two age groups:

  • the under-3s for whom the availability of childcare (crèches, childcare centres) remains unequal between Member States. In general the services offered by these facilities have to be paid for and their cost depends on the types of systems existing or co-existing alongside each other (universal access, means-tested contributions, voucher systems, etc.);
  • the over-3s for whom pre-school education systems in nursery schools are sometimes combined with childcare. In general they are funded and can operate on a part-time basis depending on the State.

The Commission should promote the exchange of experiences, ensure jobs in this field are more highly valued and make new recommendations to Member States. The Barcelona objectives were reviewed in 2010.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Barcelona objectives: The development of childcare facilities for young children in Europe with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth. [COM(2013)322 final of 29.5.2013].

Five years on from the 2008 report, it can be seen in this second review that, despite a slight improvement, many challenges remain. The report’s main conclusions are as follows:

More than 10 years after they were adopted, the Barcelona objectives have not been achieved by most Member States. In fact, the situation is deteriorating in several Member States. Significant improvements still need to be made to achieve a satisfactory level of availability, especially for children under 3.

The cost of services is still a significant obstacle for parents, as are opening hours. Investment in universal and accessible quality education and care services must be continued - largely at Member State level.

Almost all the Member States allocated resources to childcare services but total expenditure varies enormously from one Member State to another depending on the budget available under the Structural Funds and the current state of provision of services.

In the report, the Commission states its intention to:

  • continue to work with social partners who play a key role in the area of work-life balance in cooperation with the public authorities;
  • strengthen cooperation between its departments working on policies relevant to early childhood education and care (ECEC), such as justice, education and culture, employment, social policy, health, etc.
  • continue to monitor the Barcelona objectives by helping the Member States to develop their statistical capacity by improving data collection and refining the way the use of childcare services is measured.
  • continue to support the Member States:
    • o whenever necessary, throughout the European Semesters, the Commission will continue to adopt specific recommendations calling on the Member States to achieve the Barcelona objectives and to maintain public investment despite the economic crisis;
    • o when programming the European Funds, the Commission will work together with the Member States to make full use of the cofinancing options offered by the Structural Funds and other Community programmes such as 'Erasmus for all', including during the next programming period, for developing ECEC services and services for other dependent people, staff training and improving service quality.

The Commission should also:

  • promote a combination of measures to achieve a work-life balance consisting of flexible working arrangements, a family leave system and the availability of affordable, quality care services for pre-school children, as well as for pre-adolescent children outside school hours and for other dependants;
  • encourage the Member States to remove barriers (including tax constraints) to occupational activity for women and encourage fathers to take on more family responsibilities, for example by taking family leave in the same way as women.

Last updated: 11.02.2014