Caring for children in Europe

How childcare, parental leave and flexible working arrangements interact in Europe

by Barbara Janta

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Most parents in Europe combine a variety of methods to reconcile their working lives with childcare duties, and their arrangements are related to their preferences, the age of their children, and the labour market opportunities to which they have access. These arrangements include formal childcare settings such as nurseries, preschools or registered child minders; informal arrangements where care is most often provided by grandparents or unregistered nannies, and parental leave arrangements.

Paternity and maternity leave provides opportunities for parents to provide their own childcare, though length of leave, compensation and the share of leave between parents varies considerably between EU Member States. At the same time women are much more likely to reduce their working hours in order to care for their children and assume childcare responsibilities than men. This is the main cause of low labour market inactivity and low female employment rates in Europe. High participation rates in formal childcare settings are however not a prerequisite for high levels of female market participation but it seems also questionable whether informal childcare is enough to support women's full-time labour market participation.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and was conducted by RAND Europe.

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