How to improve early years policies

Date: 2nd February 2022
Category: General measures of implementation

three young children playing outside

Analysing early childhood development data and policies in nine countries, this new research highlights priorities that can help policymakers identify where to act.

The nine countries analysed were Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, and Spain. Drawing from the development and data and policies, the following have been identified:

  • Scarcity of data on children in their early years – especially children under three – across policy areas. This indicates insufficient knowledge of, and attention to, early childhood development.
  • Limited or non-existent disaggregated data on the lives of young children under six – especially those under three – who are living in poverty and face social exclusion. This hinders efforts to improve public policy and investment for young children facing multiple and intersecting vulnerabilities.
  • There is a need to guarantee universal access to early childhood education and early care across countries, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable children.
  • There is a need for an integrated multi-sectoral approach to early childhood policies and funding, with leadership and coordination that addresses children’s and families’ needs comprehensively.

Following on from these findings, some of the recommendations include:

  • Track data at EU and country level on maternal and child health indicators, disaggregated by type of vulnerability.
  • Take coordinated measures to reduce regional disparities and inequalities in accessing health, education and social protection services.
  • Take policy measures to ensure equal access to pre-and post-natal care for

 all pregnant women, particularly for those living in precarious conditions and at risk of exclusion (Roma and Travellers, migrants or refugees, single mothers, unemployed, undocumented).

  • Use the Council Recommendation on the European Child Guarantee and other policy instruments to create mechanisms for national and sub-national coordination of policy development and implementation.
  • Invest in the professionalisation of staff working in education and care, health, parenting and social protection services for children up to six years of age and their families.
  • Ensure coordination of funding streams.

Read the research on how to improve early years’ policies here.