The European Commission has presented the European Care Strategy to ensure quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and improve the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally.
High-quality, affordable and accessible care services
Affordable and accessible care services of high quality offer clear benefits for all ages. Participation in early childhood education has a positive impact on a child’s development and helps reduce the risk of social exclusion and poverty, also later in life.
Long-term care empowers people, who as a result of old age, illness and/or disability depend on help for daily activities, to maintain their autonomy and live with dignity. However, for many people these services are still not affordable, available or accessible.
To address these issues, the Commission is proposing concrete actions to support Member States in increasing access to high-quality and affordable care services, while improving working conditions and work-life balance for carers.
Early childhood education and care
The Commission is proposing that Member States revise the targets on early childhood education and care to enhance women’s labour market participation, also called ‘the Barcelona Targets’, set in 2002.
The current targets call on Member States to provide childcare to 33% of children under 3 and to 90% of children from age 3 until mandatory school age. The Commission proposes to set new ambitious yet realistic targets so that by 2030 at least:
- 50% of children below the age of 3 are in early childhood education and care
- 96% of children between the age of 3 and the starting age for compulsory primary education are in early childhood education and care, as already agreed in the European Education Area framework
The Commission recommends that Member States draw up national action plans to make care in the EU more available, accessible and of better quality for all, for instance by:
- ensuring that long-term care is timely, comprehensive and affordable, allowing a decent standard of living for people with long-term care needs
- increasing the offer and mix of professional long-term care services (homecare, community-based care and residential care), close territorial gaps in the access to long-term care, roll-out accessible digital solutions in the provision of care services, and ensure that long-term care services and facilities are accessible to people with disabilities
- ensuring high-quality criteria and standards for long-term care providers
- supporting informal carers, who are often women and relatives of care receivers, through training, counselling, psychological and financial support
- mobilising adequate and sustainable funding for long-term care, including by using EU funds
Fair working conditions and training for care staff
To improve working conditions and attract more people – in particular men – to the care sector, Member States are recommended to:
- promote collective bargaining and social dialogue with a view to improving wages and working conditions
- ensure the highest standards of occupational health and safety
- design continuous education and training for care workers
- tackle gender stereotypes around care and launch communication campaigns
- ratify and implement ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers
The Commission’s proposals for Council Recommendations will be discussed by Member States with a view to adoption by the Council. According to the Commission proposals, Member States should inform the Commission on measures to implement the Recommendations one year after adoption.
For each Recommendation, the Commission will publish an in-depth report within five years to give an overview of the state of play of implementation. The Commission will also continue monitoring policy developments during the European Semester and supporting reforms and investment through available EU funding.