Magazine article European Social Policy

Family Policy : Presidency Aims to Promote Child Care Services

Magazine article European Social Policy

Family Policy : Presidency Aims to Promote Child Care Services

Article excerpt

The first part of the informal meeting of the EU's 27 family ministers, held on 18 September in Paris, focused on child care. According to French Secretary of State for Families, Nadine Morano, who chaired the meeting, this is a key element of the problem of reconciling work and family life. At European level, the aim is to exchange best practice. There is no common family policy because this is not one of the Union's competences, explained Morano at the start of the session.

A discussion paper drafted by the French EU Presidency notes that family policy, and in particular the development of child care facilities and better work-life balance, represents a key element of taking up the challenge of the ageing of the population. These efforts must be structured on two areas: encouraging free choice for families (choice of working or reducing professional activity to take care of the children, choice of one type of care over another); and diversifying child care facilities. In this context, the introduction of market mechanisms must continue and be stepped up, but it is "difficult to imagine that such mechanisms can be developed without strong support from the public authorities".

The objectives of the Barcelona strategy are to guarantee, by 2010, access to child care services for 33% of children between birth and age three and for 90% of children between age three and the age of mandatory school attendance.

French Employment Minister Xavier Bertrand said Paris planned to "move forward on reconciling family and professional life". "This is a vast field," he noted, and includes revising Directive 96/34/EC on parental leave and setting up new types of leave such as paternity, adoption and filial leave. "I would like the social partners to give us their proposals in all these areas quickly, so that we can give them concrete response as soon as possible, and at least by the next European Parliament elections. …

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