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Childcare enrolment is increasing in the UNECE region

Enrolment in childcare varies considerably within the UNECE region. While in Denmark two thirds of children under 3 are registered in childcare facilities, in Poland and Tajikistan less than 5% are. However, some countries with low rates of childcare enrolment at the beginning of the century have made remarkable progress in expanding it. For instance, Kazakhstan and Montenegro had less than 5% of children enrolled in 2000 and more than tripled the rate in 2013. A country in which enrolment was already among the highest in the region, Slovenia, managed to nearly double it in 13 years. A notable exception is the Russian Federation, which exhibits a slight decrease in the period.

Childcare enrolment can act as an important policy tool in numerous ways. Women with young children are usually the primary caregivers and thus are often out of work, in part-time employment, in low-wage jobs or other sorts of precarious labour market situations. Adequate childcare facilitates mothers’ abilities to join the labour force or expand work hours, contributing to gender equality. Moreover, in the context of a shrinking and ageing labour force in most UNECE countries, low-cost or public childcare access may encourage women to have more children and sooner, increasing low fertility rates in some countries.

Increasing affordable, high quality childcare facilities was one of the main policy recommendations of the Beijing+20 Regional Review Meeting, jointly organized by UNECE and UN Women and held in Geneva in November 2014. The meeting discussed progress made towards gender equality and women’s empowerment and acknowledged that improvement of childcare services is due mainly to increased investments, tax legislation, state subsidies for kindergarten attendance and concrete targets (i.e. EU targets to provide childcare to at least 33% of children under 3 years of age and 90% of children between the ages of 3 and school age by 2010).