Political dynamics and policy shifts against the background of the Barcelona objectives

The provision of care services for children under the age of three in Germany, Italy and Austria

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2013

18 Pages, Grade: 1,3

Patricia Weber (Author)



List of abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. Germany: Piecewise expansion of the childcare infrastructure
2.1 Continuing regional diversity in public childcare
2.2 A forward transition towards a dual-earner model?

3. Italy: Almost frozen family policies: A challenge for Italian women
3.1 High pre-school child care provision, but low female employment
3.2 Regional pioneers within national established gender roles

4. Austria: “Policy-mix” and enduring traces of the “Black-Blue-Government”
4.1 High female- part-time rates and poor supply of child care services for under three
4.2 Expansion of central and regional public investment in childcare

5. Common challenges and barriers to achieve the Barcelona Objectives

6. Appendix

7. References

List of abbreviations

BMFSFJ (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) BMWFJ (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft, Familie und Jugend) EU SILC (European Union Statistics on Income and living conditions) ISTAT (Istituto Nazionale di Statistica)

1. Introduction

In March 2002 the Barcelona convention took the initiative to Äremove disincentives to female labour force participation and strive, taking into account the demand for childcare facilities and in line with national patterns of provision, to provide childcare by 2010 to at least 90% of children between 3 years old and the mandatory school age and at least 33% of children under 3 years of age“ (EU Com 2008) The expansion of child care facilities are intended to increase parents‘ labor market participation, especially of women, and thus help to encourage gender equality. These Barcelona objectives were an integral part of the European Strategy for Growth and Employment (ibidem).

In fact, female labour participation constantly increased during the last few years. Many European countries already show high enrollment rates for pre-school-aged children. But the supply of child care provision for under the age of three is in many European member states still underdeveloped (Esping-Anderson 2011: 126). This paper documents which initiatives and measures were taken to develop the child care facilities in three European countries: Austria, Italy and Germany as examples for a conservative welfare state (Esping-Anderson 1990) will be analyzed in comparative case studies. All three countries share an emphasis on the centrality of the family in targeting material needs and approving an institutional gendered division of paid and domestic work (Esping-Anderson 1999: 83). The focus of this work will be on the first age group of the Barcelona objectives, those under age three. The aim of the present paper is to find out explanatory factors for the still existent gap between demand and supply of child care provision for those under age three by considering nationally implemented laws and regulations as well as labor market developments and cultural preferences in all three countries. Finally, the question should therefore be asked: why Austria, Italy and Germany did not meet the Barcelona objectives to achieve at least a coverage rate of 33% of child care facilities for children under 3 years old?

The following section gives a short descriptive overview of recent family policies in Austria, Germany and Italy in reference to the realization of the Barcelona objectives. The applied method is derived from the ‚most similar case design‘, which relies on similarities in all the national systems: a predominant conservative well-fare system, a (modified) male bread winner model (Lewis 2001), a low to very low fertility rate1 and a low coverage rate of child care facilities for under age three.2 Differences in the shaping of the various national policies,but also cultural aspects should be taken into account. I refer to secondary data from several recent published papers, the EU SILC database and national statistical institutes. The last section concludes with a short summary of the observed specific realities in each country and a potential implication to support the achievement of the Barcelona objectives.

2. Germany: Piecewise expansion of the childcare infrastructure

Historically, Germany used to adhere to a traditional male bread winner model with relatively little public commitment to the provision of child care facilities (Evers et. al. 2005: 195). A generous leave, together with a generous financial support of children intended to support child-rearing by mothers at home (Lewis et. al. 2008: 268). However, in 1979 the influence of the coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals led to a new regulation of the maternity leave schema which first contained elements of a dual earner model to meet the increasing female employment. But with the end of the Social-Liberal government in 1982 and the take-over of the Christian Democrats the child care policies were changed fundamentally (Leitner 2010: 462). Apart from some ‘modernized’ elements involving fathers in parental leave and the possibility of working part-time on the low universal, but long-term flat rate benefit leave, the social policy during the 1990s “supported a traditional family model with a non-employed wife and a stay-home mother” (ibidem p. 462f.).

Even though the right to child care for 3-6 years was established in 1992, financial difficulties at the local level delayed the implementation to 1999 (Evers et. al 2005). Since then more attention was paid to the development of early childhood education and the supply of full-time service (ibidem). But good intentions to promote gender equality3 under the red-green government were still counteracted by the insufficient supply of day-car facilities in West- Germany (Leitner 2010: 463), where the ideal of a “home-staying” wife still prevailed (Schober 2013). It was not until the decreasing fertility rate in Germany entered the public discourse in respect of future financing of the well-fare state and economic prosperity that western Germany’s lack of child care infrastructure was more and more criticized by policy elites (Leitner 2010: 463).

Since 2003 the federal government has shown more commitment to improving the provision for those under age three (Evers et.al. 2005: 199) and the 2005 Federal Daycare Expansion Act (Tagesbetreuungsausbaugesetz) focused on greater provisions to day-care for under age three. This mandated that by 2018 about 20% of all children aged up to 3 should have a place in a day-care center (Schober/Spieß 2012: 18). The new coalition of Christian Democrats Social Democrats went further along these lines of child care policies by reforming the child care benefit in 20074 and the project to expand child-care services for under age three by 2013 to 35% (Kinderförderungsgesetz 2008) (Leitner 2010: 663). In parallel to changes in leave regulations5 renewals have been implemented since 2005 (Schober 2013). Furthermore the Child Promotion Act of 2008 (Kinderförderungsgesetz) established a statutory entitlement to a place in a child care facility for every child all aged 1 or older from August 2013 (BMFSFJ 2008), which can be seen as important momentum of child care policies in Germany.

2.1 Continuing regional diversity in public childcare

Historically, levels of publicly subsidized childcare provision in reference to opening hours as well as places for children under 3 have been low in West Germany, whereas in the former German Democratic Republic public childcare services from age one onwards has been relatively common (Schober 2013). The socialist institutional framework of child was universally accessible in order to facilitate mothers’ full-time labor force participation (Oliver/ Mätzke 2012: 15). “By the end of the 1980s, the GDR had the worldwide highest rate of provision for pre-school children, covering 70 per cent of children from birth to three, and practically all children from three to six” (Evers/Riedel 2002: 11). But with the unification the West German institutional framework was imposed to East Germany, transferring not only decentralized decision-making processes, but also decentralized financial responsibility (Rosenfeld et al. 2004)

Currently, legislative responsibility for all education and care services for children from birth to school entry (usually at age six) is located at the federal government level (Schober 2013), following the principle of subsidiarity (Evers et. al. 2005: 197f.). However, regional disparities are still an important issue when it comes to the availability and accessibility of childcare facilities in Germany. Overall the supply of early formal child care was about 24% in 2011 according to EU Statistics (Table 1: EU SILC 2011). 29.3% of children under the age of three attended a formal child care facility according to the German National Statistical Institute, which is in fact a more positive picture in year 2013 (Statistisches Bundesamt 2013). Still today East Germany has higher capacities for children under the age of three and more full-time childcare facilities than West Germany where childcare focused on the age bracket three to six remained largely half-day (Oliver/Mätzke 2012: 16).6

In West Germany, the coverage rates for children aged 0-3 differ from 22.3% in West Germany to just 18.1% in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the Eastern part of Germany the child-care supply for this age bracket was on average about 49%, which is more than twice as high as in the old “Bundesländer”. In year 2012 the highest coverage-rates of were indicated in Saxony-Anhalt (57.5%), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (53.6%) and Brandenburg (53.4%) (Statistisches Bundesamt 2012). By contrast, Germany meet the Barcelona target for the second age group (from the age of three to mandatory school-age) as a comparative review of the European countries in 2005 showed (Plantenga/ Remery 2005).

2.2 A forward transition towards a dual-earner model?

All in all, Germany shifted towards a greater de-familialization and invectives for female employment (Leitner et. al. 2007). The female labor participation rate has augmented substantially over the last decade. According to the Eurostat statistics for 2011, 67.7% of women in Germany are in gainful employment, which is more than the 60% given by the Lisbon agenda. Almost half these women (45.1% in 2011) worked part-time (EU average was 32.6%), of which 54,7 % reduce their working hours in order to care for family members (Table 1: EU SILC 2011) After the Netherlands, this is the second highest proportion for female part-time work in the EU (EU 2013a).

Schober (2013) argues that the expansion of ECEC provision for under three year olds could contribute to a slow transition from the traditional male bread winner model. Nevertheless, at the moment the policy shift in Germany towards more public provided child-care facilities is far from complete. In the view of the current emergence of a Grand Coalition between the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats it remains to be seen if the influence of the Bavarian Christian Democrats (CSU) within the Christian democrats’ party will contribute to contain elements of a traditional male bread winner model: The parental leave still last until the third birthday of the child and the a new parenting benefit (Betreuungsgeldgesetz) was introduced in August 2013 for parents who do not want to send their child to a care place (BMFSFJ 2013). Offering families more cash for the care of children can be interpreted as an opposing and counterproductive signal to the current plans of childcare expansion. Additionally, low take-up rates of the in 2007 introduced daddy-leave could mirror still existing expectation from


1 The total fertility rate in 2011 was 1.44 in Austria, 1.39 in Germany and 1.41 in Italy children per woman (EUROSTAT 2011a)

2 At 14% in Austria, 24% in Germany and 22% in Italy all three countries did not met the Barcelona objective of 33% coverage of child care facilities for under age three (EU SILC 2011)

3 The red-green government introduced inter alia a new regulation on parental leave (Bundeserziehungsgeldgesetz 2000) 4

4 The child care benefit was reformed by the implementation of “Elterngeld” in 2007 (missing Zitat)

5 In 2007 the German government introduced a reform which included an individual leave entitlement of two month with the aim to incentive paternal leave take-up (Deutscher Bundestag 2008)

6 Despite cuts in child care facilities in East Germany the supply of early childhood care facilities is still high. In this respect, it must be taken into consideration that the fertility rate in the new “Länder” meanwhile almost halved (Hank et. al. 2011).

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Political dynamics and policy shifts against the background of the Barcelona objectives
The provision of care services for children under the age of three in Germany, Italy and Austria
Free University of Berlin  (Soziologie)
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political, barcelona, germany, italy, austria
Quote paper
Patricia Weber (Author), 2013, Political dynamics and policy shifts against the background of the Barcelona objectives, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/267927


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