Child-centred social investment strategy

Since life chances are so overdetermined by what happens in childhood, a comprehensive child investment strategy with a strong emphasis on early childhood development is imperative (Esping-Andersen, 2002, 2009). Access to affordable quality childcare is a sine qua non for any workable welfare state. Childcare demands cannot be adequately met via a commercial care market.

And the dangers of inadequate childcare are immense. The emphasis on early childhood education and development goes beyond the idea that childcare is necessary to allow mothers and fathers to reconcile work and family life. A 'child-centred social investment strategy' is needed to ensure that children become lifelong learners and strong contributors to their societies. More children, educated to perform in a knowledge economy, are required in order to keep that economy going, given the demands of a retiring baby- boom generation with increasing care needs. Only high-quality early childhood education and care services are contributions to higher short-term la- bourforce participation and long-term productivity increases. Hence, there is need to go further than the quantitative targets of Barcelona 2002 (90 per cent of children between 3 and the mandatory school age and at least 33 per cent of children under 3) and to add figures such as the number of children in early childhood care and education per adult. The prime objective of twentieth- century welfare provision was to guarantee economic security in old age; the prime objective of twenty-first century welfare provision must be to promote fair life chances for the young.

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