Even before the pandemic, 23 million children in the EU were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The pandemic has further exacerbated children inequality and it is now time for the European Union to act. On the occasion of the World Children’s Day -November 20-, more than 400 prominent figures from the world of politics, academia and civil society have already joined a Call to demand a rapid entry into force of the European Child Guarantee and a Next Generation EU funding that truly works for Europe’s next generations.
The EU can and must do better. The joint call for a Child Union is grounded on three objectives:
A rapid entry into force of the European Child Guarantee and expand its political and fiscal space. Negotiations are ongoing and all efforts must be made to ensure that it becomes an integral part of EU policy. This includes a dedicated budget of 20 billion Euros and binding financing commitments for the Member States in their ESF+ national programmes.
The development of an investments ecosystem for European children starting with a correct planning of the Next Generation EU funding. The Child Union should become a fundamental pillar in Europe’s recovery strategy. This requires re-calibrating National Recovery Plans towards the care services of Europe’s future generations.
Guaranteed equal access to quality and inclusive early childhood education and care for all. European law should ensure child rights and legal entitlements with universal and affordable public provisions for all and dedicated resources for disadvantaged and at-risk children
“Europe’s greatest fragility is the undermining of welfare which is leading to increasing inequalities and have made our society more vulnerable to economic, environmental, and health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed new and dramatic challenges to vulnerable households. As experts, activists and policymakers we think that it is time to raise Europe’s ambitions and put forward this strong call for a Child Union. This expresses the demand to the EU to raise to the expectations of its citizens and ensure wellbeing not only through Banking Union, Capital Markets Union, Energy Union and other economic cooperation, but through a Social Union that has a strong mandate on the wellbeing of every child.”
Already before the pandemic, 23 million children in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The financial difficulties endured by European families in this period as well as the disruption in educational and care services have added additional strain to an already worrisome situation. The impact of the pandemic on children’s inequalities alarming.
Our children are the key to building more just and sustainable societies. Overwhelming evidence shows that inequalities in life chances are already formed in the early years of life and are largely passed on through generations. At present, only half of EU member states have reached the EU objective of a 33% coverage for early childhood education and care (ECEC) below the age of 3. In 9 countries, less than 1 out of 5 children benefits from childcare, and that is usually the one from a better off household (EUROSTAT).
A Study led by FEPS and partners finds that European 0 to 3 years old children from the bottom 40% socio-economic status are about 15% more likely to attain average scores once teenagers, if they have access to childcare at the age of 1 or 2. The Study indicates that unless we provide quality and inclusive services, care and education in early years in Europe remains a means for children from better off households to achieve their best potential rather than a means to reduce inequalities and eradicate social exclusion.
This is a joint initiative coordinated by: the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), S&D Members of the European Parliament, the Party of European Socialists (PES), PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, Pablo Iglesias Foundation (ES), Progresiva Društvo (SI), the Institute for Social Democracy (HU), Reggio Children (IT) and Save the Children Italy.
Full text of the call and list of the more than 400 signatories available in this link, divided into different categories: European politicians, national politicians, civil society and academia.