All young children should have the opportunity to attend childcare at least two days a week. That is what the Social and Economic Council (SER) advises in a new report. The approach to childcare should not only ensure a more promising start for all children, but can also increase the labor participation of the parents.
Childcare is important for the development of children, says the SER. Childcare can help to reduce disadvantages and to offer children more opportunities as they grow up. That is why the shelters should do more to develop children’s talents, according to the council.
With the report, the SER makes an appeal to all political parties that are trying to form a coalition. A salient detail is that SER chairperson Mariëtte Hamer is also the current informant in the cabinet formation.
Reception stimulates labor participation
Childcare facilities enable parents to perform paid work. This applies to both parents with school-age children and children who are not yet attending school.
According to the Central Planning Bureau, an adequate supply of affordable childcare stimulates the labor participation of women, the SER further notes.
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It is also important for childcare that the facilities connect well with each other. That is not always the case, says the SER. Parents will have to deal with a fragmented (working) day if after-school care does not connect seamlessly with the school day. Quality childcare increases labor participation. A better work-life balance can also increase parental labor productivity.
The approach to reception is also necessary to remove inequalities. In the current system, parents run into problems. Those who start working more and therefore earn more money, receive less allowance, so that parents ultimately have the same amount left over.
‘The Netherlands is world champion in part-time work’
Although the current system offers advantages, the advisory body also notes that “the optimal design of the child welfare system has not yet been reached”. The problems have also come under a magnifying glass due to the corona crisis. The childcare allowance affair also makes the problems in childcare even more apparent, not to mention the experiences of the parents involved.
The SER also points out that the current set-up seems to encourage a low participation rate. Dutch women notoriously often work part-time, and the Council sees that too. The Netherlands is world champion in part-time work and part-time work is not always a conscious choice.
“This low use is probably related to the cultural norm in the Netherlands,” the council writes.There is, however, a danger that if two days of childcare is arranged for all children as standard, this actually encourages the institutionalization of the part-time culture. Two days of shelter can then become the norm, instead of a step.
Industry criticizes transition period
The childcare sector reacts positively to the advice of the SER. The Childcare Industry Association, which claims to represent more than 80 percent of the providers, sees the advice as “recognition for the added value of childcare and the high quality offered in the current system”. The PO Council and Branchevereniging Social Childcare (BMK) are also positive about the “outlined vision of the future”.
However, the two industry associations are less enthusiastic about proposed measures. For example, “apparently there is a lack of sense of urgency to take the necessary measures already during this cabinet term”. According to the organizations, the transition period proposed by the SER makes the way in which childcare is organized “even more opaque”.