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Prioritising profits over Europe’s childcare

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As in adult long-term care, corporations are accruing rents from publicly funded childcare, exploiting workers and children
Kenny, Chloe & Centellas, Pablo Sanchez
Publication Date: 
16 Nov 2023


In her State of the Union address in September, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, referred to the importance of childcare. She discussed the severe labour and skill shortages facing industry in Europe, before highlighting the struggles of European parents, and particularly women, to reconcile the conflicting priorities of parenthood and work in the face of a deficit of childcare:

Millions of parents—mostly mothers—are struggling to reconcile work and family, because there is no childcare.


Take France. With the autumn political rentrée, two books arrived. Babyzness, by Bérangère Lepetit and Elsa Marnette, and Le prix du berceau (The Price of the Cradle), by Daphné Gastaldi and Mathieu Périsse, highlight the negative practices of several French multinational childcare providers. These exposés reveal a system where cost-cutting measures—such as limiting food, nappies and the quality of care itself—are implemented to maximise profits.


Public funding


Not only do these companies prioritise profit over care but, as with their social-care analogues, they draw heavily on public funding. In France, they can as a result make an average profit of 40 per cent per childcare spot.


Leads to exploitation

The pursuit of profit within care inevitably leads to the exploitation of care workers as well as recipients (here, children under three). The recent exposés reveal a relentless ‘quest for profitability at all costs’, resulting in inadequate resources, staff shortages, burnout, high staff turnover and a general inability to provide children with the time and attention they need and deserve. Babyzness draws from hundreds of interviews with parents, workers and psychologists, exposing the distressing impact on the children receiving care from these companies—infants who cannot speak out against sub-par caregiving and potential mistreatment.


Not a privilege

The unrest is not however confined to workers and their unions. Parents’ groups and other associations are demanding more public funding for quality childcare for all. Childcare cannot be a privilege but must be a right.