The Education and Care Divide: the role of the early childhood workforce in 15 European countries.

Van Laere, K.
Peeters, J.
Vandenbroeck, M.
European Journal of Education 47(4), 527-541.


The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of childcare assistants (untrained staff) at daycare facilities in 15 different European countries, and to relate their role to the current debate on quality of daycare. The study provides an overview of the profiles for childcare assistants at daycare facilities in the 15 participating countries.


The results of the study show that in 13 out of the 15 countries the primary task of childcare assistants is to support the work of the early childhood educators. The percentage of childcare assistants in daycare facilities varies a great deal. Contrary to the tasks and responsibilities of early childhood educators, assistants’ responsibilities are generally not subject to political documents or public regulation. Sweden is one out of five countries placing special requirements for competences when employing assistants. In the two Scandinavian countries (Denmark and Sweden), the early childhood educators have a social pedagogical role and are responsible for both learning and care. The study concludes that Danish and Swedish assistants thus also have a social pedagogical role as they collaborate with and are supervised by Danish and Swedish early childhood educators, respectively. In Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia, the assistants are members of trade unions and have their own employment contract, unlike assistants in the other participating countries. In Denmark and Sweden, the assistants are organised in the trade union for health personnel.


A total of 20 local experts from the 15 participating countries took part as respondents in the study. These local experts provided data and information about official qualification requirements for childcare assistants as well as other public regulations relevant for this project.


Van Laere, K., Peeters, J. & Vandenbroeck, M. (2012). The Education and Care Divide: the role of the early childhood workforce in 15 European countries. European Journal of Education 47(4), 527-541.

Financed by

The study is part of the CoRe study (Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care) commissioned by the European Commission - Education and Culture.