Cristina Castellanos-Serrano

Is universal education and care for children aged 0-3 feasible? The case of Spain

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Universal, affordable and high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) service is a key factor to increase equal opportunities among children and to encourage higher female labour market participation. However, ECEC costs for children aged 0-3 are not available. This paper quantifies the current childcare costs and costs and benefits of a universal high-quality free of charge ECEC 0-3 system for Spain, based on the Swedish model, so it can be seriously considered in its policy making processes. Total and perchild costs are estimated through a macroeconomic method (using public budgets) and a microeconomic method (using operational costs of education centres). Employment, income, and GDP benefits are also estimated. It presents the feasibility and efficiency of a 5-year transition plan to develop a public universal ECEC 0-3 system in Spain. The quantified total economic benefits of developing this ECEC 0-3 service are far greater than the costs. Net economic benefits approach 2,800 million euros. Furthermore, very significant positive gender impacts expected include improved labour market conditions, reduced gender pay and pension gaps, increased State and men’s co-responsibility, blurring gendered traditional roles, and improved child wellbeing by reducing poverty risk and guaranteeing equal opportunities in access to education.


  • childcare
  • gender budgeting
  • early childhood education and care
  • public policy evaluation
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • care economy


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