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Nursery in Italy, Europe is far (Annual Report, 2012)

European targets are still far about the kindergartens. A key tool – that of the structures designed to accommodate children – to guarantee support for women’s employment and the birth rate, which is still widespread in a very different way on the Italian territory. This is the scenario emerging from the dossier by Cittadinanzattiva’s Observatory prices & rates about the supply of municipal facilities. The research takes into account the availability in various areas (provinces, provincial capitals and regions) the lines of frequency, based on data from the Ministry of the Interior and those taken from the VI monitoring conducted by Cittadinanzattiva. 

The importance of providing adequate services for children has been recognized at European level, in fact the Lisbon Agenda has established some explicit objectives regarding their supply: confirming the full employment objective, the Council of Europe has established the need for all Member states to remove disincentives to female participation in the labor market and the effort to provide child care services to such an extent as to cover, by 2010, at least 90% of children between 3 and 6 years, and at least 33% of children under 3 years. The importance of these objectives has been reiterated by the Council in the guidelines for employment (2008-10).

In reality, the spread of these services significantly differs within United States and in many countries (including Italy) is still far from the aim fixed.

Inadequate development of services for young children is strictly linked to the traditional view of the “care” of children, exclusively delegated to the family. Nursery are mostly found in urban areas and represent a kind of “last resort” for both children and working parents.

Making a comparison between the available places and the potential users (number of children 0-3 years old) the Italian media service coverage is 6.5% (a percentage that rises until 13,3% if we only consider provincial capitals) with a maximum of 15,2% in Emilia Romagna and a minimum of 1% in Calabria and Campania.

This data confirms  not only how Italy is far from the European aim which sets a 33% service coverage, but also from other European countries: Denmark, Sweden and Iceland distinguish by the highest rate of diffusion of services for early childhood (with a coverage of 50% of children under 3 years of age), followed by Finland, Netherlands, France, Slovenia, Belgium, United Kingdom and Portugal ( with values between 50% and 25%). Percentages ranging from 25% and 10% are recorded, as well and in Italy, Lithuania, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Hungary and Germany. Finally, values below 3% are found in Poland and the Czech Republic.

As already mentioned, there is a strong correlation between the presence of facilities for early childhood education and the female employment rate. The national employment levels remain distant from the objectives set by the Lisbon Council in 2000, which included the achievement by 2010 of a total employment rate of 70%, and for women at 60%.

From Doing Better for Family report, published by OECD in April 2011, which analyzed the condition of the families of the 34 member countries, it turns out that in Italy there is a need for more policies to reconcile work and family. Our country is characterized by a low rate of female employment, a low birth rate and a high risk of child poverty. Concretely, Italy is well below the average compared all three indicators examined. This is because on the one hand it is very difficult to reconcile work and children, while on the other side it should be necessary more employment of parents to reduce the risk of child poverty.

Compared to many other member countries, Italian women appear to be less able to combine children and work, and this often involves to choose between having a job or having children. The result of this situation is a low birth rate (according to ISTAT, equal to 1,41 children per woman in 2010) and a low rate of female employment (48% against an OECD average of 59%). Young Italian to have a more stable job position, often postpone the age at wich to have child, risking to lose all trains. In fact, in our country there are many women without any children, much more than elsewhere. For example, almost one woman in four of those born in 1965 has no children, compared one in ten of the French born in the same year.

Child poverty is 15% in Italy, but poverty risks are very high when children live in families where parents are not in paid work. Poverty affects about 88% of children in jobless sole parent families (the OECD average is 62%). Similarly, 79% of children in two-parent families live in poor households when neither parent is working, as do 22% of children when only one parent is working (the OECD averages are 50% and 17% respectively ).

Italy spends around 1.4% of GDP for families with children, which is below the 2.2% invested in families on average across the OECD. Working parents can take up to 11 months of parental leave, including 5 months of maternity leave usually at full pay, but payment rates for the rest of the parental leave period are low. About 29% of all children under age 3 participate in formal childcare, but that is much lower than the number of children who attend Scuola dell'Infanza (98% of the children aged 3 to 5). Limited public support for out-of-school hours care means that only 6% of children age 6 to 11 use such services.

The costs of the service

€302 per month that, considering 10 months of use of the service, bring the annual cost per family to more than €3000,00. This is the Italian cost to send their children to kindergarten municipal nursery, including the difficult access, high cost and economic differences among areas of the country hard to justify: in a province, the monthly average expenditure for the full-time may have cost up to three times higher than in another province, and two between provinces within the same region.

For example, in Lecco the monthly fee of €547 is 7 times more expensive than in Catanzaro (€70), three times in Rome (€146) and more than double in Milan (€232). There are marked differences even within the same region: in Veneto, the most expensive line, in force in Belluno (€525 month for full-time) exceed €316 cheaper recorded in Venice. Similar, in Lazio the fee you pay in Viterbo (€396) exceeds €250 cheaper recorded in Rome. And there are also differences among groups which have reduced time: in the south, in Sicily between the fee of Caltanissetta (€220) and that one of Agrigento the difference is of €130.

The analysis, carried out by the Observatory prices and rates of Cittadinanzattiva considered a typical family of three people (parents and children 0-3 years old) with gross annual income of €44,200 and €19,900 for the ISEE. The data lines are drawn from official sources (school year 2010711 and 2011/12) of municipal administration involved in the survey (all provincial capital). The research has been applied to the fee of municipal nursery service for full-time attendance (on average 9 hours per day) and, where present, part-time (on average 6 hours per day) for five days a week.


Tempo pieno, nel 2011/12 le 10 città più care

..e le meno care


547 €


70 €


525 €

Vibo Valentia

120 €   


486 €


133 €


474 €


146 €


470 €

Reggio Calabria

158 €    


458 €


162 €


444 €


209 €


431 €


218 €


426 €


219 €


424 €


220 €

Source: Cittadinanzattiva-Osservatorio Prezzi & Tariffe, 2012




2011/12 su 2010/11


€ 255

€ 255



€ 313

€ 313



€ 114

€ 110



€ 212

€ 209


Emilia Romagna

€ 331

€ 319


Friuli Venezia G.

€ 380

€ 377



€ 283

€ 283



€ 340

€ 322



€ 403

€ 400



€ 305

€ 301



€ 223

€ 223



€ 370

€ 366



€ 210

€ 235



€ 238

€ 228



€ 213

€ 216



€ 351

€ 344


Trentino Alto A.*

€ 354

€ 281



€ 285

€ 255


Valle d’Aosta

€ 413

€ 405



€ 337

€ 337



€ 302

€ 302


Fonte: Cittadinanzattiva – Osservatorio prezzi&tariffe, 2012 - *L'importo del 2010/11 corrisponde alla retta applicata nella sola città di Trento in quanto non  è stato possibile procedere al calcolo della retta per la città di Bolzano.


Growth rates. In 2011/12, 39 cities have revised upward the fee of frequency, and 6 capital recorded double-digit increases: Bologna (+29.7%), Vibo Valentia (+29%), Perugia (+21.8%), Genoa (+15.2%), Livorno (+13.9%), Sassari (+10%). On the positive side, the national average monthly expenditure was unchanged compared to last year.


Waiting list.  On the analysis of data avilable to the Ministry of Interior for 2010, it emerges that the number of public nurseries amounted to 3,623 (+6% compared to 2009) with an availability of 141,618 people (+3% compared to 2009). About 23.5% of applicants remain on the waiting list. The less edifying record goes to Calabria with 39% of children on the waiting list, followed by Campania (37%) and Sicily (+36%).


The comment by Antonio Gaudioso, General Secretary of Cittadinanzattiva: “from the survey carried out it is clear that our country still lack a system of services for children equitably distributed and accessible throughout and appropriate fiscal measures to support families with young children. The measures for these services represent an intergenerational investment that effects in the long term and therefore of little “appeal” to a political class short-sighted and focused on the immediate consensus. On the other hand the reduction of resources ailable to local authorities and the rigidity of the Stability Pact doesn’t help to restart investment in this sense, instead they help to cut more and more resources for social spending. At this rate we can hardly fill the gap with Europe and center the service coverage of 33% already in 2010”.

Service coverage. Nationally, at more than thirty years by law 1044/1971 which established the public nurseries, there are about 3,623 (compared to 3,800 public kindergarten already planned for 1976), an insufficient number although an increase compared to 3184 registered in 2007. The public nursery service is present only in 18% of Italian municipalities, as a whole, 60% is concentrated in the northern regions, 27% in the center and only the remaining 13% in the South.

(Written in November, 2012)