Almost half of the 15.5 million children in the EU under the age of three were cared for by only their parents in 2014, with 28 percent attending some form of formal childcare, official data showed on Friday.
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Being looked after by only their parents was the main childcare arrangement for this age group in a majority of EU member states, according to data released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU.
However, there were big differences between member states. Countries which had the highest proportion of young children looked after by a stay-at-home parent were Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia, while the lowest figures were recorded in the Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark and Cyprus, Efe news reported.
In 2002, an EU initiative to provide childcare for at least 33 percent of children under three was created as an incentive to encourage women to stay in the workforce upon becoming mothers.
This target of 33 percent of formal childcare, whether full-time or part-time, was reached in 10 EU member states in 2014, including Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Slovenia, Spain, and Finland.
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Overall in the EU, fewer than a third of children under three attended formal childcare, meaning the target was still not reached, said Eurostat.