Student parents need more support, say MEPs

Young parents who have not yet finished their studies need the support of society at large, in order to realise their potential, contribute to economic growth and sustain birth-rates, a report from the European Parliament suggests.

The European Parliament, on 19 June 2007, adopted an own-initiative report by Greek Conservative Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, concerning why the future of EU economy, competitiveness and employment will depend on education.

Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou outlined that, with a majority of young people aged 20 to 24 now engaged in higher education, people start their professional lives later and fewer children are born, with negative results for demographic trends and the sustainability of pension schemes and the overall economy. She pointed out the marked differences, for example, between Sweden, where 41% of students start families, and Austria or Latvia, where only 10% do so. “Family life must be reconciled not only with professional life, but also with student life,” Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou said. 

PSE MEP Lissy Gröner showed how, at every step of the academic career ladder, a high percentage of women fall by the wayside: throughout Europe, women are in the majority among students, but only 43% of academic staff are female, and only 15% of professors – in Germany, the figure for female professors is only 8%. “Whoever dares to raise children these days must either be very rich or very modest,” said ALD MEP Karin Resetarits. 

Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, speaking on behalf of his absent colleague Vladimír Špidla, agreed that women are more likely than men not to continue their education following pregnancy. He recalled that the same kind of problem concerns people – also, mostly women – taking care of dependent adults or of relatives with disabilities. He insisted, however, that education and family policies fall under the sole competence of member states. 

The Commission plans to publish, in 2008, a Communication containing concrete proposals to increase the availability, quality and affordability of childcare.

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