Guaranteeing access to services for children in the EU

Promoting social cohesion and convergence


Molinuevo, DanielConsolini, Michele

Key findings

  • The urban–rural dimension of social exclusion is striking: in 2022, close to 8 million children living in cities in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, meaning that over one- quarter of children living in urban areas experienced these risks. For children living in towns and suburbs, this was the case for 6,806,000, or just under 24% (23.8%), while for children in rural areas the figure was 5,273,000, just over 24% (24.7%).
  • By 2022, nine Member States had achieved the policy target set in the EU for 2030 of a participation rate of 45% of children below age three in early childhood education and care. For children between age three and compulsory schooling age, only four Member States had achieved the 2030 target of 96% by 2022, it will therefore be critical for Member States to step up efforts for older children.
  • In 2021, 5% of low-income households with children aged under 16 in the EU had unmet medical needs. However, findings show that location matters, as 4.4% of low-income households with children below 16 in cities had unmet medical needs at EU level and this climbed to 5.6% in towns and suburbs with the highest percentages in Romania (24.5%), Hungary (24.2%) and Latvia (23.8%). It was lower in rural areas at 4.9%.
  • There has been some progress in housing affordability with the percentage of children who were at risk of poverty or social exclusion living in households with housing cost overburden falling from 28.6% in 2015 to 21.3% in 2022. 
  • Regarding access to fresh fruit or vegetables once a day, most Member States saw an increase in access over time for households with dependent children at risk of poverty or social exclusion.


The European Child Guarantee was established in 2021 to ensure that children in need have access to a set of key services. This policy brief analyses trends and disparities in children’s access to early childhood education and care, education, healthcare, nutrition and housing. This is done using a convergence analysis, which tracks whether Member States are improving in respect of specific performance indicators and whether disparities between them are expanding or narrowing. The analysis, where possible, also looks at the differences between urban and rural areas and between children living in households with different levels of income and risk of social exclusion. The indicators chosen for analysis highlight the links between the Guarantee, the European Semester and the Social Scoreboard.

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