EU member states must recognise the right to care and reform their social services to provide comprehensive, equal and timely access to care.

In a report adopted on Tuesday by 436 in favour, 143 against and 54 abstentions, MEPs call on the Commission and member states to fund all types of care services more effectively. European structural and investment funds should be used to invest in childcare, care for older people and others in need of care.

Between 40 and 50 million people provide informal care on a regular basis, the majority of whom are women. MEPs stress that legislative measures and investment are needed at the EU level to promote decent working conditions and to make work in the care sector more attractive. Member states should develop training for informal and formal carers to prevent, prohibit, and combat care-related violence and harassment, and establish independent and effective ways to report and redress it.

The Commission and member states should ensure that workers from the EU and from third countries are recruited fairly by improving the reciprocal recognition of their qualifications and by closing the gaps in transnational social protection, urge MEPs. Rules on mobility should be properly monitored and enforced, and workers should be better informed of their rights.

A robust and future-proof European Care Strategy that targets and responds to the needs of people at critical periods throughout their life must include investment in high-quality public care for every child in the EU. Member states should provide continuous holistic and integrated support to parents, including maternity, paternity and parental paid entitlements, the text says.

“The European care strategy is the first step towards a Care Deal that guarantees the right to quality care. This calls for a well-trained, adequately paid workforce, decent working conditions, as well as support for informal carers. The Commission has a strong ally in us for legislative action and investment into a gender-transformative care economy that recognises care as the backbone of our society,” said Milan Brglez (S&D, SL), co-rapporteur.

“After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, care is at the core of EU citizens’ worries. All Europeans deserve to have access to quality care. Parliament’s own-initiative report is also ground-breaking in that it acknowledges informal care, which is long overdue in Europe,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI), co-rapporteur.

The number of persons in the EU in need of the long-term care is projected to rise from 30.8 million in 2019 to 38.1 million in 2050. The EU population is ageing, with 19% of EU citizens being 65 or older in 2018. 80% of all long-term care in Europe is provided by informal carers.