1. León, ​m, Ranci, C.; Sabatinelli, S. and Ibáñez, Z. (2018) Tensions between quantity and quality in social investment agendas: working conditions of ECEC teaching staff in italy and Spain Journal of European Social Policy .


Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) has become a strategic component of the Social Investment (SI) paradigm. Growth in this field of social policy – quantified as an increase in public spending and coverage rates – is often taken as indicative of a wider attempt to reformulate welfare state intervention through an SI approach. However, SI agendas have produced differentiated impacts in different contexts. In scenarios of budget restraints, some governments have increased coverage and controlled costs at the same time by allowing for higher staff-to-child ratios and group sizes, externalizing management costs or worsening the working conditions of professionals. These strategies can severely compromise the quality of the provision offered. This is likely to have more effect in those contexts in which provision needs to be developed under more stringent conditions of financial viability. The article analyses two such cases, Italy and Spain, where general conditions of permanent austerity are combined with a comparatively reduced capacity for public spending. Focusing on the qualifications and the working conditions of professionals working in ECEC as a fundamental aspect of the quality of provision, this article compares the two segments of ECEC: early child development (0–2) and pre-primary education (3–5), in both Italy and Spain since the early 1990s. The working conditions of primary school teachers are taken as a frame of reference. We conclude that, despite the fact that there has been an overall expansion of ECEC in both countries, only the (early) policy developments in pre-schooling can be seen as conforming to what have lately been codified as the principles of an SI strategy; at the same time an evident tension exists between the expansion and the quality of provision in the more recent development of childcare services for very young children.

  1. León, M. Pavolini, E., Miró, J. and Sorrentini, A. (forthcoming) Policy change and partisan politics: understanding family policy differentiation in two similar countries” Accepted for publication in Social Politics May, 2019


This paper looks at how different electoral competition dynamics can result in differentiated party positioning on childcare and family policy. Italy and Spain are compared using a most similar case design. The presence of women in politics, the socio-economic profiles of the voters of the two main left wing and right wing Italian and Spanish parties and opinions with regards traditional norms of motherhood explain different policy trajectories and higher incentives for the conservative party in Spain to converge towards the social-democratic party in more progressive views of family policy.


Previous publications related to project by different team members

León, M. (2019) “Igualdad de Género y Seguridad Social” in Papeles de Economía Española N. 161: 85-99.

León, M.  (2017) “Social Investment and Childcare Expansion. A Perfect Match? In Hemerijck, A. (ed.) The Uses of Social Investment, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 118-128.

León, M.,  Young Jun Choi and J-S Ahn (2016) When Flexibility meets Familialism: two tales of gendered labour markets Journal of European Social Policy  Vol 16: 344-357.

León, M. & Pavolini, E. (2014) “Social Investment or back to Familialism? The impact of the economic crisis on family policies in Southern Europe” South European Society and Politics  3, 353-369.   (Q1; IF: 0.629)

León, M. (2014) (ed.) The Transformation of Care in European Societies. Palgrave Macmillan

León, M., Ranci, C. & Rostgaard, T. (2014) “Actors, discourses and institutional adaptations: explaining convergence and divergence in European Care Regimes” Op. Cit. : 11-33;

León, M. , Pavolini, E. & Rostgaard, T. (2014) “Cross-national variations in care” Op. Cit 34-61;

Ibáñez, Z. & León, M. (2014) “Early Childhood Education and Care Provision in Spain” Op. Cit: 276-300.

León, M. & Salido, O. (2013) “Políticas de conciliación entre la vida familiar y la laboral” in Del Pino, E. & Rubio, J. Los Estados de Bienestar en la Encrucijada. Políticas sociales en perspectiva comparada. Madrid: Tecnos, 291-306

Maestripieri, L., Cucca, R., & Ranci Ortigoca, C. (2014). Local welfare systems supporting female employment in Bologna.

Maestripieri, L., Kasearu, K., & Ranci, C. (2017). Women at risk: the impact of labour-market participation, education and household structure on the economic vulnerability of women through Europe. European Societies, 19(2), 202-221.

Navarro-Varas, L., Escobedo, A., & Flaquer, L. (2012). The social politics of fatherhood in Spain and France: A comparative analysis of parental leave and shared residence. Ethnologie française, 42(1), 117-126

Navarro-Varas, L., Flaquer, L., Antón-Alonso, F., Ruiz-Forès, N., & Cónsola, A. (2019). La implicación paterna en el cuidado de los hijos en España antes y durante la recesión económica. Revista Española de Sociología. Vol. 28, Núm. 2.

Salido, O. (2011). Female employment and work-life balance policies in Spain. Ana M. ª Guillén y Margarita León, The Spanish Welfare State in European Context, Londres, Ashgate.

Sarasa Urdiola, S., & Luppi, F. (2012). Crisis Económica Y Pobreza Infantil: efectos divergentes en la Unión Europea. Revista de Políticas Públicas..


International members:

Ranci, C., & Sabatinelli, S. (2014). Long-term and child care policies in Italy between Familism and Privatisation. In The transformation of care in European societies (pp. 233-255). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Kazepov, Y., & Ranci, C. (2017). Is every country fit for social investment? Italy as an adverse case. Journal of European Social Policy, 27(1), 90-104.

Ranci, C., Brandsen, T., & Sabatinelli, S. (Eds.). (2014). Social vulnerability in European cities: The role of local welfare in times of crisis. Springer.

Daly, M., & Ferragina, E. (2018). Family policy in high-income countries: Five decades of development. Journal of European social policy, 28(3), 255-270.

Morabito, C., Figueroa, J. L., & Vandenbroeck, M. (2018). Effects of high versus low-quality preschool education: A longitudinal study in Mauritius. Economics of Education Review, 65, 126-137.

Morabito, C., & Vandenbroeck, M. (2015). Equality of opportunities, divergent conceptualisations and their implications for early childhood care and education policies. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 49(3), 456-472.


Articles in press / blogs:

El fútbol, los bares, la escuela. Margarita León en Tribuna de opinión El País (09/06/20)

La infancia confinada. Margarita León en Tribuna de opinión El País (08/04/20)