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November 2019 - Childcare for very young children: strong differences between Brussels municipalities

Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (BISA) - In the Spotlight - Number of childcare places in relation to the number of children under three.

The number of childcare places for children aged under three varies significantly from one Brussels municipality to another. Most municipalities have a childcare place for at least one in three children, in accordance with the European Barcelona objectives. However, this is not the case in seven Brussels municipalities.

The coverage rate as an indicator of childcare provision

Childcare for very young children has an economic, educational and social function. It is therefore important for the service provision to meet the needs of the population. The coverage rate demonstrates this. It is an indicator calculated by dividing the number of places in childcare facilities by the number of children aged under three. Its value may be lower than, equal to or higher than 1:

  • a value lower than 1 means that there are fewer places than there are children aged under three; a coverage rate of 0.50, for example, means that there are places for half the children;
  • a value equal to 1 means that there is a place for every child aged under three;
  • a value higher than 1 means that there are more places than there are children aged under three.


Number of childcare places in relation to the number of children under three by municipality in 2018

Sources: BISA and Statbel (RR), Kind en Gezin, ONE, BISA calculations

The childcare provision varies significantly from one Brussels municipality to another

As the graph demonstrates, the coverage rate in the Brussels-Capital Region was 0.38 in 2018, meaning that almost four out of ten children aged under three had a place in a childcare facility. However, the regional average masks significant differences between the Brussels municipalities. The coverage rate varies from 0.19 in Koekelberg to 0.73 in Etterbeek. In Koekelberg, fewer than two out of ten children have a childcare place, while this figure jumps to more than seven out of ten children in Etterbeek. The coverage rate in most municipalities is between 0.2 and 0.6.

However, four factors nuance this coverage rate:

  • 1. around one seventh of all childcare places are only accessible to job-seekers or parents working for certain employers such as European institutions;
  • 2. for three out of ten places, the parents pay a price that is not dependent on their income;
  • 3. some childcare places are occupied by children living outside Brussels;
  • 4. some places are occupied by several children (part-time).


The childcare provision for children is insufficient in seven municipalities

To determine whether the coverage rate meets the needs of the Brussels population, it can be compared with the objectives set by the authorities[1] :

  • The European Barcelona objective has a goal of providing a childcare place for 33% of all children aged under three, which is a coverage rate of 0.33[2] ;
  • The Brussels Government gives priority to districts with a coverage rate lower than the regional average[3] ;
  • The Flemish Government is aiming for a coverage rate of at least 0.50, meaning one place for at least half of children under three[4].

The Barcelona objective is achieved in most Brussels municipalities, except for the following seven: Koekelberg (0.19), Anderlecht (0.20), Molenbeek-Saint-Jean (0.22), Schaerbeek (0.28), Forest (0.28), Jette (0.31) and Berchem-Sainte-Agathe (0.32). The seven municipalities mentioned above achieve results lower than the regional average of 0.38. Only six of the 19 Brussels municipalities achieve the standard set by the Flemish Government: Brussels (0.50), Ixelles (0.51), Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (0.54), Auderghem (0.58), Uccle (0.61) and Etterbeek (0.73).


Data sources and methodology

The data on childcare facilities come from Kind en Gezin (for Dutch-speaking organisations) and from ONE (for French-speaking organisations), which recognise or authorise childcare facilities in the Brussels-Capital Region. The data used for the analysis in this publication were modified in March 2020. Please consult the tables on the BISA-website for the most recent data.

The data on the official population aged under three comes from Statbel and applies to the situation on 1st January 2019.

The coverage rate is calculated by dividing the total number of places available in childcare facilities on 31 December 2018 by the total number of children aged 0 to 2 on 1st January 2019. Preschool places, which could be occupied by children aged 2.5 to 3, are not considered as childcare places for very young children. The coverage rate therefore somewhat underestimates the number of children aged under three who could have a place.

More information on the definitions and methodology on the website.


 Want to find out more?

The figures on childcare facilities can be found in the "Early childhood" theme on the BISA and Monitoring des Quartiers websites.

[1] The French Community does not have a specific target coverage rate, but its goal, in the context of the Cigogne Plan III, is to achieve a balanced coverage rate between the Walloon provinces and the Brussels-Capital Region by 2022 [ONE ; Gouvernement de la Communauté française, 2013 : 54-55]. GOUVERNEMENT DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ FRANÇAISE, 2013. Arrêté du Gouvernement de la Communauté française du 14 novembre 2013 portant approbation du contrat de gestion de l’Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance 2013-2018. Available at (Consulted on 09-10-2019). OFFICE DE LA NAISSANCE ET DE L’ENFANCE. Plan Cigogne III. Available at (Consulted on 09-10-2019).

[2] COMMISSION EUROPÉENNE, 2002. Presidency Conclusions, Barcelona European Council 15-16 March 2002. Available at (Consulted on 04-10-2019).

[3] GOUVERNEMENT DE LA RÉGION DE BRUXELLES-CAPITALE ET AU COLLÈGE RÉUNI DE LA COMMISSION COMMUNAUTAIRE COMMUNE, 2019. Déclaration de politique générale commune au Gouvernement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale et au Collège réuni de la Commission communautaire commune. Législature 2019-2024. Available at (Consulted on 04-10-2019).

[4] GOUVERNEMENT FLAMAND, 2018. Décret du 20 avril 2012 (MB 15 juin 2012) portant organisation de l’accueil de bébés et de bambins, version consolidée 2018.06.26. Available at (Consulted on 04-10-2019).