Childcare to decrease female unemployment

How can the playwork sector be boosted in Europe to decrease female unemployment rates?

According to EUROSTAT, in August 2014 there were 24 million unemployed in the EU, with higher rates for women. In Hungary there is significant under representation of women of childbearing age in the labour workforce, while the Czech Republic has 10.6% of women unemployed, and Italy has 12.3%, to mention only a few European Member States.

The ViPER study (2013-2015) is aimed at tackling such unemployment rates, especially amongst women, by boosting the playwork sector. In fact, as the ViPER study has shown so far, while unemployment rates (especially for young people) are increasing, public funds for the childcare sector in Europe are undergoing cuts. Women returners are unable to find employment and overall, as the “Key competences for a changing world – E&T 2010” work programme shows, 30% of adult Europeans have only lower secondary education.

As the initial phase of the study has demonstrated, there’s a need for more and better trained playwokers, thus a training course for volunteers in the playwork sector is highly needed and appreciated by employers, and could constitute a stepping stone into the labour market for unemployed young adults, and especially women.

Playwork in Italy
“Playwork” as such does not exist in Italy. However, there are many kinds of settings in which children do and experience play. The most typical setting is the “ludoteca” (singular), “ludoteche” (plural), which in English literally means “toy library”. However, the translation is not very precise, as “ludoteche” have progressively acquired the meaning of "play" or "recreational" centres. Even though play can be experienced in many settings and situations by children in Italy, there is very little funding in this field and therefore most children play at home.
The right to play in Italy
According to the 6th Report of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child Group” (a network made up of different third sector bodies working to protect the rights of children and teenagers and promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Italy), the right to play is not very well assured for in Italy.
Playwork activities have been carried out quite randomly throughout the country, but there’s a general lack of coordination of such initiatives. Play is often regarded as a luxury good and is not regulated in any way by national law. Also under a cultural point of view, play is not very much developed as it is often seen as functional to training, and it is often confused with free time and recreational activities.
Moreover, no distinction is made between "play" and the "availability of games and toys". Also a study conducted by the Italian Institute for Statistics (ISTAT) on "Childhood and everyday life" depicts how play is not very much accounted for in the country. In fact, in the course of the week, 98% of children aged 3-10 play at home and 46% at other people’s homes. 25.5% of them play in courtyards while 38.4% in public parks. 16% play in parish spaces while 14% in fields. 6.4% of children play in non-trafficked roads.
Also due to the lack of child care and play facilities, 66.4% of children up to 13 years old are taken care of by their grandparents, 11.4% by other relatives, 6.8% by older brothers or sisters, 5.9% by non-remunerated persons and 4.3% by remunerated persons.


The main difficulty faced by the Italian "playwork" sector is that there is a general lack of resources supporting childcare centres and play activities. The right to play in Italy is not very well secured for and projects supporting children's play are very rare.
Children play very often in their homes and lack play opportunities outdoors with specifically trained staff. Most of the time, children play with their grandparents, parents and siblings. A training course such as "Volunteers in Play" could be very useful in Italy and could help sustain families in expanding play opportunities for their children.
However, it would be adviseable to think carefully about which groups to include as beneficiaries for the training course. There is indeed a very vast population of volunteers that supports not-for-profit organisations working with children. These volunteers would indeed benefit from a training course round and about play with children, and so would women returners, young graduates interested in working with children or social workers. However, as it is very difficult that a volunteering experience in this sector might turn into a paid job, many potential participants would see the term "volunteer" in a negative way.
On the other hand, since most play settings for children are private, and might be willing to hire trained entries, it's possible that the "Volunteers in Play" course may indeed be useful for trainees or volunteers involved in such settings, and really constitute a stepping stone into working with children.

VIPER Volunteers in Playwork – Employment Routes

[su_tabs active="1" vertical="yes"]What does it support [su_tab title="Objectives"]

  • To adapt, develop and blend a play training course for volunteers which aims to support learners in gaining skills to improve their chances of employment through the acquisition of social and civic competences
  • To support training providers and organisations with the resources and training to deliver 'Volunteers in Play - a route to employment' (level 2) course. This will be an EU-wide course which includes training materials for trainers and learners and is available for download. The materials will be available in all partner languages and countries
  • To support learners to access volunteering opportunities within the childcare and out of school childcare sector, further to undertaking the 'Volunteer in Play' course


[su_tab title="Activities"]

  • Mapping of countries’ volunteer training needs
  • Piloting of the training course amongst trainers in the 7 participating countries and follow-up
  • Creating an online space for the electronic training material on the project’s website in all participating countries’ languages
  • Valorisation of the project’s results (also through Advisory groups in each participating country) and seeking accreditation for the EU-wide course in each partner country


[su_tab title="Results"]

  • Field research: Needs analysis for volunteers in the playwork sector in Italy
  • Desk research on volunteers’ training needs in Italy in the field of playwork
  • Trainer Notebook: introduction into the theory of children’s free play, detailed session plans and recommendations on how to conduct the training course, as well as additional resource materials (e.g. evaluation questionnaire, literature recommendations)
  • Learner Notebook: information/exercises for the seven training sessions, as well as additional resource materials (e.g. literature recommendations and information on safety measures for the play with children)
  • Electronic course materials for trainers and learners
  • Product modification report


[su_tab title="Partners"]

  • Coordinator: University of Gloucestershire (United Kingdom)
  • Dumplupinar University (Turkey)
  • Hafelekar (Austria)
  • Tokium (Portugal)
  • Univerzita Palackeho v Olomouci (Czech Republic)
  • Rogers Foundation for person Centred learning (Hungary)


[su_tab title="Info & contacts"]

Follow the project IN ACTION

Project dates: 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

DG of reference: DG EAC, Education and Training, Lifelong Learning Programme – Leonardo da Vinci, Transfer of Innovation (TOI)