The nursery company in question

Businesses. Following a public report from thegeneral inspection of social affairsin March 2023, and books reporting mistreatment in daycare centers in the lucrative sector, the National Assembly set up a commission of inquiry into “the economic model of nurseries and the quality of care for young children”. This has just questioned the major groups in the sector (Babilou, People & Baby, La Maison bleue, Les Petits Chaperons rouge, etc.) about their shareholdings, their economic models and their quality policies.

These testimonies, visible to all, trace successful growth but which require new forms of governance and control.

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In the 2000s, the State struggled to meet needs in its usual areas. It then encourages the creation of crèche companies which benefit from public financing of services. Investors will be attracted by their rapid growth potential in France and abroad.

20% of places

Today, these companies hold around 20% of places (80,000) and have achieved most of the sector’s growth. They innovate with reservations of places for companies and organizations, and also rely on a large network of crèches, often associative, to stay close to the children’s homes. Finally, their shareholders do not receive dividends and rely on the growth of the sector to increase the value of their shares.

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This model raises several criticisms. As services are, for the most part, paid for by public money, companies are asked to better justify their costs and their margins. There are also fears that their profitability is based on poor working conditions. However, public or private nurseries must comply with a large number of quality standards and are subject to unannounced checks by maternal and child protection.

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Also, and as with accommodation establishments for dependent elderly people (Ehpad), no one anticipated the general indignation caused by the reporting of mistreatment or the revelation of management indicators contrary to the quality of reception. This reinforced the suspicion of an overly financialized sector, as well as the difficulties in controlling such sensitive activities.

Attractiveness and transparency

To escape this trap and restore trust, we first need governance specific to the values ​​of the profession. Some companies have already adopted the status of mission company. It commits shareholders to these values, imposes a mission committee, the regular publication of a mission report and an independent audit. By extending to the sector, this change would improve its attractiveness and transparency.

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