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This paper discusses the basic rationale which has inspired the intellectual and policy reorientation towards “social investment”, with particular attention to child policy. The first section outlines the main features of the social investment approach, contrasting it with the more traditional “Fordist” approach. The second and third sections explain why and how early childhood education and care can make a difference in terms of both efficiency and equity. The fourth section briefly summarizes the British experience under New Labour, while the fifth section discusses issues of quality and accessibility. The conclusion wraps up, underlining the need to step up the shift towards social investment, overcoming the political obstacles to reform.