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One in three children in Switzerland attends a (costly) crèche

Every third child in Switzerland attends a day care centre. Places are expensive, however, so the cantons are going to look into ways of reducing the costs for parents.

Around 3,200 childcare facilities and 100,000 childcare places exist in Switzerland, according to a report, published on Sunday by the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs, which shows the situation in Switzerland as a whole for the first time. Based on these figures, the conference estimates that 180,000-200,000 children are regularly looked after in a crèche.

In recent years the cantons and municipalities have concentrated on increasing the quantity of places. From now on, they will focus on the quality, the conference said in a statement.

“Family-complementary care can only be optimally effective if it is of good quality and is provided with the appropriate resources,” it said.

The conference explained that the quality of the offer depended on various aspects such as the number of staff, their training and the pedagogical concepts.

Practically all cantons have quality standards and different models for ensuring quality, the report said. For example, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, unlike in German-speaking Switzerland, both tertiary education and professional experience are often required for the management of day care centres.

High costs

Financing also plays a role in the quality and use of services, with many parents giving up childcare because of the costs, the conference noted.

“The fact remains that in Switzerland parents continue to pay the bulk of childcare costs. Their contributions are high compared with neighbouring countries.”

“This hampers the participation of women in the labour market. In order to improve the compatibility of family and work and to better exploit the positive effects of early support, parental contributions would have to be reduced.”

Crèches operate in units of half-days, usually with a minimum attendance requirement of three half-days per week. Private crèches cost CHF60-CHF150 ($65-$163) a day in the cities of Bern and Zurich. A subsidised place for a low-income family can cost as little as CHF10. Most crèches offer small sibling discounts.

Over the next few months the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Social Affairs, together with the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, will analyse ways of easing the financial burden on parents and the extent to which minimum qualitative standards in supplementary childcare can lead to a better work-life balance and more equal opportunities for children.