Here’s a brief guide to the Dutch childcare system, including an introduction to child benefit and childcare allowance in the Netherlands.
It is never too early to register your child for daycare, for instance, when you are pregnant. Governmental policy (in English) can be found on www.government.nl or on www.rijksoverheid.nl (in Dutch). To help you decide on which childcare option suits your time needs and budget, read more in FAQs about childcare and child allowances in the Netherlands, or read Expatica’s guide to Dutch education for a wider scope.
Childcare options in the Netherlands
Public daycare for children aged six weeks to four years old. Centres are generally open from 8am to 6–8pm. Urban areas have a shortage so expect long waiting lists.
Some daycares are especially expat-friendly, with an English-language website and multilingual staff:
- Partou (with 400 locations nationwide)
- Hestia (3 locations in and around Amsterdam)
- Zein International Childcare (4 locations in and around The Hague)
Activities and play for two to four year olds. This is often more social rather than proper daycare but — if you can get a place — it can be sufficient if you intend to work part-time.
Some employers have their own daycare arrangements or local daycare places, which can be cheaper.
Some daycare centres provide this for children up to 12, but it is also provided by naschoolse opvang and buitenschoolse opvang (BSO) establishments.
Dutch child benefit
Parents living or working in the Netherlands with children under 18 are entitled to the kinderbijslag, a quarterly contribution to the cost of raising children from the Sociale Verzerkerings Bank (SVB). The amount depends on age, special needs, etc. but is not income-related. It can be paid into a bank account in some foreign countries (but this will take longer). Find information in seven languages and a list of local offices at www.svb.nl.
Childcare allowance in the Netherlands
Parents working (or studying) in the Netherlands are entitled to the childcare allowance (kinderopvangtoeslag) for children under 12. This is a contribution to the cost of childcare, whether for a childcare centre, afterschool care or a private childminder (gastouder). The allowance can reduce childcare costs up to a maximum of 94%, depending on income and number of children. Contact the tax office for details: www.svb.nl. You can also read more information on childcare benefits in the Netherlands.
Many changes in recent years have affected the amount and granting of childcare allowance. Since 2013, the allowance amount has been dependent on a household’s (joint) income, after the Government repealed the 33.3% employer’s contribution rate (werkgeversbijdrage). Increased budget allocation of € 160 million for childcare in 2015 saw a reinstatement of childcare allowance for high-income households, capped at a certain percent of costs for households with incomes over a set amount. Childcare allowance is also capped to a set of maximum hourly rates, depending on the type of care. Read more on the government site www.government.nl or calculate your benefits on the tax office site.
Changes to the Dutch Childcare Act in 2010 included a reduction in childcare allowance for private childminders and no allowance for live-in childminders. Private childminders need to be registered, show proof of formal training, and first-aid training is mandatory. As of 2012, parents must also be in regular employment to claim allowances. In 2018 the maximum hourly rate on which childcare benefit was based was € 7.45 for day nurseries, € 6.95 for out-of-school care, and € 5.91 for childcare by registered childminders.
Parents cannot claim allowances if they look after each other’s children or relatives provide care, and parents cannot claim more than 230 hours maximum per child, per month for all types of care. There is a cap on the maximum hours parents can declare, which is linked to the number of hours worked by the parent who works the lowest contracted number of hours.
In the event of sickness, holiday, parental leave, extra training or part-time unemployment benefit, the number or hours ‘worked’ remains unchanged, as does the number of hours of childcare allowance granted. The same rules apply for both independent entrepreneurs and those employed by an organisation.
If a parent amends the number of childcare hours they receive, however, they must pass the information to the Tax Office (belastingdienst) within four weeks, or incur a fine.
Hiring an au pair in the Netherlands
Bringing an au pair to the Netherlands is restricted. One of the key rules is that the au pair cannot have previously worked for your family abroad. Only a recognised au pair agency can submit a permit application on behalf of an au pair.
An au pair can stay in the Netherlands for one year for the purpose of cultural exchange and is not allowed to work outside the agreed au pair duties. The IND website has a section for au pairs who wish to come to the Netherlands, as well as conditions for what an au pair is allowed to do.
Below are some general facts for hiring an au pair; consult the IND website for more details.
- the au pair must be over 18 and under 31;
- they can only do light domestic duties to assist the host family in exchange for bed and board;
- they can work a maximum 8 hours per day, 30 hours per week;
- they must have two days off per week;
- they must have a TB test, if necessary;
- they can’t have had any previous Dutch residence permit for exchange purposes.
To hire an au pair, the sponsor must have sufficient income to support the family and an au pair, the au pair must be registered at the same address, and they must agree to a daily schedule for the au pair in writing.
Top tips for families
There are many playgrounds scattered about but the Dutch transport system makes it easy to explore further, and children travel free on certain passes. There are also abundant cycling facilities for family outings, or you might consider a bakfiets, the Dutch cargo bike.
For ideas, Dutch publisher J/M (www.jmouders.nl) covers a range of activities and age groups. You can search for ‘kids gids’ (kids guides) covering your area, or find children’s activities on ‘Out with Children’ at www.uitkrant.nl. You can also check for things to do at www.amsterdam-mamas.nl.
Get out and about:
- Fun for free – visit a children’s farm or kinderboerderij. These city farms often have educational and recreational activities during the week.
- Cultural fun – Dutch museums often have audio guides for kids available in several languages.
- Hit the beach – the Netherlands has 451km of (windy!) coastline accessible by car, bike, boat and public transport.
- Dutch theme parks – De Efteling is a huge park offering (scary/exciting) rides for older kids and a Disney-esque experience with folkloric touches for younger ones.
- Top food – who could resist poffertjes? Tiny puffed up pancakes served with butter and tons of powdered sugar.