Families in Switzerland pay the most in Europe for childcare services

Families in Switzerland pay the most in Europe for childcare services

A new survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that of its European members, families in Switzerland have to pay the most for childcare services. In 2022, Swiss households with young children spent an average of 27 percent of their total annual income on childcare.

Swiss families spend the most in Europe on childcare

In the study, reported by Watson, the OECD found that those with young children in Switzerland fork out more than a quarter of their salaries to pay for childcare, the most in Europe in front of Ireland (21 percent), and the UK (19 percent). For comparison, families in the Netherlands only pay 17 percent of household income towards childcare, while German families only spend 1 percent - although it's important to bear in mind that childcare in Germany is publicly funded via taxation.

The high cost of childcare - estimated by Watson to be 130 francs per day per child on average - has also led to some interesting developments when it comes to raising children. According to a new study by Eurostat, to avoid high costs, Swiss families are the most likely in Europe to ask grandparents to take care of their children at an early age, with 36,8 percent of those surveyed admitting to asking older relatives to step in as they go out to work.

Swiss media blames private care and low funding for high costs

The reason for Switzerland’s poor score, according to Watson, is the fact that 90 percent of places in childcare are run by the private sector, and while Swiss cantons do provide help in the form of the family allowance and other programmes, subsidies aren't nearly enough to cover the costs. Services are also organised and controlled by individual cantons and local councils (Gemeinden), leading to a patchwork of services where prices vary hugely by location and demand.

Another issue is state funding. According to the OECD, Switzerland spends less than 0,1 percent of GDP on financing childcare facilities, with the federal government only spending 451 million francs on subsidising the sector since 2003 - 26,5 million a year. To put that into perspective, in 2019 alone, the Dutch government spent 4,8 billion francs on childcare.

What is being done to ease childcare costs in Switzerland?

When it comes to solving the problem, debates and arguments still rage in the halls of power regarding who should subsidise childcare. In March 2023, the National Council voted for a plan devised last year that would see 20 percent of childcare costs paid for by the federal government, at a cost of 770 million francs a year.

While the idea was supported by a federal commission, women’s rights organisations, and the Employers’ Union as a way of solving the skills shortage, the plan was rejected by the Federal Council. In a statement, Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said that at a time when budget cuts are on the horizon, 350 million francs should be the maximum spent on the plan.

She concluded that the government was “clearly of the opinion that childcare is a cantonal task” and that individual cantons should foot most of the bill.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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