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Federal fund aims to reduce childcare costs

The federal government wants to pledge 100 million francs over five years to ease the burden of childcare for working parents and encourage women back to work.

Federal fund aims to reduce childcare costs
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday the federal council said it wanted to reduce the cost of childcare and increase the range of childcare available.

Childcare is expensive in Switzerland, with a full-time nursery place in Geneva and Zurich costing between 13-20 percent of a family’s income, compared with just 4-6 percent in neighbouring countries, reported news agencies.

“How to reconcile family life with professional life continues to be a sizeable challenge for many parents,” said the government.

“Compared with other European countries the Swiss authorities contribute markedly less to the high cost of childcare.”

The consequence is that having both parents working is sometimes of little or no financial advantage, it added.

Neither is the childcare system adequate for parents who work irregular hours or want childcare outside of school holidays, it said.

The government’s new plan aims to remove the financial barriers for women who want to return to work, and fight against the shortage of qualified personnel in the workplace

Part of the 100 million franc pot will aim to reduce the amount parents spend on childcare by reimbursing cantons for the cost of providing increased childcare subsidies.

Cantons should also be able to oblige employers to help subsidize the childcare costs of their employees, it said.

Some of the money will also go towards financing projects aimed at increasing the range of childcare available, for example making nurseries available outside of usual working hours and increasing the amount of childcare available during school holidays as well as before and after school.

The federal government submitted its proposal to parliament on Wednesday, where it will now be debated.

Not everyone is in favour.

According to news agencies the liberal-radical party feels the initiative is too complicated, while the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) says it’s an example of the state interfering in private lives.

In a statement on Wednesday the SVP denounced the government’s desire to spend 100 million francs on such a project in the current economic climate.

The party is “shocked” by the government’s action, it said.

“On its own initiative and with no constitutional basis the government is reinforcing the Confederation’s interference in childcare issues”.

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CHILDCARE

How to save money on childcare in Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland's most populous canton and one of the most expensive. Here's how to save a little on childcare.

How to save money on childcare in Zurich
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

The high costs of childcare are a frequent complaint of many a parent in Switzerland.

While this of course varies dramatically from canton to canton, the average cost of a day of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130.

The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

READ MORE: What is emergency childcare in Switzerland and how do I access it?

When paired with the cost of having children in Switzerland, it’s enough to make someone decide against having kids – or maybe leaving Switzerland altogether.

Tax

Keep in mind with all of these tips that you are able to deduct childcare costs from your tax in Switzerland.

This includes most forms of childcare, including for instance the costs of a private nanny.

In order to do so, you need to provide proof of payment when lodging your tax return.

Parents can deduct a maximum of 10,100 francs per child per year (federal tax), according to Swiss finance comparison site Comparis.

More information about how to deduct childcare costs from your tax can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Leaving the kids with the grandparents may be a more difficult solution for some expats. Photo by Nikoline Arns on Unsplash

Second hand

One of the silver linings to Switzerland’s wealth is that it has a lot of wealthy people, who seem not to mind how much things cost.

As a consequence, there are often great deals on second-hand stuff for kids.

If you send your kid to a creche, they may ask you to provide a range of different things like clothes, umbrellas and other weather equipment and small nap mats or even a basic crib.

VERDICT: How to save money when raising children in Switzerland

Obviously this stuff is expensive, particularly if you’ve already bought it for home.

Remember in this case that eBay is your friend, while you can also check notice boards at the childcare facility itself to see if other parents have stuff to give away.

One inside tip is to change the postcode in your eBay search to a wealthier one, thereby improving your chances of finding a bargain. 

Subsidies

When you learn that parents in Switzerland often spend 130 francs a day per child for childcare, you might feel like it’s time for a career change.

But due to the aforementioned tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost.

In Zurich for instance, if you earn 80,000 per year, you will be liable for around 70 francs per day.

Here is the calculator for Zurich which will tell you how much your subsidy will be on the basis of your income. 

Take time off

Of course, less childcare is always going to be cheaper – so if you can work out a solution where you or your partner takes care of the kids for some of the time, then you’ll already be saving (other than of course the lost wages). 

After birth, Switzerland has a moderate parental leave scheme, but the conditions offered by private companies are often better. 

Keep in mind that your child will be able to attend pre-school or kindergarten from around four years of age. While pre-school is not compulsory, around 99 percent of Swiss kids attend it.

In Switzerland, children can start attending school from around six years of age, with cantons required to offer at least one year of pre-school education.

This does of course depend on the canton, with some offering two years and Ticino offering three.

If you can take advantage of flexible work, then you might be able to take a couple of years off to take care of the kids and go back to work when your kid hits pre-school age.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

You can also bite the bullet and call up the grandparents, if of course they live in Switzerland. You’ll have the kids back punctually and with a Swiss dialect in no time. 

But if that’s not an option, then you need to consider the different types of childcare.

While most of us would think of a nursery or a creche as the standard, there are in fact several forms of childcare which are common in Switzerland.

This of course includes nurseries, but also extends to childminders (Tagesmütter or mamans de jour), babysitters, au pairs and private nannies.

More information as to the types of childcare available in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

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