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COST OF LIVING

Inflation in Switzerland hits 3.4 percent for June

Switzerland’s inflation rate hit 3.4 percent in June, due largely to the lingering impact of Covid, the Ukraine war and a spike in fuel prices.

Cost of living is increasing on Switzerland's grocery shelves. Photo by nrd on Unsplash
Readers of The Local shared some inflation-busting tips. Photo by nrd on Unsplash

Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office made the announcement on Monday, July 4th. 

The 3.4 percent figure was higher than expected, although some experts indicated it was within their broad predictive models. 

This was an 0.5 percent increase compared with May. 

Despite the increase however, the inflation rate is far lower than that in other parts of the world. 

The Eurozone is currently experiencing a 8.6 percent inflation rate. The United States is also seeing similarly high inflation figures, with a current rate of 8.6 percent. 

The combined impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic have pushed fuel prices higher, which have in turn further driven cost increases. 

Fruit and vegetable prices have risen, as have prices for things like grain. 

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

Why is the Swiss rate so much lower than elsewhere?

There are a number of explanations for this phenomenon:

Strong currency

In good times and bad, the Swiss franc remains strong, sometimes even reaching parity with the euro. This acts as a defence mechanism of sorts by keeping import prices low.

As Switzerland relies on imports much more than many other countries, including the United States and Germany, lower costs of imports have a ‘cooling effect’ on inflation. 

 “This makes imports cheaper across the board. The strong franc helps the Swiss have high purchasing power internationally. And imported goods are the main drivers of inflation,” according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Less reliance on Russian energy sources

Energy prices are “fundamental in explaining the differences in inflation, especially between Switzerland and the eurozone”” according to an analysis by EFG private bank.

“This is almost totally due to differences in the price of electricity. In February and March, the price of electricity in Switzerland rose by only 2.4 percent, while in the eurozone it surged by 34.3”, the bank reported.

The reason for this, EFG found, are different technologies used to produce electricity.

Data from the International Energy Agency shows less than 1 percent of the electricity consumed in Switzerland comes from oil and natural gas, while 58 percent originates from renewable sources like hydroelectric and nuclear power.

“By comparison, in the European Union over one-fifth of the electricity is produced with natural gas and over one eighth with coal”, the banks’ analysts found.

 The gap was even wider for electricity prices: in February, the wholesale price of electricity in Switzerland was 3.1 percent higher than a year before, while in in the eurozone the increase was as much as 83.2 percent.

READ MORE : Ukraine invasion: How reliant is Switzerland on Russia for energy?
 

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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