Just how much do Swiss parents pay for childcare?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Just how much do Swiss parents pay for childcare?
Swiss childcare facilities are among the most expensive in Europe. Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

It probably comes as no surprise that the cost of ‘outsourcing’ the task of caring for one’s pre-school-age children is not exactly cheap in Switzerland, one of the world’s most expensive countries. But how much does it cost, and why?


Childcare is a sore topic in Switzerland, as political attitudes towards policies facilitating the conciliation of work and family life are controversial.

That’s because opinions on the subject diverge along the political lines – with those on the left calling for more affordable options, and their opponents on the right arguing that childcare is a responsibility of parents and family circle, and not the government. 

As a result of this tug of war, and the lack of political will to address this problem in a sustainable way, most of childcare facilities in Switzerland are private and, yes, expensive.

In fact, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperaton and Development (OECD), Switzerland is the most expensive country in Europe when it comes to childcare.

How much does it cost to put a child in a private care centre?

On average, it costs 130 francs per day, with some costing more and others less.

While this is a lot for the middle-income earners, it is still less than hiring a full-time babysitter, which could cost, depending on the number of children under their care, several thousand francs a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

Looking at it from a different perspective, 21 percent of a total household income is spent on average, on private care facilities.

This percentage is substantially lower in neighbouring countries: 9 percent of the average wage in France, 3 percent in Austria, 1 percent in Germany, and 0 percent in Italy, according to the OECD.

The difference is striking but Switzerland is still better off, in terms of these costs, than New Zealand, where childcare takes 37 percent out of a family budget, the United States (32 percent), and the UK (25 percent).


What about public childcare?

These facilities are few and far in between, with priority given to families when both parents work.

It is difficult to provide a nationwide overview due to the fact that things differ from canton to canton, but all cantons offer some form of subsidy for childcare costs depending on parents' income. 

Be warned though that subsidies will be determined on the basis of both parents’ income, with two parents both earning an average wage often not qualifying for subsidies in some cantons. 

The amount you pay will be based on last year’s tax figure. 

Cantons will often provide assistance in working out whether you qualify for a subsidy and how much it will be. 

In Zurich for instance, if you earn 80,000 per year, you will be liable for around 70 francs per day — which is less than the above-mentioned national average of 130 francs, but still a tidy sum.

READ ALSO: How does the cost of childcare in Switzerland compare to elsewhere in Europe?


What is being done on the political level?

In the past 20 years, the government has invested 451 million francs in the creation of childcare places, which may seem like a lot, but it is not — compare it to 5.87 billion francs for the army in 2022 alone.

Switzerland devotes less than 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to financing childcare facilities, according to the OECD.  This is less than most other Western European countries, even though Switzerland is wealthier.

There is, however, some momentum at the legislative level.

At the beginning of March, the National Council voted in favour of families receiving more childcare subsidies in the future.

The proposal calls for the federal government to contribute 20 percent of the average costs in order to allow mothers to return to work, especially as labour market is facing shortages.

This measure is expected cost about 770 million francs a year.

This week, however, the Federal Council refused to increase childcare contributions for 2024, arguing that this is the responsibility of the cantons and not federal authorities.

This means no concrete measures are on the near horizon

READ ALSO: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland


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