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Work-life balance

Subsidies for childcare aim to boost workforce

The Swiss cabinet wants to bring down childcare costs for working Swiss parents, while simultaneously broadening the range of childcare options in all cantons.

The cabinet has submitted a request to parliament, which will now be debated, for a system of financial incentives amounting to CHF100 million ($102.5 million) over five years.

Childcare in Switzerland is notoriously expensive, with full-time care in the cities of Geneva and Zurich costing as much as 20% of a family’s income, compared to 4-6% in neighbouring countries.

These high costs can mean that a second income is simply not worth the trouble of working, with educated women often choosing to stay home with their children rather than invest in childcare.

“Childcare is the responsibility of the cantons and communes, but it's a real problem: the second wage is often almost entirely engulfed by these fees and taxes," said interior minister Alain Berset in a statement on Wednesday.

Authorities hope that making childcare more affordable will encourage qualified women to return to the workforce, thus helping to ease Switzerland’s shortage of skilled labour since it narrowly approved a nationwide anti-immigration referendum in 2014.

The incentives will allow parents to pay less by reimbursing cantons over a three-year period for a percentage of additional childcare costs borne by the cantons as well as communes. Employers may also eventually participate in the system.

The cabinet also wants to support projects aimed at improving access to childcare for working parents by expanding the hours that care is available to include after-work hours, after-school hours, and vacation periods. 

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