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Parliament backs funds for much-needed crèches

Child's play: the current offer only covers about 40% of the demand

(Keystone)

Parliament has agreed on the amount to be allocated by the government to help redress the severe shortage of nursery schools in Switzerland.

After several months of ping-pong, the House of Representatives agreed on Monday to follow the Senate by approving a SFr120 million ($96.5 million) credit for the creation of nursery places over the next four years.

Young families in Switzerland face a major lack of crèches. It is estimated that 50,000 places are needed to meet the demand based on an average of two days attendance a week at a crèche.

The situation is not expected to improve, as by 2015 the demand is likely to increase by 21 per cent.

Monday's vote was the result of a compromise. The SFr120 million credit is double the amount proposed by the federal government for the second phase of the government programme from 2007-2010, but less that the SFr200 million that had been originally put forward by the House of Representatives.

Pragmatic approach

The centre-right Radical Party and the rightwing Swiss People's Party, supported by Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, argued for a pragmatic approach, saying that in view of recent experiences the revised figure should be sufficient.

Couchepin stressed that for the first part of the programme from 2003-2006, which had resulted in some additional 13,400 places in nurseries, only SFr80 million of the SFr200 million budgeted had been used.

The centre-right Christian Democrats and left-wing parties argued in favour of a larger budget saying that the second phase of the programme from 2007-2010 should generate greater numbers of applicants.

"The aim should be to prevent having to refuse projects because of a lack of money," said Christian Democrat parliamentarian Thérèse Meyer.

According to Meyer, a credit of SFr160 million would have allowed the creation of 16,000-18,000 additional childcare places.

Franziska Teuscher, a parliamentarian of the Green Party, felt that the reduced budget would send a "bad signal" to other main players – the cantons, communes and private businesses.

And this sentiment was echoed by Jacqueline Fehr, a parliamentarian for the centre-left Social Democrats.

"It gives a false impression that there won't be a need for more crèche places over the next four years," Fehr told swissinfo.

"But I'm convinced that the opposite is true: the economy is growing, more women are now working and there is greater acceptance of crèches and daycare facilitites in rural areas."

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to the federal government, an additional 7,637 childcare places were created between February 2003 and January 2006.
This figure should rise to 13,400 by the beginning of 2007 at the end of the first phase of the programme.
According to a study by the Swiss National Science Foundation, there are some 30,000 full-time childcare places available across the country but 50,000 more places are needed.

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