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Report flags unequal access to Swiss childcare system

© Keystone / Christian Beutler

Getting a place in a Swiss day care centre is harder for children from disadvantaged and migrant backgrounds, finds a study calling for more, and cheaper, crèches.

This content was published on July 5, 2021 - 18:57
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There are a few factors behind the discrepancies, including employment rates, irregular working hours of some families, a lack of crèches in parts of the country, or a preference for other forms of care models among certain groups, said the COFF federal advisory commission for family questions on Monday.

There is also the cost factor, which is an obstacle for lower-income groups, even if many crèches are subsidised based on salary levels.

To improve this, the report says the number of day care places should be boosted, while the costs – especially for lower-income families – should be brought down.

This would notably help the fact that children most often not in day care are the ones that would most benefit from it, said study author Nicole Baur.

“Children from migrant families, for example, if they manage to attend such centres before starting school, they will benefit enormously in terms of learning the language,” Baur told Swiss public radio RTS.

COFF also advises facilitated access for certain groups, such as children from disadvantaged backgrounds who could be offered a “socialisation” place for at least a couple of half-days per week.

The study however rejects the idea of formal allocation criteria based on salary, job situation, or family situation – such an arbitrary system would only end up causing other problems, it says.

Pricy

The exact average daily cost of a crèche in Switzerland is not known. It can be CHF4-30 ($4.34-32.54) at the lower end of the scale in a subsidised centre, or from CHF40-130 at the higher end. A private crèche can cost CHF200 per day.

A recent study by UNICEF, which ranked Switzerland 38th of 40 countries for its childcare system, estimated that “a couple with an average income would need to spend between a third and a half of one salary to pay for two children in childcare.”

Another report last year mapped for the first time the numbers and quality of crèches across the country, finding that around a third of children are regularly looked after in such centres. It also noted the money problem, saying that parents continue to pay the bulk of costs, which are higher than in neighbouring countries.

COFF meanwhile said that unequal access to childcare is a problem across virtually all OECD countries. The exceptions are the Scandinavian nations, where crèches are almost fully subsidised by the state, it said.

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