Understanding what childcare options are available to support you and your children can be a daunting task, especially as an expat learning about the Swiss childcare system for the first time. Read on for our handy guide on the childcare system in Switzerland.
Childcare provision has long been a highly topical issue in Switzerland, with UNICEF ranking Switzerland 38th out of 41 developed countries for its national childcare policies1. Factors impacting this rating are primarily the minimal parental leave and high costs associated with childcare services. So, it is little surprise that a high percentage of parents in Switzerland, predominantly mothers, opt to either work part-time or leave employment entirely to care for their children. Around a quarter of mothers and 12% of fathers with children under six stay at home2 while a third of children go to day care centres3.
What options are available?
All families are entitled to childcare once the statutory maternity leave period (14 weeks) comes to an end, after which the options across the 26 Cantons vary in terms of availability, cost and mandatory enrolment. Most childcare provisions are tailored to part-time hours and are dependent on the age of your child. Between the ages of 0–4, there are both public and private daycare centres, also known as Kitas, Krippen or crèches, though spaces at public facilities can be limited depending on region and attendance is not compulsory. From the age of 4, children start compulsory education at public preschools, Kindergärten or école enfantine, with private facilities available for those who wish. From the age of 4, children start compulsory education at public preschools, Kindergärten or école enfantine with private facilities available for those who wish.
Kitas, Krippen or crèches (daycare centres)
Across Switzerland, you will find over 2,000 Kitas available for infants and children up to four.
Anyone who registers with their local Swiss Canton/Commune is entitled to apply for one of the limited public spots and an early application during pregnancy is worthwhile since these spaces tend to be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
In some cantons and depending on the commune of residence, it is possible to obtain a subsidised rate, determined according to family income.
Children in Switzerland are much more likely to attend a private Kita than a public one
Private Kitas cost around CHF 100 – 200 per day. For private childcare, lower-income families will typically be entitled to commune-based subsidies and/or vouchers to assist with the relatively higher costs. It should be noted that, in some areas, only registered citizens with social security contributions are eligible for this assistance. That said, with cost comes quality. Unlike in many of Switzerland’s neighbouring countries, daycare employees tend to require a higher level of education and qualifications in early-year care provision and are trained in promoting the cognitive development of your little ones alongside providing care.
Some daycare centres stand out by offering different teaching methods, for example Montessori, or by offering bilingual care for the children. As this is such a big decision and there is a variety of offers, please consult the “How to choose a daycare centre” information to help you find the best solution for you and your child.
Childminders and Nannies
While childminders (Tagesmutter, mamans de jour) will care for your child in their home, nannies provide childcare in the family home, sometimes on a live-in basis. Childminders in Switzerland must register with the Canton’s youth services authority, so it recommended to contact your local authority to get details of providers in your area. Childminding services will charge around CHF 5–12 per hour and nannies between CHF 3,800–5,000 per month on a full-time basis.
Our partner familizy can help you find a nanny.
Kindergarten (Preschool-école enfantine)
Children in Switzerland must attend Kindergärten. Luckily, public spaces for Kindergärten are available to everyone and tend to be free of charge, while private facilities charge fees of CHF 60–150 per day. You will find that the curriculum and learning style varies according to the Canton and language region in which you are based. Whereas French- and Italian-speaking Kindergärten emulate the classroom more closely, German-speaking regions are less formal. Public facilities tend to open for a varied range of hours on a part-time basis, including morning or afternoon sessions and full-day sessions.
Hort – Tagesschule – Jardin d’enfants (accueil parascolaire)
Further research is advised to find out whether your commune offers public or private out-of-hours childcare such as breakfast or after-school clubs, some of which may be attached to your child’s school. Private provisions are more readily available in Switzerland, with international schools in particular offering extensive out-of-hours programmes to support working parents.
Childcare in Zurich
The City of Zurich offer a handy Beitragsrechner (parent contribution calculator) for parents based on elements such as salary and number of children. The Canton also boasts some of the best childcare options for school-aged children, with many schools directly providing out-of-hours care.
Discover our daycare centres in Zurich here.
Childcare in Bern
For those living in Bern, the kiBon system is a great way to apply for financial support for both Kitas and out-of-hours care for school children. Applications can be made directly via the kiBon online portal and assistance is given in the form of vouchers. You can also find a number of provisions including supervised play areas and short-term childcare from the city’s Youth Welfare Office Unit.
Discover our daycare centres in Bern here.
When do children start school in Switzerland?
Children start school at age four in Switzerland; preschool is compulsory from that age on.
What is the cost of childcare in Switzerland?
The cost of childcare varies widely. While many public facilities are either free or have only a small fee, you can expect to pay up to CHF 5,000 per month for private services such as a full-time nanny. You can find the prices of various services highlighted in bold throughout this article.
What is a ‘Kita’?
Kita stands for ‘Kindertageseinrichtung’ (children’s daycare centre)
Is childcare free in Switzerland?
There are free/low-fee services available for children aged 0–4 in Switzerland, e.g. public Kitas. However, spaces can be limited in some areas and the application process may be competitive.