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FAMILY

How does the cost of childcare in France compare to other countries?

Parents in France can benefit from quite a lot of help with the cost of childcare - but how does the French system compare with other European countries?

A Danish vuggestue

We took a look at the financial arrangements in place in the countries covered by The Local, plus the UK, to try and get an idea of how France compares. 

Comparisons are made more complicated by the fact that costs in France depend on parental income – well-off parents pay a lot more than those on a low income for the same nursery or crèche.

You can find an in-depth look into the various options and fee structures HERE.

In general, crèches tend to be the most affordable option and the cost is based on the family’s income.

High earners pay up to a maximum of €4.20 an hour (€33.60 for an 8-hour day), whereas low-income families might pay €0.26 an hour (€2.08 for an 8-hour day) at a crèche collective, which is for three months to three year olds. At the age of three, compulsory education begins in France.

There are also options for after-school clubs and holiday clubs, which again have a fee structure based on parental income. 

Families on the lowest incomes can have six weeks of full-time holiday club – including lunch – during the summer for €14. For families at the middle bracket, pricing is about €10 per day, so about €300 for six weeks. For families at the highest income bracket, you would be charged €26.30 per day, amounting to €789 for six weeks.

The cost of a childminder is around €10.88 an hour and up to 50 percent of the costs of a nanny or professional childminder can be reimbursed by the government.

The OECD calculations on the percentage of income spent on childcare – based on two parents both working full time – is 13 percent in France. This is roughly similar to Spain and Italy, and to the OECD average for childcare spending. 

So how does all this compare to France’s neighbours?

Germany

The costs for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte, or Kita for short) can differ greatly depending on where you live in Germany, as the fees are set by the local government.

In Schleswig-Holstein in the far north, parents pay on average nine percent of their after-tax income on childcare costs. In Hamburg, 4.4 percent of parent’s income goes on childcare as every child in entitled to five hours of free care a day. In Berlin, daycare is completely free. 

Spain

Costs can vary depending on whether it is a  private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation. Private nurseries cost between €150 and €580 per month. There is also a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee, which is around €100.

There is a 50 percent discount for large families and single parents don’t have to pay anything for childcare.

There’s also a deduction of up to €1,000 (cheque guardería) that is applied to the income tax return and works out at around €100 to €160 per month which is aimed at working mothers and is available up until the child is three years old.

Austria

Public nurseries and kindergartens are heavily subsidised and in some cases free, depending on where you live. For example in Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee.
 
Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 
 
In other provinces, kindergarten is free for part-time hours. It is mandatory for all children in Austria to attend part-time kindergarten from the age of five. They start school aged six.

Switzerland

It’s probably not a surprise to hear that childcare in Switzerland is expensive – so are most things. The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

The average cost of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130 a day (€136). Due to tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost, depending on income. This equates to paying between €41 and €108 a day, roughly €902 to €2,376 a month. 

It’s even more expensive to hire a nanny, which will cost between CHF3,500 (€3,678) and CHF5,000 (€5,255) a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

United Kingdom

But even Switzerland is not quite as expensive as the UK. According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. There are some government subsidies available for low-income families and those receiving benefits and every parent is entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of childcare the term after their child turns three years old.

Nordics

If you want cheap childcare, then the Nordic countries really do live up to their family-friendly stereotypes.

Denmark

In Denmark, every child is guaranteed a place at a public childcare facility from the age of six months. The government pays 75 percent of the cost of a place or even more if your household income is below a certain threshold. 

The exact amount parents pay depends on the Kommune. In Copenhagen Municipality, the cost of nursery (vuggestue up to 2 years and 10 months) is 4,264 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €573). For kindergarten (børnehave from 2 years and 10 months to 6 years) it is 2,738 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €368).

If you have more than one child using childcare, you pay full price for the most expensive daycare and half-price for the others.

Some municipalities (kommuner) pay you money if you choose to look after your own child at home after maternity leave. Frederiksberg Municipality for example pays 8,141 kroner per child per month for looking after children under 3 and 4,198 kroner per month for children over 3.

READ ALSO: What benefits are you entitled to if you have children in Denmark?

Norway

The cost of nursery and kindergarten is capped at 3,050 Norwegian kroner, regardless of the hours attended or whether that facility is state-run or private. This means you’ll never pay more than roughly €295 a month per child in childcare costs.

Sweden

Generally, the highest amount parents have to pay for a full-time place in childcare is 1,572 SEK a month, which is around €145. The exact amount is calculated on income. It is half price if you have more than one child in childcare. 

Childcare conclusion

The cost of childcare varies within each country, depending on family circumstances and the type of childcare you need. However, for guaranteed low childcare costs for every parent, Sweden comes out best, with a maximum of €145 a month.

Average monthly cost of state-run childcare:

Sweden: €145 maximum

Norway: €295 maximum

Austria: €72.33 – roughly €500

Spain: €100 – €260 

Germany: €0 –  €368

Denmark: €368 – €573

France: €45.76 – €739.20 

Switzerland: €902 – €2,376 

UK: €1,304 which reduces the term after the child turns three.

So in short, if you want cheap childcare, move to Sweden. Remember to factor in the cost of buying a woolly hat and some thick socks, though, we hear it gets pretty chilly in winter. 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

Did you know that there are good years and bad years for holidays in France? Well 2023 is a good year, very good in fact . . .

Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

France is pretty generous when it comes to jours fériés (public holidays) – in total there are 11 public holidays every year, apart from in Alsace-Lorraine where people get 13 days off for historical reasons (that’s explained here).

However all public holidays in France are taken on the day they fall on that year, rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as is the case in some other countries.

This creates the concept of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’ for holidays, and we’re happy to report that 2023 is a good year.

Faire le pont

If the holiday happens to falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then workers don’t get any extra time off work and the holiday is ‘lost’ – both 2021 and 2022 saw a lot of lost holidays for this reason.

If the holiday falls on a weekday then most workers get the day off.

If it falls on a Monday or a Friday it means a nice long weekend, but if it falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then people can faire le pont (do the bridge) or take one day of their annual holiday entitlement to create a nice four-day break. 

2023

In 2023, only two of France’s 11 jours fériés fall on weekends – New Year’s Day (Sunday) and Armistice Day (Saturday).

December 25th is the only official holiday day over Christmas in France – December 24th and 26th are normal working days – and in 2023 that’s on a Monday.

Only two holidays in 2023 fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday, so you will not have many opportunities to faire le pont this year. Holidays that can be ‘bridged’ in 2023 are Ascension Day on Thursday, May 18th, and Assumption, on Tuesday, August 15th.

There is one opportunity to faire le viaduc (take two days off to ‘bridge’ to a Wednesday) and that is All Saints Day on November 1st.

May

May always has two holidays – May Day on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th – but there are two other spring holidays whose dates change each year – the Christian festivals of Ascension and Pentecost.

This year both of these fall in May, giving a whopping four public holidays, all of which are on week days (although not all workers get Pentecost as a day off, some practice ‘solidarity day’ instead).

Pentecost: The French public holiday where people work for free

Here is the full list of 2023 holidays in France:

Sunday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Monday, April 10th – Easter Monday
Monday, May 1st – Worker’s Day
Monday May 8th – V-E Day
Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
Monday May 29th – Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte – for some workers only).
Friday, July 14th – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
Tuesday, August 15th – The Assumption (l’Assomption)
Wednesday, November 1st – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint)
Saturday, November 11th – Armistice Day
Monday, December 25th – Christmas Day

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