Join now
Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Childcare for Expat Kids

Austria and Sweden have the happiest expat parents in terms of childcare abroad, while Switzerland continues to rank poorly.

In this year's survey, 21% of the survey respondents say they are living abroad with their dependent children. These expats were asked to answer some questions about how satisfied they are with the availability and cost of childcare in their host country and with the available options. Expat parents also gave responses about which types of childcare they prefer and if their employers offered any assistance.

Austria and Sweden rank in the top three for all three factors - availability, cost, and options. Finland and Denmark also do quite well overall. Unfortunately, as in last year's survey report, Switzerland comes in last place for all three factors. Although expats rank Switzerland quite well in other respects, childcare is one area where they definitely see room for improvement.

Availability and Affordability

The top five countries where survey participants are most pleased with the availability of childcare are Austria, Sweden, Singapore, Finland, and South Africa. Expat parents in Switzerland, Italy, and Saudi Arabia are the unhappiest with the availability of childcare in their host country. In Switzerland, almost two-thirds (64%) are generally dissatisfied and 23% are not at all satisfied.

Among the respondents in Austria, almost three-quarters (74%) generally agree with the statement that childcare options are numerous and easy to get and over one-third (36%) agree completely. However, Sweden beats Austria for the affordability of childcare, with Finland, Denmark, and Mexico rounding out the top five. In Sweden, 44% of respondents are completely satisfied with the cost of childcare in the country (88% give it a favorable rating). This is probably due to Sweden's maximum fee policy. Fees are capped at 1,260 SEK per month (approx. 140 EUR) for public daycare facilities, depending on a family's income and their number of children, making childcare affordable for everyone.

In Switzerland, however, only 7% of expat parents with dependent children view the cost of childcare favorably. According to a 2013 Swissinfo article, about 90% of daycare facilities there are private and despite government subsidies, parents still end up paying about 80% of the bill. The Netherlands and Australia only perform slightly better than Switzerland, with 21% and 26%, respectively, satisfied with their childcare expenditures in their host country. Although Singapore ranks in the top five for the availability and variety of childcare options, only 27% of expat parents are generally happy with the cost.

Satisfaction with Childcare Options

Austria comes in top place for satisfaction with the types of childcare options available, followed by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Singapore. In all of these countries except Singapore, the most popular option (usually by a high margin) is to send children to a local daycare facility. For example, in Austria, 43% choose this option and in Sweden six in ten expat parents (61%) prefer local daycare centers.

In Singapore, however, the options chosen by expat parents are a bit more varied. Most parents choose to employ a nanny or au-pair to take care of the children at home (31%) or they send their children to an international daycare facility (24%). Only 19% of parents with dependent children in Singapore send their children to a local daycare facility.

Popular Childcare Options Worldwide

Local daycare facilities are the most popular option in all of the Nordic countries. In Finland, over two-thirds (68%) of all expats chose this option. On the other hand, not a single survey participant in Finland answered that a parent, nanny or au-pair cares for their children at home.

Having a parent or other family member take care of the kids is most common in countries such as Oman (27%), Turkey (27%), and Saudi Arabia (26%). However, Turkey and Saudi Arabia hold the second and third spots from the bottom in terms of the choice of childcare options (only Switzerland performs worse), which probably means that families might wish other childcare options were more readily available.

In Mozambique, four in ten expat parents send their children to an international daycare center, the highest number worldwide by a large margin. The highest percentage of parents choose nannies and au-pairs in Southeast Asian countries - the Philippines (33%), Hong Kong (32%), and Singapore (31%). Having a childminder care for your child in their own home is the least popular option overall, enjoying the most popularity in Israel (14%), but a global average of only 3%.

Employer Support

Of all expats who moved abroad for job-related reasons, 4% received assistance from their employer with sorting out childcare or schooling. In 8% of the cases, the employer provided financial assistance for daycare or education. Among the specific expat types represented by the survey population, 7% of Foreign Assignees received support with finding a school or daycare center and 12% received help paying for it. These percentages are quite similar for the Traveling Spouses expat type (7% and 13%, respectively).

Further Reading