Switzerland

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Childcare in Switzerland

No matter where they live, working parents want to make sure that their children are taken good care of during the day. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to organize childcare in Switzerland. Our expat guide provides an overview of the various options, from crèches to “day mothers” or au-pairs.
Though full-time day care can sometimes be hard to organize for parents in Switzerland, there are still various options available.

At a Glance:

  • In Switzerland, it can be both difficult and expensive to find childcare for full-time working parents.
  • The opening hours of most daycare centers correspond with the typical workweek — that means Monday through Friday from 7:00 to 18:30.
  • Hiring a day mother, au pair, or nanny are all options for at-home childcare in Switzerland.
  • Due to the traditional lunch break — when children are sent home for lunchtime — not all schools in Switzerland offer full-day childcare.  

Types of Childcare — If You Need a Helping Hand

In Switzerland, mandatory education starts when children are six years old. For the time prior to elementary school, many families need to find childcare for their young ones. There are a variety of private and public childcare options to choose from.

The cantons regulate the majority of childcare facilities; in general, most children attend the facility closest to them. Private childcare centers tend to be more expensive, but the waiting list for public centers can be long and frustrating. Therefore, if you know that you will need day care for your children, it is recommended to send your applications to centers as soon as possible.

Crèches

There are over 2,000 crèches — daycare centers — in Switzerland; these are typically open Monday through Friday. Nearly 90% of all crèches are privately run, with the normal hours corresponding with the typical workday from 7:00 to 18:30. The age of the children enrolled in these daycare centers varies from three months to four years. Due to the large amount of working parents in Switzerland, some of the centers also provide lunch and after-school care for children under eleven years old.

Rates for crèches are calculated according to the parent’s income. While these rates do fluctuate, they tend to be from 60 CHF to 150 CHF per day.  While this is indeed expensive, most crèches offer small discounts for families that have multiple children.

You will be able to find a list of crèches and daycare centers on the kibesuisse website, although the website is only available in German and French.

Day Mothers

Day mothers — mamans de jour or Tagesmütter — are usually women that are experienced with raising children, and do not have a full-time occupation outside the home. If you prefer to have your children taken care of at home, then day mothers are an affordable option. Hourly prices for day mothers are around 5 CHF to 12 CHF per child.

If you are residing in Zurich, then GFZ-ZH is a useful tool for finding day mothers online. If you are interested in having a day mother and reside in another city in Switzerland, you will need to contact your town hall for a list of licensed day mothers.

In addition, you can also find a list of certified day mothers on kibesuisse, although this website is only available in German and French.

Au Pairs

Being a host family for an au pair is a great cultural experience. All host families are required to supply their au pair with pocket money, which may amount to 700 CHF or even 850 CHF per month in Switzerland. Monthly stipends vary, depending on your location and the amount of children you have.

As for working hours, au pairs are not allowed to work more than 30 hours per week. Usually, families distribute these hours throughout the week, with the au pair working five to six hours each day.

In Switzerland, it is illegal to hire a worker in your home without paying their social insurance taxes. In addition, it is also illegal to hire someone who does not have the correct insurance plans.

Therefore, if you are interested in hiring an au pair, it is best to search through an official placement agency to make sure all of the requirements are met. The agency will also help you make sure that you set up the correct insurance plans and pay the right contributions to social security in Switzerland.

Au Pair placement websites include:  

Nannies and Babysitters

If you prefer to have a professional caretaker for your children, a nanny is a great option. However, hiring a nanny can be quite expensive; depending on your location and the number of children you have, a full-time nanny may cost anywhere from 3,500 CHF to 5,000 CHF each month.

In addition to the nanny’s salary, you will need to pay social security as well. In some cases the amount may therefore be even higher than 5,000 CHF.

If you need childcare occasionally, then a babysitter would be an appropriate choice. The Swiss Red Cross offers babysitting courses to teenagers in each canton. An average hourly wage for a teenage babysitter would be from 8 CHF to 12 CHF, depending on the age of the babysitter and the time of day. Aside from the Swiss Red Cross, you will be able to find a nanny or babysitter through Babysitting 24  and Rock My Baby Switzerland.

If you employ a nanny or babysitter that is 18 years old or older, then you must pay them in accordance with the current minimum wage. In general, the minimum wage for babysitters 18 years or older differs, depending on how qualified they are and if they work for you for at least five hours per week.

According to the Federal Council’s standard employment contract for domestic help in regular employment, you can expect the legal minimum wage for hiring an adult babysitter to be:  

  • For unskilled domestic help the minimum wage is 18.55 CHF per hour.
  • For unskilled domestic help with four or more years of experience the minimum wage is 20.35 CHF per hour.
  • For partially skilled to professional domestic help with a federal certificate the minimum wage is 22.40 CHF per hour.    

It is important to note that if your nanny or au pair falls ill and is unable to work, you are still obligated to pay them. The amount and duration of the salary payments depend on how long the nanny or au pair has worked for you prior to becoming ill.

Schoolchildren — The Modern Family’s Needs

Once your family is registered in your town, your children will automatically have a place reserved for them in the public school system closest to your home. Traditionally, primary schools in Switzerland have a two-hour lunch break during the day. This can cause complications, especially for children who have two working parents.

In light of changing family dynamics, certain schools have made adjustments to incorporate full-day programs. In these new full-day programs — or Tagesschule — children are provided on-site hot lunch and care during their lunchbreak.

Although the full-day programs are convenient for most families, not all Swiss schools offer them. The schools that do not have them often cooperate with multiple childcare centers, where children can be taken care of during the lunch break and after school.

Although it is normal for school systems to provide support for working parents through such cooperations, there are still some schools that do not offer help outside of the schooling hours. As a parent, you should find out if your child’s school is willing to make arrangements for childcare or if you have to find it independently.

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.