If you are moving to Switzerland with young children who are not yet of school age, you may need a childcare option. There are numerous childcare models to choose from. Cost plays a big role in the selection, as well as the type of care.
Different types of care
Day care center (Kita)
In a daycare center (Kita), children from infancy to preschool age are cared for. The employees in the daycare centers have pedagogical training and look after the children on weekdays at set times. In most cases, parents can decide on which days and to what extent care is desired.
Kitas are run by private sponsors (rarely by the city/community) and must have an operating license from the respective canton. The canton also defines the binding quality standards that must be met in the daycare center.
Children are cared for in groups at the daycare center, which is conducive to the child’s socialization – and, in the case of foreign children, also expands their understanding of German, French or Italian.
Whether a facility accepts a child or not is decided by the facility itself. Depending on the region, it can take a long time before a place becomes available at a daycare center. It is therefore advisable to look for a place at a daycare center immediately after moving to Switzerland and to be placed on the waiting list of one (or more) facilities.
Many daycare centers are organized in associations. One of the largest is kibesuisse. There you will find a first point of contact and can search for daycare centers in your region of residence.
Childcare in a daycare center is not free of charge. The costs vary from canton to canton, and even within the cantons the tariff structure is often not uniform among childcare centers. In public facilities, the Kita fee depends on the parents’ income. Families with medium and higher incomes can expect to pay CHF 150 per day if the child is to be cared for throughout the day.
Childminder / day family
As an alternative to daycare, a child can also be cared for by a childminder. If necessary, care is also possible during school age (mostly until 12 years).
Usually, the child is cared for at the childminder’s home. The childminder usually looks after several children there (both other people’s children and, if necessary, her own). The advantage of this form of care over daycare is that it is more personal and takes place in a family-like environment.
Childminders are often members of a family care association or association. These institutions also often arrange the childcare places, and offer continuing education and professional training for childminders.
Payment is therefore usually made to the association or federation, which then forwards the wage to the corresponding childminder. The gross wage for a childminder is on average CHF 8 per hour.
Childminders who do not belong to any association or federation negotiate their salary directly with the parents of the child to be cared for. The salary range is between CHF 5 and CHF 15 – depending on demand in the region and experience. Self-employed childminders usually advertise their services via an ad, website or recommendation from others.
After consultation, individual care times can also be arranged with a childminder (e.g. care for one night).
It is advisable, if not regulated by the association/club, to specify the weekly working hours or working times in an employment contract, as well as the hourly wage and any additional agreements.
The most expensive way of childcare is through a nanny. The nanny looks after all the children in the parents’ home and usually works there by the day. The advantage for the children is that they are cared for in their familiar environment.
Since there is no training to become a nanny and most nannies are not organized in associations like childminders, parents should look for good references when choosing. A completed training in the pedagogical field is also conducive.
The nanny is an employee in a private household. The salary is a matter of negotiation and is specified in an employment contract. The average hourly wage is CHF 30.
If a child only needs to be looked after for a few hours a week, a babysitter is an inexpensive alternative to a daycare center or childminder. Please note, however, that these are mostly young people who have no pedagogical training and want to supplement their pocket money with the job. The costs for a babysitter amount to CHF 7-12 per hour.
Tax benefits for external childcare
For children or for their care, there are some possibilities for tax deductions in Switzerland to relieve families financially.
The so-called child deduction amounts to CHF 6,500 per year and applies even to children of full age, provided they are not yet in professional training.
The child deduction can also be claimed by parents who live separately. In this case, the parent who has custody of the child or who is primarily responsible for the child’s support must declare the child deduction in his or her tax return. In the case of parents who live separately and who both have custody of the child, each parent claims half of the child deduction.
The costs of childcare provided by an external person or institution can also be deducted from tax. This deduction for childcare costs can be made until the child reaches the age of 14.
It is important for the claim that the outside care is used because both parents go to work or are in training, and therefore cannot take care of the care themselves. Incapacitated parents can also deduct the care from their taxes.
The deductions per year amount to a maximum of CHF 10,100. Separated or unmarried parents may divide the deductions between themselves individually.
Please note that you will have to prove the costs of care to the authorities upon request. Therefore, keep all receipts related to the care. Excluded from the deductible costs are meals for the child, as well as care costs that are not incurred due to work-related absence of the parents (e.g. babysitter in the evening so that the parents can go out).
Married persons with children may claim the parents’ rate on their tax return. CHF 251 may then be deducted from the taxable amount per child.
In the case of non-married parents, the parent who has custody of the child and lives with the child in the same household is entitled to the parental rate. Parental rates can also be claimed beyond the child’s majority, provided the child is not in vocational training.
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