Raising children in Switzerland

Updated 2018-08-17 13:56

If you are moving to Switzerland with young children, you will not have trouble finding childcare for them during your working hours. The country boasts a highly developed education system, regulated by the various cantons. Therefore, no matter where you are settling in, you will have easy access to childcare, nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools. Depending on which region you are living in, you can choose from British, French, Italian and German schools – or entrust your child to a nanny or a babysitter.

Daycare & early education in Switzerland

Pre-primary education is not compulsory in Switzerland. But most children are enrolled in nurseries or pre-primary schools from 4 years old. Their education starts with artistic activities such as singing, dancing, music, as well as educational games and crafts, to cover the basics of reading, writing and arithmetics. Once they turn 6 years old, they have to enroll in primary school.

Good to know:

Each canton has its own regulations regarding education. Therefore, compulsory age for schooling, education programs and other conditions vary from one region to another. For example, the last year of kindergarten (when children are 5 years old), is compulsory in some cantons like Geneva and Zurich.

Younger children are generally entrusted to daycare centres (called crèche in French and Krippe or KiTa in German) where they will be initiated to social, moral and physical development. Some of these centres even accept children from the age of 3 months. To enroll your child to a daycare or a pre-primary school, you have to visit the school of your choice with your identification documents such as proof of residence, as well as your child's birth certificate and health card. Note that the country has thousands of daycare centres, but the vast majority of them are privately run, even if they are partly subsidized by the canton. Fees for private kindergartens are quite high, with an indicative day cost of CHF60-CHF150 (â¬51-â¬129) for cities like Bern and Zurich. At a subsidised daycare centre, the day cost can be as little as CHF10 (â¬8,6).

Good to know:

Daycare centres generally operate for four and a half hours a day, that is two and a half hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, or vice versa. Most of these are closed during lunch break. Your children are required to attend at least three half-days per week. This half-day system is not ideal for parents that are working, so in the last few years, some schools have switched to full-day, offering children a hot meal and care on the premises during lunch break.

Day mothers, nannies, babysitters, au pairs

An alternative approach is to hire an individual to take care of your child. There are several different ways to go about it, like hiring a day mother (Tagesmutter, or maman du jour). Day mothers are usually mothers of older children, so your child will be spending the day at her place and she will care for it next to her own. These women are registered with local organisations and although their rates vary, you should expect something around CHF 5-12 (â¬4,3-â¬10,3) per hour, with food charged separately. You can also hire a nanny or a babysitter if you have children between three months and three years old. Be aware that full-time nannies, depending on how qualified and experienced they are, usually earn around CHF 3,800- 5,000 (â¬3,272-â¬4,306).

Good to know:

The Swiss Red Cross is offering babysitting courses to youngsters since the age of 13, so you shouldn't be afraid to choose a babysitter who is still a teenager. It will be more economical, with tariffs ranging from CHF 7-10 (â¬6-â¬8) per hour. If you'd rather have an adult babysitter the rates will be higher, but you can use a salary calculator like Babysitting 24.

There is also the option of hiring an au-pair. If the au-pair is an EU/EFTS citizen, they don't need to secure a permit in order to work for you for less than three months. But you should be aware that in Switzerland it is illegal to employ someone in your home without covering the fees for their health insurance and paying their social insurance contributions. Also, an au-pair is not allowed to work more than 30 hours per week according to Swiss law.

Useful links:

Swiss Childcare Federation
Babysitting 24

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.