FOR MEMBERS

How does childcare work in Austria?

Children playing at nursery
Childcare provision in Austria depends on which region you're in and the age of your child. Photo: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels
Childcare can be a delicate topic and often varies from country to country. Here’s how the system works in Austria.

Childcare in Austria hit the headlines recently after kindergarten staff in Vienna staged a protest to demand better conditions and more staff for facilities.

This follows a recent report by research institute Eco Austria that claims many parents in Austria are unable to work full time and the current childcare provision falls short of the Barcelona target.

The Barcelona target was agreed by EU leaders in 2002 to ensure the development of childcare facilities in Europe, with a focus on sustainable and inclusive growth.

It states that childcare should be provided for 90 percent of children between the age of three and the mandatory school age (six-years-old in Austria), and for 33 percent of children under the age of three.

The latest figures by Statistics Austria show that childcare provision for children under the age of three is currently at 27.6 percent in Austria – more than five percent below the Barcelona target.

Despite the recent negative press coverage though, childcare in Austria is still highly rated among international residents – especially when compared to countries like the UK and the US.

Here’s what you need to know about childcare in Austria.

How does the childcare system work?

In Austria, there are different types of care available before children reach mandatory school age, including nurseries for those under the age of three, kindergartens up to the age of six and workplace and university childcare centres.

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Facilities are run privately or funded by the government and the costs can vary. The family’s income and the number of childcare hours are taken into account when calculating fees.

Parents usually have to register for places in advance.

Nurseries for babies and toddlers

In many parts of Austria, childcare for babies and toddlers up to the age of three takes place at day nurseries (kinderkrippen).

The cost and type of service available depends on the province and more details can be found at the Austrian Federal Government website.

But in Vienna, childcare for babies and toddlers is provided at both kindergartens and private nurseries with costs subsidized by the City of Vienna.

For children under 3.5-years-old in Vienna, parents receive up to €624.72 per month towards childcare.

For children aged between 3.5 years and six, there is a subsidy up to €423.31 per month for all-day care, €349.34 for part time and €252.29 for half-day. The money is paid directly from the government to the care provider.

The City of Vienna recommends parents should register for a place at a publicly-funded kindergarten in November or December for enrolment in the following year.

Kindergarten

The age when a child can be sent to a publicly-funded kindergarten depends on the province.

For example, kindergarten in Vienna is available to children up to six years of age and a similar system is in place in Burgenland and Carinthia.

In Tyrol however, kindergarten starts when children are four with an allowance of a half-day (20 hours a week without lunch) provided by the government for free. This is the minimum amount of free childcare that a state government has to provide.

READ MORE: Vienna kindergartens partially closed as staff protest work conditions

Whereas in Upper Austria and Lower Austria, a half-day of free kindergarten starts at 2.5-years-old. 

Private kindergartens are available across the country but they are not free and the costs vary depending on the operator.

A half-day of kindergarten attendance every day from Monday to Friday is mandatory for all children in Austria from the age of five.

How does childcare in Austria compare to other countries?

In the UK, childcare is less structured than Austria with varying levels of financial support depending on whether a family meets the eligibility criteria.

For example, parents in England can access up to 15 hours of free childcare each week for children from the age of two. Working families with children aged three to four can access 30 hours of free childcare a week.

In Germany, the cost of daycare (Kita) depends on where a family lives. Kita is free for all children from birth in Berlin and Hamburg, but state-run kindergartens in Munich cost between €70 and €120 a month, with private centres charging up to €200.

In the US, parents spend an average of $8,355 (approximately €7,224) on childcare for each child, according to a recent CNBC article

However, an enhanced tax credit system is currently in operation for 2021 and President Biden is calling for legislation to further help families with childcare costs.

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