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How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?

Parents in Sweden benefit from a cap on childcare costs, with parents paying different fees based on their household's income. But how does the generous scheme compare to other countries?

How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?
Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/TT

Preschool childcare is not free in Sweden, but fees are income-based, with a maximum fee across the country 1,572 kronor (€145) per child per month (fees for 2022).

There are also deductions for each child if you have multiple children attending preschool at the same time – in this case the maximum fee would be 1,048 kronor for the second child and 503 kronor for the third, with parents paying no fee for any further children.

Children over three are entitled to 15 hours of free preschool education per week, so these are deducted from your fee once your child reaches this age.

To get an idea of how much you would have to pay based on your income, you can use this calculator (in Swedish – similar calculators exist for other municipalities). These fees are adjusted yearly by the Swedish school authorities and are applicable to all municipalities. If your child has a preschool place, you have to pay even if you do not use it – over summer or during holidays, for example.

School meals and preschool meals are free in Sweden, meaning you don’t need to pay extra for your child’s lunch, breakfast, or any snacks served during the day.


The exact amount parents pay for childcare in Denmark depends on the municipality. In Copenhagen Municipality, the cost of nursery (vuggestue up to 2 years and 10 months) is 4,264 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €573). For kindergarten (børnehave from 2 years and 10 months to 6 years) it is 2,738 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €368).

The government pays 75 percent of the cost of a place or even more if your household income is below a certain threshold. 

If you have more than one child using childcare, you pay full price for the most expensive daycare and half-price for the others.


The cost of nursery and kindergarten is capped at 3,050 Norwegian kroner, regardless of the hours attended or whether that facility is state-run or private. This means you’ll never pay more than roughly €295 a month per child in childcare costs.


The costs for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte, or Kita for short) can differ greatly depending on where you live in Germany, as the fees are set by the local government.

In Schleswig-Holstein in the far north, parents pay on average nine percent of their after-tax income on childcare costs. In Hamburg, 4.4 percent of parent’s income goes on childcare as every child in entitled to five hours of free care a day. In Berlin, daycare is completely free. 


Costs can vary depending on whether it is a  private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation. Private nurseries cost between €150 and €580 per month. There is also a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee, which is around €100.

There is a 50 percent discount for large families and single parents don’t have to pay anything for childcare.

There’s also a deduction of up to €1,000 (cheque guardería) that is applied to the income tax return and works out at around €100 to €160 per month which is aimed at working mothers and is available up until the child is three years old.


In France, crèches tend to be the most affordable option and the cost is based on the family’s income. High earners might pay up to a maximum of €4.20 an hour (€33.60 for an 8-hour day), whereas low-income families might pay €0.26 an hour (€2.08 for an 8-hour day) at a crèche collective, which is for three months to three year olds. At the age of three, compulsory education begins in France.

The cost of a childminder is around €10.88 an hour and up to 50 percent of the costs of a nanny or professional childminder can be reimbursed by the government.

The OECD calculations on the percentage of income spent on childcare – based on two parents both working full time – is 13 percent in France. This is roughly similar to Spain and Italy.


Public nurseries and kindergartens are heavily subsidised and in some cases free, depending on where you live. For example in Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee.
Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 
In other provinces, kindergarten is free for part-time hours. It is mandatory for all children in Austria to attend part-time kindergarten from the age of five. They start school aged six.


The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

The average cost of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130 a day (€136). Due to tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost, depending on income. This equates to paying between €41 and €108 a day, roughly €902 to €2,376 a month. 

It’s even more expensive to hire a nannie, which will cost between CHF3,500 (€3,678) and CHF5,000 (€5,255) a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

United Kingdom

According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. There are some government subsidies available for low-income families and those receiving benefits and every parent is entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of childcare the term after their child turns three years old.

Childcare conclusion

The cost of childcare varies within each country, depending on family circumstances. However, for guaranteed low childcare costs for every parent, Sweden comes out best, with a maximum of €145 a month.

Average monthly cost of state-run childcare:

Sweden: €145 maximum

Norway: €295 maximum

Austria: €72.33 – roughly €500

Spain: €100 – €260 

Germany: €0 –  €368

Denmark: €368 – €573

France: €45,76 – €739.20 

Switzerland: €902 – €2,376 

U.K. €1,304 which reduces the term after the child turns three.

By Emma Firth and Becky Waterton

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For members


OPINION: Why I hope the stats are right about Swedish children’s reading and maths

Richard Orange finds the slow progress his children are making at their Swedish municipal school excruciating, particularly the handwriting. But the statistics indicate that, at least when it comes to reading, maths, and science, they should catch up by around the age of 11.

OPINION: Why I hope the stats are right about Swedish children's reading and maths

Handwriting has been the hardest thing about sending my children to the local Swedish municipal school in Malmö. 

My two children’s handwriting is worse than that of their 5-year-old English cousins, who already writes in childish joined-up letters, while they at age 9 and 11 still sometimes gets their ‘b’s and ‘d’s mixed up. 

“You can write them any way you want,” my daughter complains if I try to get her to start her letters at the top rather than in her own idiosyncratic way, and her teachers confirm that this is indeed the instructions she’s been given.

One even confessed to me that it was a policy she didn’t herself agree with, but she had no choice.  

The fact that I’m trying to make my daughter do something her teachers have told her doesn’t matter, however, means I’ve found it impossible to motivate them to practise handwriting at home.

I’m worried that they will never be able to take notes rapidly by hand, which while clearly not life-ending, is, I think, a bit limiting.  

Year six students use their computers in a school in Stockholm. Photo: Alexander Olivera/TT

Paulina Neuding, the Svenska Dagbladet columnist, has since the end of last year published a series of articles here, here and here comparing the lamentable level of handwriting in Swedish schools with that of pupils in Belgium, Poland, and Germany, referring to research indicating that writing by hand activates the brain and memory in a way writing on a laptop does not. 

Neuding stresses that parents should not simply be concerned about their children having nice handwriting or not, but about whether they will be able to write by hand at all. 

“It’s important for parents to recognise that handwriting is de-prioritised to such an extent that it isn’t at all certain that your child will learn to write properly at school,” she wrote in her first article on the topic. 

Ulf Frederiksson, the professor at Stockholm University responsible for the reading comprehension part of the Pisa study, tells me she may be right. 

“There is no international comparison on handwriting, but it’s probably true that Swedish schools have had less emphasis on formal handwriting over the last 20 to 30 years,” he said. 

“It hasn’t really had a big impact on students’ reading skills. But if you did do a comparative study of handwriting legibility in different countries, Swedish students would probably come out rather poorly.” 

Swedish year four students are slightly behind the EU/OECD average. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB/TT

I’ve also struggled with the fact children start school a year later in Sweden than in my home country. And as the first year of school – the zero class or nollan – is pretty much a continuation of kindergarten, you could argue that they start off two years behind. 

Frederiksson said that all the Nordic countries have traditionally started school a year later than the rest of Europe, something he puts down to low population density which meant that students would have had to walk a long way to their village school, something that they would not have been able to do until they were seven. 

I’ve found the slow start agonising, but the statistics do seem to suggest that by the time they are about 11, pupils in Sweden aren’t actually much behind their counterparts in the UK, France or Germany. 

In the Pirls study published on Tuesday, Swedish pupils aged around 11 did better than the EU/OECD average in reading comprehension, a little behind those in England and Finland but ahead of those in France, Germany, Denmark and Norway.

If you strip out students who do not speak Swedish at home, Swedish students actually had the highest reading ability of any country. 

Swedish 11-year-old pupils were also above the EU/OECD average in science, according to the most recent survey from 2019, neck and neck with England, but above students in Germany and France. 

When it comes to maths, Swedish year four pupils were a little behind the EU/OECD average in the most recent 2019 study, behind England, but at the same level as Germany and better than France. 

Swedish schools are not that far behind when it comes to maths. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

I very much hope these statistics are right, as I’ve been quite alarmed that my children’s school seems to avoid anything that requires drilling or memorisation – the times tables, national capital cities, location of countries, important dates.

My children do not seem to be learning what their UK counterparts learn, or at least what I did. But perhaps missing out these more mundane exercises means that children feel more positively towards schools, helping the acquisition of knowledge in other areas. 

I do feel that now my daughter is in the fourth class, the pace is picking up, with more homework and more challenging tasks. But, to my frustration, the time for working on her handwriting appears to be over. 

Frederiksson remembers that when he was training to be a primary school teacher in the 1970s, teaching handwriting was still seen as important. But that this ceased to be the case quite early in his career. 

Anna Nordlund, an assistant professor at Uppsala University focused on the role of children’s literature in teaching, dates the downgrading of handwriting to the 1994 curriculum.

“Younger teachers and student teachers today did not have any systematic education in how to write by hand when they, themselves, were at school,” she said. “I have taught student teachers who were not able to read children’s picture books printed in handwriting, such as the Tove Jansson classic Who Will Comfort Toffle?”.

She said she frequently encountered student teachers who are themselves unable to take notes with a pen and paper, and explained that there is little if anything in the current Swedish teaching methodology they study that covers handwriting. 

“Since the 2000s, there hasn’t been any requirement in teacher education for students to receive instruction in handwriting methodology, which used to be an important part of the education to be a primary school teacher,” she said. 

The Swedish curriculum today requires students in years 1-4 to be able to write “simple texts with legible handwriting”, but as there is no detail on how this should be done or how to define “legible”, Frederiksson says it is in practice almost entirely up to the teacher how and to what level they want to teach handwriting. 

While a few teachers still teach cursive, others more or less go straight to laptops, bypassing handwriting altogether. 

“Teachers have a certain degree of freedom on how to teach it, so some teachers may spend more time on it and others are not really giving any kind of handwriting instruction, because they think the children should get directly to using computers,” he said.

“That has been fairly much disputed, because there is research suggesting that if children learn to write by hand, it makes it easier to remember the shapes of the letters.” 

With Neuding’s handwriting campaign and schools minister Lotta Edholm this week dramatically scrapping the Swedish National Agency for Education’s digitalisation strategy, it feels like the tide is turning in Sweden. 

Unfortunately it will be too late for my two children.But perhaps I can take comfort in the statistics which show that while their handwriting is likely to be much poorer than their cousins back home, they will be at least not be too behind on maths, reading and science.