Good news, bad news for daycare parents

May 14th, 2012

This article is more than 12 years old.

Danish families with children in daycare have a few more kroner jingling in their pockets at the end of the month, but have to rush to get the kids at the end of the day

A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that Danes pay far less for childcare than parents in many other countries.

In Denmark, parents on average pay around nine percent of their salary to send their children to a nursery (vuggestue) or kindergarten (børnehave). That adds up to about 2,000 kroner a month for a child up to the age of two and barely 1,000 kroner per month for a child between the ages of three and five. That is one of the lowest rates among the countries measured in the OECD report.

By comparison, a family in London pays 27,000 kroner per month to have two children in daycare. In the US and Ireland, one out of every four kroner earned goes to child care.

“We sometimes forget how well Danish society is structured when it comes to families," Jørgen Goul Andersen, a professor at Aalborg University, told Politiken newspaper. “It is incredibly expensive to run a daycare facility, but parents in Denmark don’t feel it because of the large public subsidies the centres receive.”

Figures from the Education Ministry revealed that the annual cost of caring for one child in a daycare facility until the age of two was just over 121,000 kroner. The child’s parents paid only 24,000 kroner of the total amount. The other 97,000 kroner comes from the state.

Mads Lundy Hansen, an economist at Cepos, was not overly impressed by those numbers.

“Families in Denmark may pay some of the lowest rates for child care, but they still pay some of the world’s highest taxes,” Hansen told Politiken.

And although the rates may be low, many parents are finding that the opening hours of their children’s daycare institution are getting shorter and shorter. A report from Projekt Børnepasning shows that since 2008, the average opening hours in daycare facilities in Copenhagen have shrunk by approximately thirty minutes per day. That trend has been repeated throughout the rest of the country.

Parents are complaining that they don’t finish work until 5pm, while some kindergartens and nurseries are closing as early as 4 pm, especially on Fridays.

The national employer's association Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening (DA) called this development "unacceptable."

"When you cut opening hours of childcare facilities, it cuts the number of hours that parents can work," Lise Bardenfleth, DA's representative for Projekt Børnepasning, told Berlingske newspaper. “It is unacceptable that councils shave opening hours to make up for budget shortfalls.”

Projekt Børnepasning is a co-operative effort between DA and several unions that is designed to encourage councils to keep their daycares open longer and reduce the increasing number of days that they are completely closed.

The Copenhagen parent's organisation KFO said that parents need more flexible opening hours.

"It is problematic that the opening hours are not more closely matched to the job market," KFO spokesperson Nina Reffstrup told Berlingske. "From 7am until 5pm each day is the absolute minimum, otherwise parents are put in a bind.”

The national chamber of commerce, Dansk Erhverv, is concerned that childcare issues will become even more complex for some parents when the shop laws loosen up in October, allowing for Sunday openings and longer weekday hours.


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