How do UK childcare costs stack up against the best?

Only Slovakia and Switzerland are more expensive, and Nordic countries lead the way, says OECD

The UK has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, according to data from the OECD, with only Slovakia and Switzerland more expensive. A survey issued by more than a dozen organisations has revealed that parents are increasingly angry about childcare costs in the UK and would welcome a radical overhaul.

When investigating how the UK differs to other countries that offer more generous state-subsidised childcare, it comes as little surprise that some of the least expensive and highest quality solutions are found in the Nordic countries.

comparative childcare costs

According to OECD research, these countries “consider childcare an essential public service and provide guaranteed access to childcare for all children from one year of age or earlier”. Similar rules exist in Estonia, Slovenia and Germany.

Denmark provides subsidised places for children from six months. The average payment is 9% of parental income. Full-time all-day provision would cost about £450 a month, but that cost is calculated on income and could be lower for less wealthy families. About 60% of staff are trained early-years specialists with 3.5 years of university education.

In Finland, which the Economist rated as the third best country in which to be a working mother, the state provides universal daycare from the moment a parent returns to work. It also offers fathers nine weeks of paternity leave after the birth of a child, during which they are paid 70% of their salary. At its most expensive, it costs about €290 (£248) a month, but costs are calculated according to income. The state helps parents find the right childcare for them, organising nannies and kindergarten places.

Away from the Nordic countries, German parents have a legal right to state childcare from the moment their child turns one, and while costs are determined by region and income, on average it costs a maximum of about €580 a month for full-time childcare of children under six.

In Iceland – rated the most gender-equal country in the world by the World Economic Forum for the 10th time running – full-time, highly subsidised childcare for all children two and over has been in place since the 1990s. UK parents are sending a clear message: it’s time to catch up.


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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