Child Care in Austria
The adequate and flexible provision of childcare facilities makes an important contribution to the reconciliation of family life and work, because the employment chances of parents particularly mothers depend on the availability of care offers for children and for other people who require help.
Through extension initiatives from the provinces and the municipalities with financial support from the federal government, numerous additional care places have been created in the last few years and opening hours in the afternoons and during holidays have been lengthened. Significant improvements in the offer of care services have been achieved, particularly for small children.
Currently, the enrolment-rate is 31.2 per cent of 0 –3 year olds, in the case of 3 – 6 year olds it is 95 per cent , and 14.3 per cent of 6 – 10 year olds (without children in boarding schools). (Source: statistics on child day care centers, July 2022).
Public bodies (particularly municipalities) operate around 57.3 per cent of all daycare facilities. In addition, parishes, family organisations, non-profit associations, companies and private individuals also function as operators of facilities.
According to Austrian constitutional law, the financing of childcare facilities is primarily the responsibility of state-governments and municipalities (Länder and Gemeinden). In the past, the federal government temporarily participated in financing by granting earmarked subsidies to the states for specific purposes.
Between 2008 and 2018 the federal government spent 442.5 million Euro on the expansion of childcare facilities, 90 million Euro on early language support and 630 million Euro on compulsory kindergarten free of charge in the last year before entering school. Three different agreements between the federal government and the state-governments regulated the funding.
In 2018, in order to improve the efficiency and the flexibility of budgeting the Agreement on early childhood education and care for the kindergarten years 2018/19 to 2021/22 according to Artikel 15a B-VG was set up regulating the expansion of children care as well as early language support and compulsory kindergarten free of charge in the last year before entering school. The federal government granted earmarked subsidies on these purposes (552.5 million Euro) to the states for the kindergarten years 2018/19 to 2021/22.
In 2022 this agreement was replaced by the Agreement on early childhood education and care for the kindergarten years 2022/23 to 2026/27. The federal government will spend a total of 1 billion Euro on earmarked subsidies during the next five years. Main issues of the agreement are
- focus on the expansion of institutional child care for children under the age of three
- flexibilisation and extension of opening hours
- impulses to improve the quality of care, especially the ratio of the number of children care by the number of kindergarten teachers
- promoting childminders as an alternative and supplement to kindergarten
- continuation of the non-contributory compulsory kindergarten for five-year-olds
- intensification and further development of language support
- obligatory teaching of values of Austrian society
- improved qualification of the qualified staff and specialized linguistic teachers
- focus on the transition from kindergarten to school
- definitions of a compulsory quality frame work through mandatory pedagogical documents and educational goals
Non-contributory compulsory kindergarten
Since 2009 part-time daycare is free of charge for 5-year olds throughout Austria. In 2010 pre-school education became compulsory. Additionally there is childcare free of charge for the following age groups in the different states:
- Burgenland: all-day care free of charge for children up to 6
- Lower Austria: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 2.5 and 6
- Upper Austria: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 2.5 and 6
- Tyrol: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 4 and 6
- Vienna: all- day care free of charge for children up to 6
Types of childcare
The types of institutions offering child care differ in particular according to the age structure of the children looked after in crèches, nursery schools/kindergarten, day homes and children’s groups, whereby the terms used in the individual states vary considerably. Alongside these offers, playgroups and childminders also offer their services.
Crèches are responsible for looking after children under the age of three in a manner suitable to their age. As this offer is primarily directed towards working parents, these facilities are largely open all day without a break and throughout the year.
Nursery schools offer a supplement to family care for children from the age of three until they start school. The aim of nursery school education is the promotion of the physical, mental and emotional development of the children via suitable playing and the educational effect of the group. Nursery schools are generally accepted as a good pre-school educational offer. Since September 2010 the attending of nursery school is compulsory for 5-year olds during 20 hours per week.
Day homes are responsible for the care of pupils in compulsory schooling after lessons have ended and on days without school. Alongside support in doing homework and for examination preparation, these facilities also offer leisure time activities suited to the age of the respective children.
Child minders predominantly look after small children, mostly together with their own children in a private home. The significance of this type of care has increased substantially in recent years, as the qualifications of childminders have improved. Training courses are obligatory. A nationwide curriculum for training courses has been developed. Training courses, which are carried out according to the quality standards specified in the curriculum, receive a stamp of quality.