The Dutch system recognises two primary forms of childcare: informal and formal care. Daycare centres, home daycares and after-school care are considered formal child care. However, occasional baby-sitters and lunch-break care are deemed informal. This distinction is made as formal care must adhere to the rules and regulations of the official “Dutch Childcare Act”. Furthermore, parents using formal childcare are entitled to the childcare allowance.
The Dutch Childcare Act and the Childcare Allowance
The Dutch Childcare Act of 2005 was created in order to increase the participation of women in the work force, the accessibility of childcare, and the competition between childcare providers, thereby lowering fees. The act provides for the financing of formal childcare and maintains quality and supervision standards for all childcare services.
According to the Dutch Childcare Act, parents, employers and the government must jointly bear the costs of formal child care. The government does so by imposing a childcare levy on all employers.
The childcare allowance is provided on a per child basis, whereby an allowance is determined and provided for each child. The allowance is capped at a maximum hourly rate, which is adjusted annually. For 2009 the maximum hourly rate is €6.10 per hour.
The amount of your individual childcare allowance will depend on both your childcare costs and your family’s income situation. Under special circumstances, certain target groups (speciale doelgroepouders) such as single parent families, students, etc. may receive an additional refund from the municipality where they live. These circumstances are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The childcare bureau Blue Umbrella, who specialises in collecting the childcare allowance for internationals in the Netherlands, offers a free allowance calculator on their website. To obtain a free estimate of the allowance amount your entitled to visit www.blueumbrella.nl/childcare-allowance/calculator.html.
Conditions of the Childcare Allowance
In order to be eligible for the childcare allowance, the childcare services that you choose must adhere to the rules and regulations of the Dutch Childcare Act. Daycare centres must be run by a professional organisation and home daycares will require the involvement of an accredited childcare bureau to officially certify their services with the authorities.
All parents in the Netherlands using formal childcare are therefore entitled to the childcare allowance if they are in a household where both partners are engaged in a gainful occupation or are studying, and if they have children between the age 0 – 12 years (the age when your child attends secondary education).
Forms of Childcare in the Netherlands
Daycare centres are professionally run and employ fully qualified childcare staff. They are usually open from 7:30 to 18:00 on weekdays and offer care for babies as young as 3 months to children up to 4 years. The ratio of children per staff member ranges from 1:4 to 1:8, depending on the age groups.
Home daycares are run by a self-employed childminder who legally can take care of a maximum of four children, either in his/her own home or in the house of the parents. If the home daycare is registered with a childcare bureau/agency (gastouderbureau), parents will be eligible to receive the childcare allowance.
There are several childcare bureaus/agencies in the Netherlands, who can assist parents and daycares in the registration process in order to receive their childcare allowance (see below for contact information). However, all agencies, with the exception of Blue Umbrella, provide support solely in Dutch and may not work with expatriates as the situation can be much more complicated on an administrative level.
Grandparents and childminders
Under the Childcare Act, grandparents who baby-sit on a regular basis, can also be considered self-employed child minders and formal childcare providers. This means parents can also receive an allowance for this form of care. However, they will require, just like other home daycares, the involvement of a childcare bureau in order to officially qualify for the childcare allowance.
Nanny/ Au pair
An au pair in The Netherlands is by definition (and law), a young foreigner aged 18-25 years old with a love for children, who joins a family as part of a cultural exchange program. In return for room, board and pocket money, the au pair helps the family with child care and light housework. The au pair program is quite strictly regulated and au pairs are not allowed to help out for more than 30 hours a week and cannot stay in The Netherlands for longer than a year. Au pairs are not employed and a family with an au pair is NOT eligible for tax deduction or a child care allowance for the cost of such an au pair. For more information on au pairs please visit www.house-o-orange.nl .
Holland does not have a nanny culture but it is possible to find nannies from the EU or Australia/Canada or New Zealand that are able to come over on a Working Holiday Program for a maximum of one year. Such nannies are often older than au pairs (typically 20-30 years old) and either have formal training or childcare education and/or have plenty of childcare experience. A nanny can either be live-in or live-out but foreign nannies tend to prefer to live-in. Nannies receive a monthly salary and usually work under a formal labor contract. For more information on EU/Aussie/Canadian/Kiwi nannies please visit www.house-o-orange.nl.
Although Holland does not have a nanny culture, it is possible to find non-qualified Dutch nannies through the use of an agency or other sources. These nannies can be more mature and generally work locally on an hour to hour basis. Dutch nannies do not tend to live-in with their families.
Parents using nannies may be eligible for the childcare allowance with the involvement of a childcare bureau such as blue umbrella (in order to officially qualify and certify the childcare services) but please be aware that there will be a new ruling from January 2010 where live-in help will not qualify for tax benefits. Keep this in mind when you plan for your next nanny.
Childcare providers (both daycare and home daycare) most often use the maximum hourly rate of the allowance as a guide to their fees. Self-employed child minders working out of their home normally charge around €5 per child per hour. Professional child minders (nannies) usually charge between € 9 and € 15 gross per hour, irrespective of the number of children cared for.
Professional Daycare centres start around € 6.50 per child per hour. Rates to do vary per centre.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Daycare Trust: Unicef report highlights the need for more funding for childcare
UNICEF, The child care transition, Innocenti Report Card 8, 2008. Netherlands scores 5 out of 10 in OECD early child care education league table.
The Report Card discusses the opportunities and risks involved in the child care transition, and proposes internationally applicable benchmarks for early childhood care and education – a set of minimum standards for protecting the rights of children in their most vulnerable and formative years. Netherlands scores 5 out of 10 in OECD early child care education league table.
To download the full report: “UNICEF, The child care transition, Innocenti Report Card 8, 2008”