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Policies and practices around institutional out-of-home care for young children in Switzerland: between disparities and inequalities

Xavier Conus, Alex Knoll

Research Framework: In Switzerland, the context of this study, as elsewhere, public policies that foster formal childcare for young children base themselves on two arguments: supporting families in achieving work/life balance and reducing educational inequalities among children.
Objectives: The objective of the study presented in this paper is to analyse the situation of formal childcare for young children in Switzerland, especially in view of tackling inequalities.
Methodology: Therefore, we have analysed the scientific publications and reports from institutional and government bodies on the topic. We have also explored the statistical databases of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (OFS) and the OECD for the international and comparative dimensions.
Results: The results show that investments in the childcare system by the Swiss public authorities are quite small. The time spent by young children in formal childcare remains quite low compared to that of the neighboring countries, while the costs incurred by the families and the share of informal childcare arrangements remain high. In addition to this, Switzerland is characterised by substantial internal disparities with regard to the formal childcare supply, the funding of the childcare system, and the costs incurred by the families.
Conclusions: Under these circumstances, we conclude that today’s formal childcare policy for young children in Switzerland rather contributes to maintaining inequalities instead of reducing them.
Contribution: As regards prospects, we expand the perspective beyond the Swiss context by discussing how establishing a formal childcare policy that really tackles inequalities involves acting on the supply and the cost system together, without neglecting the cultural dimension of childcare.