Finance

Almost free childcare: ‘Especially nice for higher incomes’

Today the four party leaders of VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie present the coalition agreement, a document of about fifty pages full of plans for the coming period. Tomorrow the House of Representatives will debate the agreement. The new cabinet should have names and numbers at the beginning of next year.

There were already rumors about largely free childcare, but now we know broadly what the plans are. The ambition of the new cabinet is to reimburse the costs of childcare for working parents with children up to the age of 12 up to 95 percent. In the long run, that should even be 100 percent. In the first scenario, the parents pay a small contribution.

Road surcharges

The complicated system of childcare allowance must be abolished, partly due to the extensive allowance affair. The new allowance will be introduced in steps and will be paid directly to childcare institutions, the next cabinet writes. “So that parents are no longer faced with high recoveries.”

At the moment, parents are still reimbursed part of the costs through the tax authorities. That system will therefore be overhauled and that will cost the government more than 2 billion euros on a structural basis. How exactly that will be paid has not been made concrete, but if politicians say that something is free, you often end up paying for it through taxes and premiums.

Cost

In 2019, the costs for childcare amounted to around 3.8 billion euros, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has calculated. The government paid 3 billion euros in the form of childcare allowance, the rest came from the parents themselves. 656,000 parents received childcare allowance.

According to WomenInc, an organization that promotes gender equality, Dutch parents spend an average of 20 percent of their income on full-time childcare.

‘Nice step’

The Branch Association for Social Childcare calls 95 percent free childcare ‘a great first step’, but also hopes that action will be taken quickly. “This coalition agreement is bad news for children of non-working parents and for the lowest incomes,” said chairman Loes Ypma.

The latter group is already being reimbursed 96 percent. Non-working parents receive no compensation. This system creates inequalities in children’s opportunities and must be rectified, the industry says. So free shelter for everyone.

More accessible

The Childcare Branch Organization agrees with this and is moderately positive about the plans. “Childcare is becoming cheaper for many people, which is good news. But especially for the high incomes,” says director Emmeline Bijlsma. “What we are unhappy with is that childcare is not becoming more widely accessible.”

The plans must be phased in to prevent the influx of nurseries from becoming too great. That choice is wise, says Bijlsma. Especially to guarantee the quality of reception in times of staff shortages and corona. “For childcare, the feasibility will still be quite a task,” she says.

Staff shortages

Gjalt Jellesma, chairman of the interest association for parents Boink agrees. According to the organization, due to the corona virus and the aging population in the Netherlands, we will still suffer from personnel shortages in the sector in the coming years.

“If we let go of quality requirements, for example because of staff shortages, we don’t do justice to the children,” he says.

Childcare staff are now being bought away to work in education, he says. A structural solution to these kinds of problems is needed. The hourly rates should be increased and the daily schedule at work and childcare should be different, says Boink. “Without childcare, the BV Netherlands cannot run.”

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