The adequate and flexible provision of child care facilities which fulfill the demands made upon them makes an important contribution to the reconciliation of family life and work, because the employment chances of parents particularly depend on the availability of care offers for children and for other people who require help.
In addition, these facilities also have to be seen as a precondition for equal opportunities for all children. Nursery schools are recognized by all areas of the population as high-quality pre-school educational facilities.
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 and schoolchildren.
Currently, the proportion of children in child care facilities is 21,8 % of 0 –2 year olds, in the case of 3 – 5 year olds it is 92,6 %, and 16,8 % of 6 – 9 year olds. (Source: statistics on child day care centre, June 2012).
According to Austrian constitutional law, the financing of child care facilities is primarily the responsibility of the provinces and the municipalities. Currently the federal government temporarily participate in financing by granting earmarked subsidies to the provinces or via the support of special projects for the reconciliation of family life and work and the extension of care in the schools sector.
Since 2009 attending child-care facilities is free of charge for 5-year olds throughout Austria. Additionally there is child care free of charge for the following age-groups in the different provinces:
- Burgenland: reimbursement of parent's fees up to € 45,- per month (nursery school) or up to € 90,- (crèches)
- Lower Austria: part-time daycare free of charge for children between 2,5 and 6
- Upper Austria: all- day care 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
Around 60% of all care facilities are operated by public bodies ( particularly municipalities). 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 child care facilities is primarily the responsibility of the provinces and the municipalities. In the past, the federal government temporarily participated in financing by granting earmarked subsidies to the provinces or via the support of special projects for the reconciliation of family life and work and the extension of care in the schools sector.
The types of institutions offering child care differ in particular according to the age structure of the children looked after in crèches, nursery schools, day homes and children’s groups, whereby the terms used in the individual provinces vary considerably. Alongside these offers, play groups 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. They are predominantly to be found in larger towns and cities; around 40 % of the facilities are in Vienna.
Nursery schools offer a supplement to family care for children from the age of 3 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, which is why many children whose parents or parent are not both in work also attend these facilities. In September 2010 the attendig of nursery school will be compulsory for 5-year olds at the extend of 16 - 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.
Children’s groups have established themselves alongside traditional care facilities since the late eighties. They are characterised by a high level of co-determination on the part of parents, who also share responsibility. The children are generally looked after in mixed-age groups of 5-10 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 on the one hand the number of day-care children has increased and on the other hand the qualifications of childminders have improved. In almost all provinces training courses are obligatory. A nationwide curriculum for training courses has been developed by the ministry. Training courses which are carried out according to the quality standards specified in the curriculum receive a stamp of quality.