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The real cost of childcare around the world

Everyone wants to give their little ones the best possible start in life, and for working parents, knowing that their child is in the best possible hands is of the utmost importance.
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The Real Cost of Childcare Around the World

Childcare offers a safe and fun environment where children can socialise, learn and play, but costs can make up a significant proportion of many working parents’ outgoings. But how much you pay can vary considerably depending on where you live.

The Cost of Childcare Report from the team at money.co.uk takes a seed list of OECD* countries to discover the countries around the world with the most and least affordable childcare - and where the UK ranks.

If you're looking to spread the cost of childcare, you could consider taking out a loan. Compare loans to help you find a deal that best suits your needs.

The report identifies what percentage of parents' monthly and annual income will be spent on childcare for children aged 0-2, who may not be entitled to any government or additional funding in their home nation, as is the case for the majority of parents in the United Kingdom

The countries spending the highest % of monthly outgoings on childcare 

Finding good quality childcare can be a difficult task, but childcare is an important element for many working parents. Our report looks at which countries' parents are spending the largest amount of their take-home pay on childcare costs.

The Cost of Childcare Report
CountryMonthly Cost of Childcare (£)Average Monthly Salary (one person)% of earnings spent on childcare (single parentAverage Monthly Salary (two parents)% of earnings spent on childcare (two parents)
United Kingdom£936.41£1,965.2947.65%£3,930.5823.82%
Costa Rica£235.70£548.5042.97%£1,097.0021.49%
Slovak Republic£321.62£749.5142.91%£1,499.0221.46%
Czech Republic£274.08£932.6429.39%£1,865.2814.69%
United States £679.61£2,605.2026.09%£5,210.4013.04%
New Zealand£547.41£2,979.6718.37%£5,959.349.19%

Single-parent households in Chile spend almost 60% of their earnings on full-time childcare

Parents in Chile are spending the largest amount of their monthly salary on childcare (58.5%). With single parents in the South American nation spending well over half of the average monthly income on full-time care, and two parent households spending just under a third of their earnings.  

In Chile, single parents earn on average £5,067.12 annually. Comparing this with the monthly and annual cost of childcare at £247.50 and £2,965.20 (five days per week) means that single parents in Chile are spending a whopping 58.52% of their total earnings on full-time childcare. 

In comparison, a two parent household can expect to pay 29.26% of their combined earnings on childcare costs. 

CountryMonthly cost (3 days per week)Average Monthly Salary (one person)% of earnings spent on childcare (single parentAverage Monthly Salary (two parents)% of earnings spent on childcare (two parents)
United Kingdom£561.85£1,965.2928.59%£3,930.5814.29%
Costa Rica£141.42£548.5025.78%£1,097.0012.89%
Slovak Republic£192.97£749.5125.75%£1,499.0212.87%
Czech Republic£164.45£932.6417.63%£1,865.288.82%
United States £407.77£2,605.2015.65%£5,210.407.83%
New Zealand£328.45£2,979.6711.02%£5,959.345.51%

Two-parent households in the Netherlands will spend up to a third of their income on childcare

The Dutch follow closely behind in second place, with single parents in the Netherlands also spending over half the average income on full-time childcare. 

With an average monthly salary of £2,203.41, equating to £26,440.92 per year single parents are spending 56.73% of the average earnings on full-time childcare (five days a week) at an average monthly cost of £1,249.93. 

Two parent households in the nation can expect to spend 28.36% of their combined average income of £4,406.82 on childcare. 

UK ranks in fifth for childcare costs - with almost half of UK parents income spent on childcare

The UK takes fifth place in the report, with single parents in the country spending over half of their average income on full-time childcare. 

The monthly cost of full-time childcare in the UK comes to £936.41, equating £11,236.92 per year, comparing this to the average yearly income in the UK (£23,583.48), single parents are spending 47.65% of their average earnings on full-time childcare. 

This figure is halved for two-parent households with an average yearly income of £47,166.96 resulting in 23.82% of their income being spent on childcare. 

Childcare prices in the UK alone have increased by 4% over the past year due to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, therefore parents are being faced with rising costs. 

The Cost of Childcare Report

The most and least affordable countries for childcare 

Childcare is often the only option for many working parents, but it is also a great place for children to grow and learn, preparing them for socialising at school in the future. 

With childcare in such high demand, costs have understandably followed suit, which is why the team at money.co.uk have determined the countries where childcare is the most and least affordable. 

Sweden is crowned the cheapest country for childcare

CountryCost of Childcare (One day)Weekly cost of childcareMonthly Cost of Childcare (£)Annual Cost of Childcare
Costa Rica£11.79£58.93£235.70£2,828.40
Czech Republic£13.70£68.52£274.08£3,288.96
Slovak Republic£16.08£80.41£321.62£3,859.44
New Zealand£27.37£136.85£547.41£6,568.92
United States £33.98£169.90£679.61£8,155.32
United Kingdom£46.82£234.10£936.41£11,236.92

Cost of childcare in Sweden

The quality of childcare in Sweden is among the best in the world, with long, government-funded paid parental leave. Working parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, with very few countries around the world offering even half as many days.

Swedish childcare

It therefore comes as no surprise that Sweden leads the way as the most affordable country for childcare. Working parents in Sweden are supported with a low-cost daycare rate of £5.75 a day, and the latest OECD data shows almost half (46.3%) of children aged 2 and under attend daycare. 

Sending your child to daycare full time in Sweden amounts to a weekly cost of just £28.75, and a monthly cost of £114.99. Over the year, Swedish parents pay just £1,379.88 for childcare for under-two. 

Cost of childcare in Colombia

Colombia has made significant and positive progress in developing its early childhood education and care (ECEC) provision, moving towards a more formalised system in recent years. 

As a result, participation rates in childcare have surged. Between 2007 and 2013, enrolment in early childhood education services among 0-5 year-olds in Colombia more than doubled, from 16% to 41%

Colombia, where almost a third (30.9%) of children aged 0-2 are in childcare, closely follows as the second most affordable country for daycare in the report. If a busy work schedule requires care for your child five days a week, then Colombian parents will pay an average daily cost of just £5.89. Over the year this equates to £1,414.32 - 12% less than parents pay for full-time childcare in Mexico (£1,594.32). 

Cost of childcare in Mexico

Although childcare centres run by the government do exist in Mexico, private childcare is much more common and considerably easier to find, which could be a factor in why Government enrollment rates in Mexico are considerably low

However, despite only four in every hundred children (4%) aged 0-2 in childcare, Mexico emerges as the third cheapest country for the service, at just £6.64 a day. Full time childcare therefore amounts to £33.22 per week, £132.86 a month, and just £1,594.32 over the year.  

Mexican parents only requiring childcare services two or three days per week will pay less than £1,000 over the course of an entire year (£956.59 and £637.73 respectively) in fees. 

The most expensive countries for childcare costs

childcare - children with wellington boots

Cost of childcare in Switzerland

A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world for childcare, and has also been ranked low for its flexibility regarding parental leave.

Despite being one of the priciest countries around the world for childcare, almost two fifths (38%) of Swiss children under the age of 2 attend daycare, so how much are their parents paying on average?

The average daily cost of childcare for the Swiss is an eye-watering £92.50, with full-time care setting parents back £461.02 per week, £1,844.08 a month, and £22,128.96 annually -  slightly less than the average UK salary. 

Swiss parents able to send kids to childcare three days a week will still face an annual bill of 13,277.38, with those reducing to just two days still tackling a shockingly high yearly amount of £8,851.58. 

Cost of childcare in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, already one of the most expensive places for childcare, will see costs rise between 2.3% and 2.9% in 2022, as a result of higher wages according to organisations BK and BMK. 

However, despite being second place on the list as the most expensive country to send your child to daycare, almost two thirds (65.5%) of children (aged 0-2 years old) are currently enrolled in childcare in the Netherlands.

The daily cost of Dutch daycare starts at £62.50, amounting to £312.48 per week, a monthly cost of £1,249.93, and a staggering annual bill of £14,999.16. 

Parents using childcare facilities three times a week will spend £8,999.50 in a year, while those relying on it just twice a week can still expect to pay £5,999.66. 

Cost of childcare in the UK 

Despite the UK being the fifth most expensive country for childcare costs, 45.1% of 0-2 year olds are enrolled into a daycare programme. 

The daily cost of daycare in the UK starts at £46.82, amounting to £234.10 per week, a monthly cost of £936.41 and a yearly sum of £11,236.92 for full-time childcare. 

Parents using childcare facilities three times a week will spend £6,742.15 in a year, while those relying on it just twice a week can expect to pay £4,494.77 - a difference of £2,247.38. 

Budgeting for childcare costs: Guidance on financial loans to help you through maternity leave

Childcare - maternity leave

Having a baby is one the great joys of life, but it also comes with a lot of stress for new parents. It is only normal for the majority of parents to be concerned about the cost of childcare and the implications of flexible working from the very instant they find out they are pregnant. 

Help paying for childcare

There’s no denying that childcare is one of the most costly aspects of adding to your family. It takes up a significant portion of household income if you’re not lucky enough to have any local family or friends willing to help you out during those initial years. Here are some ways you can get help:

  • 30 hours free childcare

Parents of three and four-year-olds can apply for 30 hours of free childcare a week. To qualify you must work at least 16 hours a week at the national living or minimum wage and earn less than £100,000 a year

  • Tax credits

For children under 20, some families can get help with childcare costs

  • Tax free childcare

Available to working families and the self-employed, for every £8 you put in the government will add an extra £2. Here is more information on how the Tax Free Childcare scheme works.

How to create a budget and factor in the important costs:

What help is available to UK parents? 

Methodology and sources

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

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