Day-care costs in Switzerland: Who should pay?

“Progress in the childcare sector is relative”: Crèche founder Gogo Schumacher on the daycare landscape in Switzerland

He knows how to successfully build a daycare network – and why a long waiting list does not mean that a child will actually turn up on opening day: Gogo Schumacher founded the daycare network “KiMi Krippen” in 2006 and is co-founder of Awina. In this interview, he tells us what it takes to launch a successful childcare service and what gave him particular pleasure during his “KiMi” time. And: he explains why the issue is not why daycare places are supposedly so expensive, but who should pay for them. 

“Gogo, years ago you established a successful childcare network with the “KiMi Krippen”. What motivated you to do this?

About 17 years ago I had the great desire to start my own business doing something meaningful. At that time, many children were being born in my area. The lack of crèche places was already the dominant topic at that time. After a study, I came to the conclusion that there was an opportunity – not only economically, but also to create added value for society. That’s how “KiMi Krippen” came into being. 

KiMi Krippen AG was founded in 2006. How did that work out? Was there a long waiting list from the beginning?

That was very exciting! There were over 80 children on our waiting list. When we opened, not a single one came. What is absolutely clear from today’s perspective, which we had to learn first: the parents want to get to know the team and the crèche first. The second challenge was that nobody wants to bring their child to an empty crèche. Finally, the exchange with other children is also one of the main reasons why parents decide to put their child in a day care centre. We have learned that it takes time to build up a structure. However, once it’s up and running, the nursery fills up very quickly. 

What has been your highlight over the years with “KiMi Krippen”?

Die Mitarbeiter*innen! Ganz eindeutig! Ich durfte in meiner Karriere schon in vielen Branchen und Berufen arbeiten. Aber die Motivation, das Commitment und die Lernbereitschaft ist bei den Menschen, die in der Kinderbetreuung tätig sind, einmalig. Auch habe ich noch nie so viele kompetente Führungspersönlichkeiten getroffen wie in der Kita. Alle Betreuer*innen müssen sich schliesslich jeden Tag vor elf Kinder mit ganz unterschiedlichen Persönlichkeiten stellen und deren Tag strukturieren. Dafür muss man ready sein. 

Since the start of “KiMi Krippen”, a lot has changed in Switzerland in terms of childcare. What changes do you see?

This is very relative. It is true that some municipalities have decided to support families. However, we are still a developing country in this respect. On the other hand, we have taken a big step forward in training. Today, a care specialist is a recognised profession. Another positive aspect is that day nurseries no longer have to justify their existence. Society agrees they are necessary. However, the government in Switzerland still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of support. 

As a rule, daycare in Switzerland is relatively expensive. Not all families find it easy to finance. What should change here?

Kitas bilden nur die geforderten Strukturen ab. Die Behörden schreiben vor, wie viele Stellenprozente in welcher Ausbildung beschäftigt werden müssen. Schliesslich hängt Qualität unmittelbar vom Betreuungsschlüssel und der Ausbildung ab. Gleichzeitig haben wir aber ein bescheidenes Lohnniveau in der Branche. Ich bin der Meinung, dass die Betreuungs-Branche einen GAV braucht. Der Staat schreibt mit den Personalanforderungen den grössten Kostenfaktor vor. Mit einem GAV können die Kita-Betreiber*innen dann auch die Löhne regeln. Im Kern muss man sich aber nicht die Frage stellen, warum ein Kita-Platz teuer ist, sondern, wer diesen bezahlen soll. Heute ist die Hauptlast bei den Familien. 

What are the highest cost points of a daycare centre? Why can many only just keep their heads above water? 

Ganz klar Personal. Über 90 Prozent der Kitas in der Schweiz sind Einzelbetriebe und sind nicht Teil eines Netzwerks. Kommt es zu Ausfällen, zum Beispiel weil eine Betreuungsperson krank wird oder schwanger ist, müssen sich diese kleinen Teams selbst organisieren. Dies führt dann oft zu punktuellen Arbeitsüberlastungen. Und: die Anforderungen an die Leitung steigen stetig und es wird mehr Bürokratie und Administration verlangt.

Is childcare provision in Switzerland simply lagging behind social change – or are there simply too few innovative ideas? 

In Switzerland, we like to compare ourselves with countries where it seems much easier for families to get childcare services. However, then you also have to look closely at who pays the costs. In Switzerland, we are only just leaving the discourse on the necessity of extra-familial care. Now we are discussing how we want to implement care. Unfortunately, I don’t see much that is “concrete” here yet. But we must not forget that private companies have taken over the actual establishment of daycare places in Switzerland. Of course, the state has given impetus, but it has never taken any economic risk itself. 

Besides Awina, are there any innovative projects in the field of childcare that you find particularly exciting? 

I find the network “KIQ” interesting, which came into being on the initiative of some large providers. “KIQ” tries to mediate between the interest groups in daycare and the external childcare sector in order to take an active role.

What does your ideal Switzerland look like in terms of childcare?

Parents’ freedom of choice should be at the centre. They should decide which form suits them best. The state should take on a stronger role in economic efficiency. The family-economy-state triangle negotiates the framework conditions and ensures that they are financially viable. 

Gogo Schumacher ist Betriebsökonom und engagiert sich seit über 20 Jahren mit verschiedenen Start Ups. 2006 hat er das Schweizer Krippen-Netzwerk «KiMi Krippen» gegründet, 2019 lancierte er mit Thomas Russenberger «Awina». Der Schweizer Finanz-Partner, der Eltern mit kleinen Kindern während der “rush hour of life”.

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