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How does childcare work in Austria?

Childcare can be a delicate topic and often varies from country to country. Here’s how the system works in Austria.

Children playing at nursery
Childcare provision in Austria depends on which region you're in and the age of your child. Photo: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

Childcare in Austria hit the headlines recently after kindergarten staff in Vienna staged a protest to demand better conditions and more staff for facilities.

This follows a recent report by research institute Eco Austria that claims many parents in Austria are unable to work full time and the current childcare provision falls short of the Barcelona target.

The Barcelona target was agreed by EU leaders in 2002 to ensure the development of childcare facilities in Europe, with a focus on sustainable and inclusive growth.

It states that childcare should be provided for 90 percent of children between the age of three and the mandatory school age (six-years-old in Austria), and for 33 percent of children under the age of three.

The latest figures by Statistics Austria show that childcare provision for children under the age of three is currently at 27.6 percent in Austria – more than five percent below the Barcelona target.

Despite the recent negative press coverage though, childcare in Austria is still highly rated among international residents – especially when compared to countries like the UK and the US.

Here’s what you need to know about childcare in Austria.

How does the childcare system work?

In Austria, there are different types of care available before children reach mandatory school age, including nurseries for those under the age of three, kindergartens up to the age of six and workplace and university childcare centres.

FOR MEMBERS: Familienbeihilfe: What you need to know about Austria’s child support benefits

Facilities are run privately or funded by the government and the costs can vary. The family’s income and the number of childcare hours are taken into account when calculating fees.

Parents usually have to register for places in advance.

Nurseries for babies and toddlers

In many parts of Austria, childcare for babies and toddlers up to the age of three takes place at day nurseries (kinderkrippen).

The cost and type of service available depends on the province and more details can be found at the Austrian Federal Government website.

But in Vienna, childcare for babies and toddlers is provided at both kindergartens and private nurseries with costs subsidized by the City of Vienna.

For children under 3.5-years-old in Vienna, parents receive up to €624.72 per month towards childcare.

For children aged between 3.5 years and six, there is a subsidy up to €423.31 per month for all-day care, €349.34 for part time and €252.29 for half-day. The money is paid directly from the government to the care provider.

The City of Vienna recommends parents should register for a place at a publicly-funded kindergarten in November or December for enrolment in the following year.

Kindergarten

The age when a child can be sent to a publicly-funded kindergarten depends on the province.

For example, kindergarten in Vienna is available to children up to six years of age and a similar system is in place in Burgenland and Carinthia.

In Tyrol however, kindergarten starts when children are four with an allowance of a half-day (20 hours a week without lunch) provided by the government for free. This is the minimum amount of free childcare that a state government has to provide.

READ MORE: Vienna kindergartens partially closed as staff protest work conditions

Whereas in Upper Austria and Lower Austria, a half-day of free kindergarten starts at 2.5-years-old. 

Private kindergartens are available across the country but they are not free and the costs vary depending on the operator.

A half-day of kindergarten attendance every day from Monday to Friday is mandatory for all children in Austria from the age of five.

How does childcare in Austria compare to other countries?

In the UK, childcare is less structured than Austria with varying levels of financial support depending on whether a family meets the eligibility criteria.

For example, parents in England can access up to 15 hours of free childcare each week for children from the age of two. Working families with children aged three to four can access 30 hours of free childcare a week.

In Germany, the cost of daycare (Kita) depends on where a family lives. Kita is free for all children from birth in Berlin and Hamburg, but state-run kindergartens in Munich cost between €70 and €120 a month, with private centres charging up to €200.

In the US, parents spend an average of $8,355 (approximately €7,224) on childcare for each child, according to a recent CNBC article

However, an enhanced tax credit system is currently in operation for 2021 and President Biden is calling for legislation to further help families with childcare costs.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Camping in Austria can be a lot of fun, but what are the rules? Here’s everything you need to know about setting up camp in the Alpine republic.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about camping in Austria

Waking up beside a lake or surrounded by mountains is a dream Austrian holiday for many, but it’s important to know the rules about camping before heading off with a tent or campervan.

As the summer season approaches, here’s everything you need to know about camping in Austria.

Is wild camping legal in Austria?

Wild camping – setting up camp outside of a designated campsite – is generally illegal in Austria. This applies to both camping in a tent or sleeping in a van on the side of the road.

Exceptions to this rule do exist but usually only if the municipal authority grants a temporary exception, for example for a school trip or a youth club activity.

A bivouac (temporary camp without cover) is allowed in the event of bad weather or injury, but planned wild camping in the mountains is illegal. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules for wild camping in Austria?

There are some regional differences though.

In the states of Salzburg, Vorarlberg and Styria there are no laws strictly forbidding camping outside of campsites, but local authorities can prohibit it and take action if necessary.

The strictest rules apply in national parks, nature reserves and special protection areas across Austria, so check before you plan your camping trip that your spot is not located in one of these areas.  

In most cases, if someone is caught camping illegally in Austria it is considered as an administrative offence and a fine can be issued, ranging from €5 to €500, depending on the location.

Camping in the forest

Camping in the forest is prohibited everywhere in Austria by law (specifically Section 33 of the Forest Act). The only exception is when you have the consent of the landowner.

Camping above the tree line

In Upper Austria and Styria you are allowed to camp in the mountains above the tree line, as long as you are outside of pasture areas.

In Vorarlberg this is also permitted, although the mayor of a municipality can prohibit the setting up of tents outside approved campsites if the interests of safety, health, agriculture or the protection of the natural balance as well as the landscape and townscape are “grossly violated”.

In Salzburg, camping above the tree line is in theory permitted, but the Alpine Association recommends groups wishing to camp should contact the nature conservation department of the responsible district administration before setting up. 

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Camping in a tent

Camping in a tent is the most common way of camping in the summer and most people pitch up on a dedicated campsite.

Many campgrounds have water and electricity facilities, as well as showers, cooking areas, recreation spaces and even kids clubs. Others have luxury elements like year-round heated pools, saunas, beach volleyball and restaurants.

Campsites are also often located near a lake or at the base of mountains, which means you can wake up to beautiful scenery every morning .

Some of Austria’s top camping associations include Camping Wien, Camping Steiermark and Top Camping Austria.

Camping in a van

Camping in a motorhome is only allowed at campsites in Austria and if someone is caught sleeping in a van in a prohibited area they can be fined.

The only exception is if a driver has to stop and recuperate before continuing driving.

Top camping tips

Austria is packed with stunning natural landscapes, so camping during the summer months is a popular activity – both for Austrian residents and tourists.

For this reason, it’s recommended to book ahead during the peak summer holiday months of July and August, whether planning to camp in a motorhome or tent.

Camping in motorhomes is also becoming more popular at some winter campsites during the ski season, so it’s always a good idea to book in advance.

Additionally, it’s advised to take bug spray when camping in Austria in the summer as insects like mosquitoes and ticks are common in countryside areas.

In fact, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) – a viral infection transmitted by the bite of infected ticks – is endemic in Austria and it’s recommended to get vaccinated before going on a hiking or camping trip in the country.

The main affected areas for TBE are Tyrol and Upper Austria.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it

Useful vocabulary

Campsite – Campingplätze

Tent – Zelt

Campervan – Reisemobil

Electricity – Strom

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