When you’re a foreign dentist who wants to start a new career in the Netherlands, you probably have many questions about how everything works. The sort of questions you might have, depend on your personal situation. We’ve had numerous dentists in our program with a family, or dentists who would like to start a family in the Netherlands. They might wonder if our program is suitable for dentists with families, and how childcare will be arranged in the Netherlands. The answer to the first question is that we welcome families as well, and with this article we would like to give you more information about childcare in the Netherlands to take away some of the questions you might have.
Childcare in the Netherlands
Childcare in the Netherlands is collectively known as kinderopvang, which encompasses various options like daycare, pre-schools, playgroups, before- and after-school clubs, nannies, childminders, au pairs, and babysitters.
In the Netherlands, it is common for parents to resume work shortly after their children are born, creating a significant demand for childcare facilities. Consequently, most providers have long waiting lists, making it important to consider when relocating to the Netherlands with children.
The working culture in the country promotes a healthy work-life balance, with government policies supporting this approach through generous parental leave programs and subsidized childcare for working parents. Additionally, many companies offer flexible working hours, allowing both parents to spend time with their children during the workweek.
As of 2020, the Netherlands housed 12,055 registered childcare enterprises. All childcare providers are required to obtain approval from the local municipality and undergo national government inspections. Staff members must meet national professional standards, and employees are mandated to hold a certificate of good conduct.
To find approved childcare facilities, parents can utilize the National Childcare Register (Landelijk Register Kinderopvang), which is also an essential resource for those applying for childcare allowance. The register includes the unique registration numbers of each provider, which parents need for their allowance application.
Maternity and paternity leave
In the Netherlands, employed mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, while self-employed mothers can receive a maternity allowance for the same duration.
Partners, on the other hand, can take one week of paid leave within four weeks of their child’s birth. Following this, they have the option to take an additional five weeks of unpaid leave within the six months following the birth. During this unpaid leave, it is possible to claim up to 70% of one’s salary from the Employment Insurance Agency.
Every new parent (mothers and fathers) has a right to 26 weeks parental leave that can be used within the first 8 years of a child’s life. The first 9 weeks, parents are entitled to 70% of their salary with the condition that these 9 weeks are used before the child’s first birthday. The remaining weeks are unpaid, and can be used till the child is 8 years old.
Who can access childcare in the Netherlands?
In the Netherlands, informal childcare can be obtained by paying for it directly, without any specific restrictions. However, registered childcare facilities require proof of registration in the country, which is done by providing your national identification number, known as a Burgerservicenummer (BSN).
Upon arriving in the Netherlands, it is mandatory to register with the local municipality within five days. During the registration process, each family member is assigned a BSN, which holds significant importance in various aspects of Dutch life. You can refer to our guide on obtaining a BSN number in the Netherlands to understand the procedure.
When it comes to childcare, the government utilizes your BSN to verify the claimed hours for childcare allowance against the records maintained by the childcare organization.
If formal childcare options are not accessible for any reason, families can choose to hire an informal babysitter. However, it’s important to note that parents who opt for unregistered childcare may not be eligible for childcare allowance from the government.
While the Dutch government recommends childhood vaccinations, they are not mandatory, and childcare centers do admit unvaccinated children. However, there is an ongoing inquiry regarding whether childcare centers have the right to refuse non-vaccinated children, following a recommendation from the Committee for Childcare and Vaccination.
Preschool and daycare options in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, children can begin their primary education (basisschool) when they turn four years old. Prior to this, preschool-aged children have access to group-care facilities such as daycare centers, preschools, and playgroups.
Daycare centers (kinderdagverblijven) cater to children from birth to four years old. Popular daycare centers often have lengthy waiting lists, with wait times of up to 18 months not uncommon. Consequently, parents in the Netherlands often register their children for daycare while still pregnant.
Daycare hours typically align with the working day, providing care from 07:30 to 18:00 or 08:00 to 18:30. Some centers also offer half-day care. For parents with irregular work schedules, there are 24-uurs opvang options available, which provide flexible care during both day and night.
Preschools (voorschool or peuterspeelzaal) are attended by children aged two to four. Most children attend preschool for three to five days a week. In preschool, children learn social skills through play, and for expat children, it often serves as their introduction to the Dutch language.
Working parents can apply for childcare allowance to help with preschool costs. Families who are not eligible for childcare allowance may still qualify for financial support for preschool from their city council, even if only one parent is working. Children with developmental delays may receive a VVE indication, granting them a free preschool placement.
Playgroups (speelinloop) are suitable for parents who wish to participate in group play sessions with their children. Most municipalities offer drop-in playgroups for children from birth to two and a half years old. Parents can inquire about playgroups at their local child health center, and larger cities like Amsterdam may have a playgroup directory on the municipality website. Playgroups provide an opportunity to meet local families and practice speaking Dutch, and they can also help prepare both parents and children for Dutch preschool. In cities with significant expat populations, international playgroups like the Robbeburg playgroup in Amsterdam can be found.
Playgroups operate differently, with some requiring enrollment and upfront payment, while others are free drop-in sessions that may request a donation or a piece of fruit to share among the children. Conducting research in advance can help avoid any disappointment.
Some large workplaces offer onsite daycare facilities exclusive to their employees. These facilities operate similarly to regular daycare centers, adhering to government guidelines. They often provide fixed days for each child rather than a more flexible crèche system.
For gym enthusiasts, enrolling in a gym with an onsite crèche can be advantageous. In addition to enjoying a child-free gym session, certain gyms offer ad-hoc care for members’ children even when they are engaged in other activities. Several David Lloyd clubs in the Netherlands feature onsite crèche services.
Childcare options for international families in the Netherlands
In Dutch cities with a significant expat presence, like Amsterdam, The Hague, or Eindhoven, there are specialized childcare facilities available to meet the unique needs of international families.
These options include international schools with early-years programs, bilingual daycare centers, international playgroups, as well as childminders and au pairs with international experience.
International schools with early-years programs provide a seamless transition for children who are likely to continue their education in an international environment. It’s important to note that some international nurseries only accept children aged three and above.
For families with younger children who don’t meet the age requirement for early-years education, international daycare facilities are available.
International daycare centers are private enterprises that adhere to the same regulations as traditional Dutch childcare centers. Parents can use the National Childcare Register (available in Dutch) to find approved facilities.
These centers cater specifically to the needs of third-culture and expat children, offering preparation for both Dutch and international schooling.
Examples of international daycare centers in the Netherlands include:
- Hestia Early Learning Centre
- Zein Childcare
In addition to daycare centers, there are international playgroups available in many cities. Some playgroups follow specific philosophies or learning methods, such as Montessori, while others are informal and run by parents or churches. Typically, parents attend these playgroups with their children, providing opportunities for socialization and connecting with other expat families.
Childminders in the Netherlands
Licensed childminders, known as gastouders, provide care for children of all ages. They are authorized to care for up to six children simultaneously, either at their own home or in a designated care center.
Many parents prefer the flexibility offered by childminders compared to daycare facilities. The smaller group sizes also allow for more personalized attention to each child.
Childminders typically work under the supervision of a government-approved agency. These agencies ensure that the childminder’s home meets safety standards and act as intermediaries between parents and childminders. Parents can find these agencies listed on the National Childcare Register.
To find a suitable childminder, parents can directly contact a childminding agency. Childminder rates vary, but they are generally more affordable than daycare services. Eligible working parents may also qualify for childcare allowance when utilizing the services of a registered childminder.
In some cases, grandparents who regularly provide babysitting may be recognized as official childminders according to Dutch regulations.
Childcare for school-age children in the Netherlands – before and after school clubs
Childcare for school-age children in the Netherlands, known as “buitenschoolse opvang” (BSO), encompasses before and after-school care. BSO is specifically designed for children between the ages of 4 and 13 who attend primary school.
In the Netherlands, it is mandatory for primary schools to arrange BSO care. Parents are responsible for covering the BSO fees, which typically range from €6 to €10 per hour. However, eligible parents can claim a portion of these fees back from the tax authorities as childcare allowance.
BSO childcare can be categorized into different types:
Before school care (voorschoolse opvang or VSO): Typically available from 07:00 until the start of the school day.
In-between school care (tussenschoolse opvang or TSO): Childcare and supervision during the lunch break.
After school care (naschoolse opvang or NSO): Childcare starting at the end of the school day and continuing until 18:30.
Most schools collaborate with one or more childcare centers that provide BSO services. Some schools may even establish their own BSO facilities. However, BSO locations are not always situated on the school premises. In such cases, BSO staff will collect students from the school and transport them to the BSO facility.
BSOs prioritize relaxation and provide a safe environment for children to rest and play with their peers. They offer a variety of activities, allowing children the freedom to choose whether they want to participate or simply relax. Refreshments and, in some cases, a hot meal are provided to the children.
Many BSOs also offer childcare services during school holidays and study days, although this may vary among different BSO providers. Additionally, some schools organize age-appropriate after-school activities, such as painting, crafts, sports, music lessons, or drama classes. These activities are usually offered on a term basis and may involve a small fee. Subsidized rates are available for low-income families.
Childcare costs in the Netherlands
Childcare costs in the Netherlands can range from approximately €8 to €10.50 per hour, depending on the type of childcare and additional services such as meals. According to a study conducted in 2019, gross childcare costs in the Netherlands are higher than the European Union average, second only to the United Kingdom. However, when subsidies and childcare allowances are taken into account, the overall costs align more closely with the EU average.
Childcare subsidies in the Netherlands are income-related, resulting in varying expenses for each family. An online tool is available to help families determine the childcare costs based on their specific situation.
The Netherlands provides generous childcare support packages to working families, as well as financial assistance for low-income families. Childcare allowance, known as “kinderopvangtoeslag,” is a contribution towards the expenses of registered childcare and is paid by the tax authorities.
To be eligible for child benefits in the Netherlands, parents must meet certain criteria, including being employed or enrolled in a course, having their child live with them, paying a portion of the childcare costs themselves, and being either an EU national or holding a residency and work permit in the Netherlands. The childcare facility must also be registered with the National Childcare Register.
Parents can receive childcare allowance for a maximum of 230 hours per month, per child. The amount of childcare allowance depends on the number of hours worked by the parent with the fewest working hours and the combined income of the parents.
To apply for childcare allowance, parents can complete an online application (in Dutch) through the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration website. A DigiD is required for this process.
It is important to note that childcare allowance, also known as “kinderopvangtoeslag,” should not be confused with child benefit, or “kinderbijslag.” Child benefit is a non-income assessed allowance designed to assist with the costs of raising a child. All children whose parents are living or working in the Netherlands are entitled to receive child benefit.
If you would like more information about this topic, the website of Expatica is a great resource for everything you want to know as an expat in the Netherlands.
We’ve welcomed numerous foreign dentists with families in our program before, and we can help you arrange everything you need to make this transition for you and your family as smooth as possible.