Switzerland remains a relatively conservative country when it comes to childcare, with mothers often taking on most of the responsibilities for childcare. However, there are more and more women who combine family and work life. In Switzerland, an employed woman is entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave from the moment of delivery, with 80% of her salary. However, many employers offer more generous terms. In Switzerland, paternity leave is not regulated at national level, although there are many companies that offer this option to their employees.
The size of Swiss families is usually small. The fertility rate is around 1.47 children per woman and the average age in which a woman has her first child is 30.9 years. About a quarter of births take place outside the framework of marriage. Hospitals in Switzerland often recommend breastfeeding. 95% of mothers breastfeed their children, and 80% continue to do so for up to four months or more. Companies have the obligation to ensure these mothers a space where they can breastfeed their children or express milk.
In Switzerland, the majority of mothers with small children work part-time, which means, among other things, that the provision of nurseries and other alternatives for taking care of children are designed for women with these characteristics. On the other hand, the number of parents who decide to work part-time to depend less on having to seek outside help for childcare, an important goal for many Swiss, is also growing. Many working parents rely on the help of their grandparents to care for their children, but foreigners arriving in Switzerland often do not have that option. Another option is to entrust the care of a child to a “day mother”. These women are often mothers of older children, so they can spend time caring for other children.
Children usually go to school in the morning and in the afternoon, with a two-hour lunch break. Generally, the school closes at noon and the students and teachers return home for lunch. In recent years and due to the increasing number of families in which both parents work, there are more schools with continuous hours. The so-called ‘Tagesschulen’ [day schools, in German] offer a hot meal and babysitting on school grounds while the school is closed.