Costs, tax cuts and choices: What you should know about childcare in Spain

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Raising children can be expensive, especially when you need to hire someone else to take care of your kids for you while you’re working.

Maternity leave in Spain is currently 16 weeks, meaning that most nurseries in Spain will accept babies from around four months old.

This is a lot younger than in other countries such as in the UK, where parents are used to keeping children at home until they are around one year old.

School doesn’t begin until your child is six years old in Spain, but according to the most recent government statistics, 95 percent of three-year-olds and 97 percent of four year olds in Spain attend a pre-school or nursery.

The average Spanish child under three attends nursery for around 28 hours a week, but you can usually choose the hours you need. 

Private vs public nurseries

Childcare costs for babies and toddlers in Spain vary a lot, depending on whether you choose a public nursery or a private one.

Applications for public nurseries only open once a year and you must apply for them in advance. They are typically for parents with full-time jobs and run from 9am to 5pm.

In order for your child to attend a public nursery, several factors will be taken into consideration. Priority will be given to those who live or work near the chosen nursery, if you have a low level of income, if you have a large family or if one of your child’s brothers or sisters has previously attended the same public nursery.

Private nurseries on the other hand are a lot more flexible and you can choose how many hours a day you want your child to attend. They also accept children throughout the year, so it’s helpful for those who move to Spain after the beginning of the normal school year.

The curriculum of both private and public nurseries is set out by the Ministry of Education, so lessons will be similar at both. Private nurseries may include extras such as language learning or art classes. In both public and private nurseries group sizes will range from eight infants per classroom from ages 4 months to 1 year and 20 kids per class for those aged 2-3. 

Waiting times

Wait lists for nursery places will depend on where you live in Spain, but they are generally longer for public nurseries than for private ones.

Places for public nurseries are much sought-after, you will need to sign up usually in February or March. It’s best to apply as soon as you know you want your child to go to one, so that you don’t lose out on a space. Generally, you will put several choices down in order of preference and will be assigned one according to your individual circumstances and availability.

Waiting times for private nurseries are a lot less and will generally just depend on the availability each one has.

Working mums in Spain should apply for the ‘cheque guardería’ to get a deduction of up to €1,000 from their nursery costs. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

What are the costs of childcare in Spain?

Costs can vary greatly depending on whether you choose a private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation.

This works out at between €1,200 and €3,120 per year.

Besides the monthly fee, you will also have to pay a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee. This could be another €100 on top.

You can also get further discounts depending on your circumstances. For example, a discount of 50 percent is applied if you have a large family and you can get 100 percent discount if you’re from a single-parent family.

The cost of private nurseries also varies a lot depending on where you live and what type you choose, but generally ranges from €150 to €580 per month. This works out at between €1800 to €6,960 per year.

Be aware for both public and private nurseries, you will likely have to pay extra for lunches and snacks.

In some cases, a public nursery may cost more than a private depending on the type of aid you can get.

The cheque guardería is a deduction of up to €1,000 that is applied to the Income Tax return (IRPF) and works out at around €100 to €160 per month to help pay for the cost of a private or public nursery.

It is aimed at working mothers and is available up until your child is three years old.

Childminders and nannies

Nurseries are not for everyone and you may prefer that your child is cared for at home and gets individual attention instead. Nannies or canguros as they’re called in Spain are available throughout the country. They are typically paid an average of €8.20 per hour and can work however many hours you agree upon. 

This may work out to be more expensive than a nursery, but has different benefits and possibly more flexibility. For example, hiring a nanny for 25 hours a week would set you back €820 per month. Be aware, if you’re hiring a nanny for a significant number of hours per week, you will also be expected to pay social security for them (unless they’re self-employed), so the final cost will be more. 

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to apply for a tax deduction if you hire a nanny. 

If you have a spare room and don’t mind someone else living in your house, then an Au-Pair could be a more affordable option. You will pay them a small amount, but will also be giving them free rent and food in exchange for the childcare services.

How does the cost of childcare in Spain compare to other countries?

Childcare in Spain is a lot more affordable than in some other countries, where it has risen to staggering amounts.

In the UK for example, according to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of putting a child in a nursery part-time is over £7,000 a year. A full-time (50 hours) nursery place for a child under two costs on average costs double this amount.

In the United States, according to a survey, the average cost of sending your child to kindergarten costs $226 USD per week or $9,492 USD for the year.

Like in Spain, the amount for nurseries in France depends on your income and family situation and is heavily subsidised by the government. You can get credit for up to 50 percent of the costs.

According to price comparison site Numbeo, the average cost of sending your child to preschool in Paris is €810 per month. In Amsterdam, this rises to €1852 per month. However, in Copenhagen it’s a lot more affordable at €470 per month.