«State expenditure of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and unpaid work Summary Mirjam von Felten This study examines the question of whether cuts in public ...»
Source: Data provided by the Day-care Department of the Services Section 20 Two providers closed their day care homes in 1997 and 1998 (Glaserbergstrasse 55, run by Vincentianum AG, and Rütimeyerstrasse 1, run by the Missione Cattolica Italiana, as a result of which the number of subsidised places fell by 78. Moreover, in 2000 a subsidised home with 8 places (Schülergruppe Müllheimerstrasse run by the Basel Women’s Association in Heuberg) was turned into an unsubsidised home for schoolchildren. However, during the same year the Cantonal Council approved an application by the Bläsikrippen Association to subsidise 6 additional places (Administrative Report 1997, ed. 1998, p. 86; 1998, ed. 1999, p.130; 2000, ed 2001, p.116).
21 Information provided by Pierre Weber, Day Care Department.
22 The number of children looked after in unsubsidised institutions in May 1998 (N=590) is based on an estimation by the Day Care Department of the Services Section. The status at January 2002 (N=770) does not include children who are looked after for one day or less per week. However, it is likely that a large number of children come under this category. No data is available for December 1995.
State expenditure of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and unpaid work 128 Gender-responsive budget analysis in the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Switzerland Although the number of places in subsidised institutions decreased between December 1995 and January 2002, the number of children in day-care rose by 11.4% from 1,296 to 1,444 (see Fig. 8). This is primarily due to the fact that children are increasingly looked after on a part-time basis, and was the result, among other things, of the introduction in September 1994 of a means test which required parents on monthly incomes above CHF 5,000 to pay higher contributions (Administrative Report 1994:26). It is, however, to be assumed that, due to changing social attitudes to working mothers, parents increasingly sought parttime places for children. This applies above all to Swiss parents, who can “afford” the mother working part time. Crèches and day-care homes were formerly used mainly by foreign parents who were dependent on both parties working full time.
Because part-time places resulted in higher costs than full-time places, institutions only started offering them in response to heavy demand.
Compared to subsidised day-care places, the number of children in unsubsidised day-care institutions rose by 30.5% from 590 to 770 between May 1998 and January 2002 (see Fig. 8). This increase would have been even higher had the figures for January 2002 also included children who are looked after for only one day or less.
Yet demand for subsidised childcare places is outstripping supply. The number of children on the waiting list for crèches and day-care homes had already risen substantially between 1990 and 1992, then declined by 1995 to a lower level than five years previously, only to rise steeply again (see Fig. 9). 23 Demand for places appears to be strongly correlated with economic trends, and reached its lowest point in 1995 after unemployment in Basel-Stadt had reached its peak in
1994. The assumption is that during this period women withdrew from the job market and took over responsibility for childcare themselves (“hidden” unemployment). With the decline in unemployment in 1998, demand for day-care places once more rose strongly, particularly for children below 3 (Administrative Report 1998:130).24 The demand for part-time places has also risen since the mid-1990s.
23 In 1990 there was a demand for 76 additional day care places, in 1992 for 125 places, in 1995 for 50 and in 2001 for no less than 271 places.
24 This statement refers to state-run day care homes but may be regarded as generally applicable.
State expenditure of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and unpaid work 129 Gender-responsive budget analysis in the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Switzerland Fig. 9 Waiting list for crèches and day nurseries in the canton of Basel-Stadt, 1990 to 200125
Source: Data provided by the Day-care Department of the Services Section Fig. 10 Waiting list for subsidised day-care families in the canton of Basel-Stadt, 1990 to 200726
Source: Data provided by the Day-care Department of the Services Section 25 The occupancy rate in crèches and day nurseries was used to estimate the number of places that correspond to the children on the waiting lists.
26 The number of places (full-time equivalents) is estimated based on an assumed occupancy rate of 66%.
State expenditure of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and unpaid work 130 Gender-responsive budget analysis in the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Switzerland Day-care families Between May 1998 and January 2002 the number of children looked after by subsidised day-care families dropped by 17.5% from 194 to 160. The number of places fell by 21.8% from 128 to 100. 27 Further analysis is required in order to determine the cause of this decline. The low level of pay which day-care families receive is a possible factor. Day-care mothers (and the few day-care fathers) are also paid for only 8 hours a day, even if they look after a child for 10 hours. 28 This reduction has occurred despite very high demand since the mid-1990s.
In 1995 and 2001, more than 80 children were registered on the waiting list for day-care families (see Fig. 10). This means that, in order to meet demand in 2001, at least 50% more children would have had to be taken care of by subsidised day-care families.
Children on the waiting lists (i.e. day-care places) represent only part of the outstanding demand – i.e. the “observed demand”. The assumption is that not all parents put their children on the waiting lists, perhaps because they are put off by the long waiting times, or are not satisfied with the location, the price or the opening hours of the day-care institution, or are insufficiently informed about day-care options (INFRAS 2001:6). The children of parents in this category therefore make up the unseen part of the demand and may be referred to as “latent demand”. The Report on the Situation of the Family in Basel-Stadt /Bucher/Perrez 2001) shows that latent demand is significantly higher than the observed demand. In the summer of 1999, 252 families with at least one pre-school child and living in the St.
Johann, St. Alban and Breite districts were sent a written questionnaire asking why they did not use institutionalised childcare services. Slightly more than one third of the families surveyed (36.9%) said that they had no need of such services, and three out of ten families (29.1%) responded by saying they did not want to entrust strangers with looking after their children. For almost half of the families (48.2%) the price was too high, and more than one eighth (13.2%) replied that they had been unable to find a place.29 Almost three quarters of the respondents (73.4%) said they had found a private alternative. The survey also found that almost 15% of the families were intending to place their children in a day-care school, crèche or day-care home within the next five years (Bucher/Perrez 2001:102ff.).
A study commissioned by the Education Department and conducted by INFRAS based on the socio-economic composition of the families estimated that the canton of Basel-Stadt lacked up to 1,300 day-care places at the end of 2001 (Pulli et al. 2002). Consequently, the existing 1,640 places covered less than 60% of all day-care places (2,940) required to satisfy “latent” demand.
27 No data are available on unsubsidised day-care families. Data are available on subsidised day-care families only from May 1998, although the number of places (N=128) is an estimate. An occupancy rate of roughly 66% for a day-care place is assumed.
28 This regulation may recently have been abolished.
29 Multiple answers were permitted.
In conclusion, let us return to the introductory question: Has the introduction of a means test on parental contributions in 1994 and the Cantonal Council’s decision in 1997 to freeze the number of child care places resulted in an increase in unpaid labour performed in the canton of Basel-Stadt? – If the question is looked at from a macro-economic perspective, the answer must be no. Overall, the number of children in the 0-14 age group being looked after by day-care facilities outside the family increased (cf level of supply). The decline in the number of institutions subsidised by the canton was “offset” by the following trends: More and more parents placed their children with crèches, day-care homes and day-care families on a part-time basis – possibly due to the increase in parental contributions. At the same time the number of children in the canton of Basel-Stadt decreased. Moreover, unsubsidised institutions began offering more day-care places.
It cannot therefore be assumed that parents in Basel-Stadt reduced their working hours to any great extent in order to look after their children themselves because they had lost their child’s day-care place due to the freeze. However, it is possible that a shift in unpaid childcare occurred across population groups. In all probability, the introduction of a means test on parental contributions for subsidised institutions primarily affected middle- and high-income families.
A closer investigation of the consequences of introducing the means test on parental contributions is required. One hypothesis is that families reduced the time their children spent in external care and increasingly looked after them themselves in the remaining time, or organised a private alternative to day-care. Another hypothesis is based on the fact that families need to organise childcare on a long term basis and cannot trim their requirements from one day to the next due to higher contributions. Often parents find it impossible (also for financial reasons) to reduce their working hours or find a day-care alternative at short notice Parents with low to medium incomes may have withdrawn their children entirely from the crèche or day-care home, and left them either unsupervised for some of the time or arranged for them to be looked after by a series of day-carers. If the increase in parental contribution did, in fact, result in more children being obliged to spend their free time unsupervised by an adult, this would not have increased the cost of unpaid childcare for parents, but would certainly have given rise to an undesirable social effect. Furthermore it is reasonable to assume that (Swiss) parents with higher incomes who could afford to work part-time benefited from the limited availability of state-subsidised childcare facilities while (foreign) parents with a monthly income of CHF 5,000 or more had withdrawn their children. Hence, the introduction of a means test may well have relieved higher-income parents of the burden of childcare.
However, the shift in the availability of subsidised institutions to unsubsidised institutions probably had the opposite effect: It most likely benefited only parents who either worked for a company that provided a crèche or had sufficiently high incomes to pay the full charge for unsubsidised day-care homes and crèches.
State expenditure of the Canton of Basel-Stadt and unpaid work 132 Gender-responsive budget analysis in the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Switzerland To this extent, a shift in unpaid childcare from the upper to the middle and possibly also the lower income brackets may have occurred.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to define public saving as not only covering cuts in expenditure but also the failure to offer the services demanded by citizens (Bauer/ Baumann 1996:82). Waiting lists, surveys and estimates of requirements provide clear proof of a growing and substantially unsatisfied demand in the canton of Basel-Stadt since 1997. If this is taken into account, the question is then: Were women obliged to perform more unpaid labour than they wanted to as a result of the freeze on spending? This is certainly the case. Results of the Swiss Labour Force (SLF) of 1995 show that 30% of non-working women in Switzerland with children below 15 who are not looking for employment due to the time they have to spend on housework and childcare, would look for a job if they could find a solution to the problem of childcare (Buhmann 2001:4). More women with small children would therefore pursue paid employment and devote more time to paid labour if more childcare options were available.