The number of young children in organised daycare has fallen 11% over the past two years, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.
In December 2011, some 322,000 children under the age of four – around 44% of the total – attended a crèche, but this had fallen to 284,000, or 39%, by the end of last year.
A decline in the birth rate and economic developments are to blame for the drop, the CBS said.
In addition, the rules for childcare funding have changed and parents get less government help towards the cost. In 2008, the government paid four-fifths of the cost of a crèche place, but this has now fallen to 63%.
Last year, the Netherlands’ daycare market leader Estro cut 400 out of 3,300 jobs because of falling demand for places, the Financieele Dagblad reported at the time. The Estro group, which is owned by private equity firms KKR and Bayside Capital, operates nearly 600 daycare centres in the Netherlands.
Dozens of other daycare centres have closed or gone bankrupt because of the funding changes.
At the moment, there are three formal types of pre-school care in the Netherlands. Kinderopvang, or daycare centres, are largely owned by the private sector. Parents pay income-dependent fees for up to five days a week but are also entitled to government subsidies.
The playgroup, or peuterspeelzaal, offers more informal care to working and non-working parents for two mornings or afternoons a week. They are run by local councils and may charge a small fee.
The third variant is pre-school education (vve), aimed at children considered to be at risk of not speaking sufficient Dutch to cope with ordinary school when they start at the age of four. Pre-school education is funded by the government and the responsibility of local councils.
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