The Dutch Childcare System

October 28, 2014 By Olof Lakmaker Comments

Finding the right childcare can be a challenge, especially when you aren't familiar with the local system. Luckily, a number of childcare options are available in the Netherlands.

Childcare Centers

The majority of childcare is provided by private childcare centers (kinderdagverblijf). Full-time childcare is available for babies and toddlers under the age of four. Pre- and afterschool care is available for children enrolled in primary education. For both types of childcare a subsidy is available for all working parents.

In-home Childcare

A popular alternative to childcare centers is offered by in-home childcare providers (gastouders). Childcare takes place in a small setting at the home of a private caregiver. Up to a maximum of five young children can be enrolled. This type of childcare is also available for pre- and afterschool childcare. Childcare subsidy is available for this type of childcare.

Private Childcare Givers

Parents who prefer to have a childcare giver (e.g. nanny) at their home can choose between various legally recognized forms. Parents are free to set their own terms and conditions for hiring a nanny. Please note that labor law regulations apply for employing a nanny. For nannies hired four or more days per week, irrespective of the number of hours employed per day, parents are required to set up a salary administration.

Childcare subsidy is available for hiring a nanny provided that he or she is registered at the national childcare registrar (Landelijk Register Kinderopvang en Peuterspeelzalen). The involvement of a licensed intermediary childcare agency (gastouderbureau) is required. Registration conditions and fees apply.

Hiring an au pair is bound to strict rules supervised by the Dutch Immigration Services (IND). The involvement of a licensed au-pair agency is required. No subsidy is available for this type of childcare.

Childcare Allowance

Subsidy for childcare is provided directly to the parents in the form of an allowance. This allowance is handled by a dedicated allowances unit of the Dutch Tax Office: Belastingdienst/Toeslagen.

The Dutch childcare allowance is available to all working parents who have their child(ren) enrolled with a childcare provider registered at the national childcare registrar (Landelijk Register Kinderopvang en Peuterspeelzalen). Both parents are required to have a gainful income (either by employment or self-employment).

Childcare allowance has to be applied for within three months after you child is enrolled with a childcare provider. The allowance is provided on a provisional basis as the amount is linked to your aggregate income for the year. After filing your Dutch income tax, the actual childcare allowance entitlement will be determined by the Dutch Tax Office. The actual childcare allowance amount will be reconciled with the provisional amount received in the current year. This could lead to an additional payment or a reclaim depending on the accuracy of the initial childcare allowance assessment.

Please note that the childcare allowance system can become overwhelmingly complex when multiple aspects (such as changes in income, employment, childcare hours and number of children) change during the year. The childcare allowance provided up front will need to be reassessed after the year runs its course. The Dutch Tax Office offers an excellent help-line, but available in Dutch only.

Allowance Calculator

The amount of childcare allowance a parent is entitled to varies by income, number of children, type of childcare and childcare rate. Calculators are available online to help you determine how much allowance you may receive. The Belastingdienst toeslagen calculator is provided by the government. Blue Umbrella offers an English calculator as well.

Good to know about the Dutch Childcare Allowance

The Dutch Childcare Allowance is revised each year on the 1st of January. Both the rules and the reimbursement amount can be revised. As the revisions are usually substantial, make sure you get yourself informed properly about the changes.

Note that the Dutch Tax Office communicates the changes in Dutch only.


Olof Lakmaker works for Blue Umbrella, offering information about all aspects of childcare to expats in the Netherlands.


photo credit: Photos from SkiStar via photopin cc

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