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Despite changing attitudes, Swiss women still fear having a baby will harm their career

Women in Switzerland still feel having a child may damage their job prospects, a study has revealed.

Despite changing attitudes, Swiss women still fear having a baby will harm their career

Released in November after taking into account responses across the country, the report showed a majority of women said having a child would have a negative impact on their job prospects. 

These concerns were particularly high among tertiary-educated women, of whom 70 percent said they held such fears. 

Currently, women in Switzerland are entitled to 14 weeks of maternity leave, while a recent proposal has been passed to provide men with two weeks off in the birth of a child. 

Women with a lower level of education – 62 percent – also said they feared the impact of childbirth. The fears were less prevalent among men, with 37 percent tertiary-educated and 30 percent of secondary school-educated men saying they thought having a child might have a negative impact on their careers. 

The study also showed that among those who wanted kids, two children was the preferred amount. A total of 60 percent of Swiss said they wanted to have two children, compared with four per cent who wanted just one child and nine percent who wanted no children at all. 

Childcare across the cantons

The study showed that while childcare was popular in Switzerland, there were major differences between cantons. 

In Romandy – the French-speaking part of Switzerland – approximately 50 percent of families used day nurseries or supplementary child care. 

Have your say: How can you save money on raising children in Switzerland

Elsewhere however, childcare use was much less common. In German-speaking Switzerland, only a third of families use childcare – while in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino less than a quarter use it. 

In both of these regions, care from family members is much more prevalent, with 43 percent and 48 percent in German and Italian-speaking Switzerland respectively. 

The research also illustrated an urban-regional split when it came to the use of childcare. Of Swiss families in urban areas around 60 percent use childcare, while in smaller urban areas that figure falls to 37 percent. 

In rural communities, less than a quarter of Swiss use childcare. 

Working mothers?

The study did however show a continued changing of attitudes with regard to working mothers. 

In the mid-1990s, more than three in five men felt that a child suffers when the mother goes back to work. This figure is now down to 36 percent, after being 44 percent in 2013. 

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Around one half of women surveyed in 1995 felt that returning to work early had negative impacts on the child, with that figure also decreasing to 33 percent in 2013 and around 27 percent currently. 

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Spain could raise parental leave to six months for both mothers and fathers

Spain’s Social Rights Minister wants to increase the parental leave Spanish mums and dads get for every newborn from the current 16 weeks to 24 weeks.

Spain could raise parental leave to six months for both mothers and fathers
Photo: David Straight/Unsplash

Spain’s Minister of Social Rights Ione Belarra announced on Wednesday that her department intends to extend parental leave for fathers and mothers to 24 weeks, equal to six months for each parent. 

“This Ministry is going to fight for extending permits to six months and to extend child education from 0 to 3 years in the public network of infant schools,” Belarra said at a conference on Spain’s upcoming Family Diversity Law, which the six-month parental leave would form part of. 

According to Belarra, who has taken over from Pablo Iglesias as the head of the hard-left party Unidas Podemos, the Spanish government has “unfinished business with the families of newborn babies”.

“I’m aware of how incredibly difficult it is for many families to find a balance between parenting and work, especially in the first years of their child’s life”, she said, and “how difficult it is for many mothers to leave four-month-old babies with other people to go back to their jobs”.

Spain increased its paternity leave for fathers to 16 weeks in January 2021, equalling the leave mothers get, both of which are remunerated at 100 percent of their regulatory base salary.

The country has also come a long way in terms of parental leave, as in 2006 new dads were still only given two days off to be with their newborns.

READ MORE: New fathers in Spain can now enjoy 16 weeks paternity leave

But according to Belarra (pictured below), the current amount of parental leave is still causing “difficulties” when raising babies, in the country with the second lowest birth rate in the EU.


According to ministerial sources, the fact that a concrete amount of parental leave has been put forward as part of the Family Diversity draft law should facilitate negotiations with the socialist PSOE party that Unidas Podemos forms a government coalition with. 

Belarra is also pushing for child benefits for parents as a means of encouraging couples who are not having children “for financial reasons” or because “they don’t have a suitable home or stable job”. 

The child benefit should be available even to those who don’t make social security contributions, who as things stand can’t access government parenting aid, the Social Rights Minister added.

“This family diversity law goes to the root of the problem, to protect the material living conditions of families and to make it a little easier to raise kids.

“It cannot be that the fourth economy of the EU allocates almost one point less of its GDP to support their families than the average.

“In Spain, having children severely increases the risk of being poor,” the minister concluded.

A total of 22,182 fewer babies were born in Spain in 2020, with the latest fertility index showing that the average number of children per woman in the country is only 1.18.