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

How do childcare costs in Spain compare to other countries? What are the differences between private and public nurseries, and is it worth getting a nanny instead? Here's everything parents should know to save money and make the right choice.

Costs, tax cuts and choices: What you should know about childcare in Spain
Childcare costs in Spain. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

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.

childcare costs spain

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.

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Menú del día map: Where has Spain’s staple meal become most expensive?

With inflation putting up the price of everything from olive oil to electricity bills, now a Spanish custom renowned for its value for money is also being affected: the menú del día.

Menú del día map: Where has Spain's staple meal become most expensive?

Spain’s much-loved menús del día (menus of the day) are sacred to many Spaniards and can be found in pretty much every city, town and village across the country.

They are typically three-course menus served at lunchtime for a fixed price and include a drink, which may be beer or wine, as well as bread.

READ ALSO – The secrets of El Menú del Día: The surprising story behind Spain’s fixed-price lunch menu

The menús del día date back to the 1960s during the Franco regime, when they were called menús túristicos and were introduced so that tourists would be able to pay a fixed price to enjoy Spanish cuisine.

In the 1970s, they changed their name to menús del día as they became even more popular with the local population. In most cases, you can select between several dishes for each course and depending on what you order, menús del día can be great value for money.

Between 3 and 4 million people regularly enjoy the menú del día offer in Spain.

Inflation on the menu

But like a lot of the world in 2022, Spain has been gripped by a cost-of-living crisis and it now seems that the much-loved menú del día is becoming the latest victim of inflation. 

According to a survey conducted by Hostelería de España, between November 2021 and April 2022, four in ten restaurants in Spain have put up the price of their daily menu offer by 5 percent, a third have raised it by 10 percent, and 7 percent of restaurants raised the prices by 15 percent.

In cash terms, a 5 percent increase is roughly 70 cents, a 10 percent rise is around €1.40, and restaurants that have raised the price by 15 percent have put up prices by around €2. 

READ MORE: Huge debate roars over vague hint that ‘menús del día’ should drop beer and wine

According to the survey, the average price of the menú del día across Spain is now around €12.80.

The hospitality sector in Spain, though enjoying the return of post-pandemic tourism, is struggling to cope with the surge in energy prices and raw materials.

Spain’s National Institute of Statistics, the INE, reported in mid-July that the country’s 10.2 inflation rate was the highest level the country had experienced since 1985

For many restaurants and bars, simply paying the gas and electricity bills or buying basic food stuffs have become an existential cost. As a result, many have decided – or been forced – to raise their prices, and the affordable menú del día is no exception. 

The menú del día cost a little over €4 on average 20 years ago, around 700 pesetas. Nowadays, fixed menus can range from €8 to €14.

Most expensive menús del día in Spain in 2022

But where are the most expensive cities in Spain for a menú del día?

It is worth noting that the following figures are very much focused on major cities, and are not reflective of prices in smaller towns and villages. Often, it will be possible to find much more affordable menú del día offers in small-town bars and restaurants, although even there the inflationary pressures have likely passed on price increases to the customer. 

According to the figures from Hostelería de España, Barcelona is the priciest place in Spain, with an average price of €14. Not far behind in second place is Madrid, where the average price is now €13.90.

Coming in third is Palma de Mallorca, where the price has risen to €13.60 on average, and Bilbao comes in at fourth, with an average menú del día price of €13.50.

Rather surprisingly compared to the cost of living in Murcia more generally, the average price in the southern region has risen to €13, and Zaragoza is shortly behind at €12.80, with Valencia at €12.60.

As is often the case in Spain, the further south you go the cheaper things get. In Andalusia, a menú del día now costs €12.50 on average in Málaga, and €12 in Seville.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands reportedly has the cheapest menú del día at an average price of €11.50, although it’s worth noting that this data only encompasses Spain’s ten most populous cities (More on regional menú del día data further down). 

Here is a breakdown of the average menú de día price in 2022 in Spain’s biggest cities:

  1. Barcelona €14
  2. Madrid €13.90
  3. Palma de Mallorca €13.60
  4. Bilbao €13.50
  5. Murcia €13
  6. Zaragoza €12.80
  7. Valencia €12.60
  8. Malaga €12.50
  9. Sevilla €12
  10. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria €11.50

Hostelería de España has also collected data on what the average price of the menu del día is across Spain’s regions.

We’ve compiled their data into the following map, and below that you’ll find a breakdown of how much menú del día prices have increased across Spain’s regions from 2016 to 2022.

Price increase of the ménu del día across Spain's regions from 2016 to 2022

Galicia: +16.4 percent
La Rioja: +15.7 percent
Basque Country: +12.5 percent
Extremadura: +11.3 percent
Catalonia: +10.8 percent
Madrid: +10.4 percent
Asturias: +9.8 percent
Andalusia: +9.7 percent
Cantabria: +9.6 percent
Castilla y León: +9.1 percent
Aragón: +8.8 percent
Valencia region: +8.3 percent
Navarre: +6.5 percent
Balearic Islands: +4.6 percent
Castilla-La Mancha: +4.4 percent
Canary Islands: +2.7 percent
Murcia: +1.6 percent