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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sparks fly again over at-home day care

Norway’s controversial at-home alternative to state-subsidized day care centers, called kontantstøtte (literally, cash support), has sparked more debate after the country’s left-center government announced some major changes in the program this week.

The program basically pays parents who opt to stay home to care for their children, instead of placing the children in state-funded day care centers. Now, however, Norway’s left-center coalition government has agreed on a compromise that will cut support payments for children older than age two, but increase payments for one-year-olds.

Parents of children between age two and three won’t be eligible for any kontantstøtte, with the government clearly preferring that all pre-schoolers be enrolled in day care. Parents of infants aged 12-18 months, however, will receive cash payments of NOK 5,000 per month if they opt to stay home with their young children, up from NOK 3,300 per month today. Those aged 18-24 months will continue to receive the NOK 3,300 currently paid out.

Conservative opposition parties pounced immediately, with the Christian Democrats calling the changes “the most dramatic thing the government has done against young families during the past six years.” Opponents of any changes to kontantstøtte also fear there are no firm guarantees that two-year-olds will get day care spots, meaning that some parents may wind up with no cash support and no day care placement next year.

There’s also disagreement over the program within the Conservative Party (Høyre), while it’s caused conflicts within the government coalition, with the Socialist Left party (SV) a longtime opponent.

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