Two years ago our family moved from the United States to Austria and at the time of the move I had many concerns about how I am going to raise kids in Austria. I were concerned about our daughter’s integration into the unfamiliar culture and learning the language (German). Two years after, I look back and think that Austria is actually a better place for raising children than the United States. The quality of family life is high, the people are friendly when you make the effort to get to know them, and once you’ve mastered the language Austria can becomes a home very quickly.
So here are 7 reasons why I think it is better to raise a child in Austria than in the United State.
- Low Crime Rate. According to the United States Overseas Security Advisory Council, “the most common crime has been purse/wallet snatching in crowded areas or other crimes of opportunity such as theft of purses and electronics on trains or in shopping areas. Such crimes are generally non-violent, and weapons are seldom used in their commission. Organized crime is very low”. Austria enjoyed a 6.32 murder rate per million people compared to 42.01 in the United States. See full statistics here.
- Generous support for families from the government. Austrian families are supported more generously than elsewhere in Europe – with 2.8% of the country’s GDP compared to the EU average of 2.2%. A wide range of financial and non-financial payouts from the government is available to families with children. For example, childcare allowance is received by every child in Austria in the amount between 105 to 153 euros per month regardless of the family’s income and can be received up until the child is 25 years old. In addition to financial benefits, Austria also provides an established system of parental leave regulations. Maternity leave starts eight weeks before the expected birth date and lasts for at least further eight weeks afterwards at a full pay. Further leave is available – I am not sure how long, but it seems no Austrian mom is going back to work until her child is at least two years old.
- Almost free daycare (kindergarten) for preschoolers. Most of day childcare facilities (kindergartens) in Austria are public and are free of charge to attend in the morning (usually from 7 am till 12 pm or 1pm) without lunch. If a child needs to stay all day (usually till 5 pm), a small fee will be charged (between 100 and 200 euros a months with lunch). The attendance of a kindergarten is mandatory for all children in their last year before school (age 5-6).
- Education. Austria’s education system is one of the world’s best, and Austria has a literacy rate of 99%. All children have an equal right to free education, with free transportation to and from school and free textbooks provided. Schooling in Austria is compulsory through the ninth grade.
- Affordable healthcare. In Austria virtually all individuals receive high quality publicly funded care, but they also have the option to purchase supplementary private health insurance. Care involving private insurance plans can include more flexible visiting hours, occupying a private room at a hospital, and receiving care from a private doctor. Even you don’t have any health insurance; basic medical is very affordable and can be easily paid out of the pocket. A visit to a doctor can range between 30 and 100 euros, blood tests and other things like ultrasounds and x-rays are also in that range.
- All Austrian children are excellent skiers. Just 28% of Austria is moderately hilly or flat. The rest is the mountains. That is why children in Austria learn to ski from a very young age, to be exact, starting at an age of two or three. If you live near the major ski resorts, the ski schools there offer a half-price ski course for local kids once or twice a year in the slowest weeks of the season. There is also a sport club (German “Verein”) in every village near the mountains devoted to developing young skiers. In our area, we paid 5 euros for an annual membership in a ski club and our daughter could go to a weekly two-hour ski training for free. In the province of Tyrol where we live, schools have one week of ski training a year built in their program.
- If skiing is not quite your thing, you can join another hobby club or “verein” for a minimal fee. In our little village of 2,000 people there are over 50 hobby clubs, ranging from bird protection club to a football club. So far we tried rock climbing, tennis, gymnastics and a fee per lesson for kids was never more than 3 euro. I know in Chicago, we would have paid at least 20-30 dollars per lesson for something similar. In the future I want to explore triathlon or dance for kids and maybe something related to music or art.
What do you think are advantage or disadvantages of raising kids in your current country? Comments are welcome.