Luxembourg provides a wide range of support measures targeted at children and their families across the policy areas mentioned in the European Commission’s Recommendation for Investing in Children (as outlined below). This is also reflected in the overall level of expenditures in the area of child and family policy. Compared to the EU average of 2.2%, Luxembourg’s expenditure on family benefits is high, standing at 3.7% of the country’s GDP in 2012. However, the at-risk-of poverty rate for children stood at 22.6% in 2012, which was below the EU-28 average of 27.6% in 2013, but shows a continued need for tackling child poverty issues. This has been addressed by the Government of Luxembourg by future policy measures and programmes in the area of child and family policy.
Luxembourg makes sure that work ‘pays’ by identifying and tackling the specific disincentives parents face when entering, remaining or progressing in the labour market. The Government focuses currently for example on:
The childcare supply including Maison Relais (MRs - nurseries, and parental assistants has increased over the last years (from less than 8,000 places in 2004 to more than 42,000 places in 2012 . This increase led to a coverage rate of 48.55 % in 2012 for children under 3 years of age and a coverage rate of 72.12 % for children between 3 years old and the compulsory school age (ages 4 to 14). Providing flexible, high quality and affordable childcare services has been defined as a primary objective in the Government’s 2009-2014 programme. High priority is given to a strong cooperation between school, MRs and families, with MRs offering services that are better targeted at children and parents’ needs.
Maternity leave is obligatory and is 16 weeks long, 8 weeks before and after the birth. Payments for maternity leave are 100% of the income up to ceiling of €9,605.13 per month which equals five times the minimum social wage. There is no statutory entitlement for paternity leave itself. Parental leave can be taken part-time (for 12 months) or full-time (for 6 months) as long as eligibility criteria are fulfilled, with each parent having the right to take parental leave for each child. Post-birth leave can be therefore taken up to a total amount of 14 months (if parental leave taken part-time). However, both parents cannot take leave at the same time and mothers have priority if both parents apply for parental leave. Parental leave is covered by a flat rate payment of €1,778 per month (for full-time parental leave, i.e. for 6 months).
There is a gap of almost 2 years between the end of the maximum amount of parental leave that can be taken and when the entitlement to a place in a pre-school setting called “Education précoce” starts. Education précoce is part of primary school which is non-compulsory, but municipalities have to ensure the offer is available nevertheless. This offer however is only for 26 hours a week, during 36 weeks per year. There is a large offer of crèches and day-care centers available to children from age of 0 which provide all-day care all year around, however these services are not completely free of charge.
A programme by the Ministry of Equal Opportunities addresses, among others, the private sector asking companies to take a number of measures (flexible working hours, child-care centres, and other caretaking services for employees) which will be included in an action plan. The implementation of the action plan will be supported by an allowance from the Ministry of Equal Opportunities.
Luxembourg has a universal approach to social protection combined with specific measures for most vulnerable individuals. Until 2014, family allowances amounts increased with the rank of the child. A new law should come into force in 2015. Children born after that moment will all be entitled to a lump sum of €265. In addition to this lump sump, the new system will reflect that additional needs arise with increasing age of the child. For this reason, the age-dependent increase of the allowance is €20 for all children between the age of 6 and 11 years, and €50 for children over 12 years of age. Furthermore children receive a Back to School allowance at the beginning of each school year (allocation de rentrée scolaire) in the amount of €115 for all children age 6 to 1, and €235 for children over 12 years of age. The reform of the child allowance is combined with a significant increase of investment in ECEC . In general the Luxembourg child benefit system is one of the most generous in the entire European Union. . In addition, family and child benefits are not taken into account for the calculation of the minimum income, as well as the income (up to €1315.31) of children under 25 living in a household benefitting from the minimum income scheme (as of December 2012). Contributions for health care as well as an allowance for public transport are also part of the minimum income scheme.
Childcare service vouchers (CSA - Chèques-Service Accueil) have been implemented in 2009, decreasing the cost of childcare for children under 13 years of age. It is aimed at helping parents to remain in the labour market and at fostering equality between children from different backgrounds. Single parents are supported through priority rules and indirectly by the fact that childcare vouchers are means-tested. The voucher system makes childcare affordable to beneficiaries of the minimum income scheme.
Families are furthermore entitled to a wide set of benefits: family allowance, tax bonuses, education allowance, birth allowance, start of school allowance, and allowances for disabled children.
Luxembourg has recently invested in ECEC, by increasing the childcare supply and implementing childcare vouchers in 2009 (see above). The budget for free of charge ECEC places in 2013 exceeded by 33% the budget allocated in 2012. This included the definition of priority rules regarding access to childcare facilities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the adoption of a targeted approach addressing the needs of low income families.
Specific support measures are available to students who are new in the country and a number of special classes in elementary and secondary schools are aimed at supporting/integrating pupils who have difficulties with some or all of Luxembourg's official languages (German, Luxembourgish and French) in order to allow them to integrate regular school as fast as possible. Families and students (12 years and older) who just recently moved to Luxembourg are welcomed and guided by the Reception Desk for Newly Arrived Pupils (CASNA - Cellule d'accueil scolaire pour élèves nouveaux arrivants).
Multi-professional teams of the Service for Special Education (Service d'éducation différenciée) provide individual support for students with special educational needs who are integrated in mainstream education, as well as for teachers and parents of children facing psychological, pedagogical or educational problems.
Improved integration and collaboration between government department and levels are targeted at improving educational outcomes for children. The local plans for “peri-school” accompaniment (Plan d’encadrement périscolaire – PEP ) is targeted at the collaboration between primary schools and social-educational services at the local level, in order to better meet the children’s needs. Such improved services include access to libraries, musical education or sports; and socio-pedagogical activities targeted at social, cognitive, and language development; school meals and care before and after the start of school as well as extended after school hours. Municipalities are preparing their local plans for implementation from the school year 2013-2014 onwards and will revise the plan annually.
The Youth Pact (Pacte pour la Jeunesse ) 2012-2014 covers also for example the transition from school into the adult and working life.
Students aged six years or above who are benefitting from family allowances are granted a yearly allowance for the beginning of the school year (allocation de rentrée scolaire). This allowance is intended to compensate for expenses that occur at the beginning of the school year. Furthermore childcare service vouchers for early childhood and extracurricular education and care have been introduced in order to provide more equitable access to childcare.
The health system in Luxembourg is characterized by the principle of solidarity as well as a low out of pocket participation. Coverage by a compulsory public health and long-term care insurance is nearly universal (97.9%). It guarantees free choice and equity concerning access to primary care providers and to medical specialists. Special emphasis is put on early childhood health care. From birth until the end of compulsory schooling, all children living in Luxembourg undergo regular health checks and screenings. Luxembourg has strong system in the area of prevention with high vaccination rates and medical checks provided in schools.
The third party payer system (tiers-payant social) which came into effect in 2013 is aimed at persons living in a precarious situation identified as such by the Social Office. The system allows people living in a state of material deprivation or being at risk of poverty to visit a general practitioner, a specialist or a dentist without having to pay the patient contribution. The Social Office is also helping individuals to deal with health problems in cases where the third party payer system does not apply.
One parent households are strongly affected by housing costs with expenditures being on average 26% of the disposable household income as compared to 17.2% for single persons and 9.1% for couples with children. Most of the housing aids are only allocated if the house/dwelling fulfils certain size requirements depending on the overall amount of children living in it. The Housing Fund (Fonds du Logement, biggest owner of social housing), requires one separate room per child over 12 years old if they are of different sexes. Furthermore a social mix in housing projects of a certain scale is promoted. During 2012 the Social Offices (Office Social) spent 27% of their aid to subsidize housing costs for families at risk of poverty. Furthermore, the Government has endorsed a national strategy against homelessness and exclusion from housing for 2013 – 2020.
Children who have physical, psychological or social difficulties, or are at risk of social exclusion can benefit from institutional help from the National Children's Office (ONE, Office National de l'Enfance). With the passage of the law concerning social aid in 2011, 30 Social Offices were created administering social welfare which has also elements of prevention in order to eliminate the cycle of social exclusion. They can refer users to other service providers such as the childcare voucher service.
Support networks on the local level between sports and cultural associations, schools and childcare centres are furthermore facilitated by a national framework for non-formal education. Through the introduction of a ‘cultural passport’ the Government promotes access to culture for all citizens. Beneficiaries of this programme are all residents of Luxembourg from a disadvantaged background.
Participation in policy-making and protecting children’s rights: Over the last decade some local municipalities in Luxembourg have established children’s town councils (Kannergemengenrot) enabling children to voice their opinion on municipal questions that concern them. In addition, some local municipalities organize youth forums to enable the participation of youth in local policy. The Law on Youth,2008, established two major bodies which are partners in a structured dialogue through which young people are consulted on national and EU policy issues that relate to them: The Higher Youth Council (a consultative body comprised of stakeholder representatives) and The National Youth Assembly (composed of youth delegates).
The objective of the Ombuds Committee for Children’s Rights is to ensure children’s rights are adhered to, that children can express themselves freely and that their voice is heard in decision-making processes. Children can contact the president of the Ombuds Committee directly to voice their complaints, grievances and to get information.
In 2012 a national action plan for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was presented, resulting in an increased participation of persons and children with disabilities.
The Centre de Mediation (Mediation Centre), which is supported by the Government, includes children in mediation processes in the case of separations and focuses on the protection of the child’s rights in the process.
Participation in education and care: One of the tasks of the National Children's Office (ONE), established in 2008 as a national body for coordinating child and youth welfare services, is to organize consultations between families and institutions enabling children, young adults, parents and child welfare service providers to participate in the development of socio-educational and psychosocial intervention projects, and to involve them in decisions that concern them, also by avoiding the premature filling of judicial cases in child welfare.
Class and school representatives in secondary schools form the National Student Conference of Luxembourg (CNEL, Conférence nationale des élèves du Luxembourg) which is the official body representing these students in Luxembourg.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2014.