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Daycare 'punch clocks' catch on in Sweden

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Daycare 'punch clocks' catch on in Sweden
14:09 CEST+02:00
Preschoolers at a daycare in northern Sweden now have their attendance tracked through an electronic punch clock system in order to help parents and administrators more accurately assess daycare fees.

Toddlers punching the clock is no longer a strange sight in Malå municipality in northern Sweden, where the “Nuddis” system was recently introduced to make it easier to individualize daycare fees.

“It's become a natural part of their day, to ‘touch in' and ‘touch out',” Hanna Åkesson, an investigator with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), told The Local.

“It's like pushing the elevator button, they think it's fun.”

Anders Bergström, head of childcare and education in Malå municipality where the daycare 'time clocks' were recently introduced, downplayed the significance of the new system.

“It's the same principal as before, but a new system,” he said.

Bergström explained that, back in the 1990s, Malå adopted a policy that parents should only pay for the time their children are actually present at daycare.

In 2001, the concept was developed further with the introduction of maximum fees how much a family would end up paying to have their kids attend municipality-run daycare centres.

For a first child, the fee was 1260 kronor ($190), then 840 kronor for the second, and 420 kronor for the third. Any child after that would be free of charge.

However, the system was still flawed, according to Bergström, becoming too expensive for some families, and leaving personnel swamped with administrative work.

“Parents could have their children out of daycare for a month and still get the childcare bill,” Bergström said.

“Now you only pay for the time you use. We lose some revenue, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages."

Åkesson is also positive to the use of the new system, especially since it provides a unique chance for attendance statistics and thus planning, whereas the old system only showed estimates.

“For parents in Malå this is a big advantage,” she said.

“If they're sick or on vacation... you don't pay for the time the children aren't there.”

Before the system was introduced, parents paid in advance for how long they estimated their children to be at daycare.

This often lead to discussions about whether the kids were there longer than what had been paid for.

Now, according to Åkesson, that's not an issue.

Despite the fact that data about children's daycare attendance is collected and stored by municipal officials as well as by the company that produces the "Nuddis" technology, Åkessson also downplayed concerns that the system could be seen as an overly intrusive surveillance tool.

“As long as you know what it's all about, I think it's very harmless,” Åkesson said.

“It's not about any form of follow up on the kids, like in the old days of manufacturing. It's about lower costs for parents and less administrative work for personnel.”

According to the TT news agency, the concept of daycare 'punch clocks' is catching on, with the system already up and running in Bjurholm in northern Sweden.

In addition, a number of other municipalities in northern Sweden, incluing Vilhelmina, Storuman, Norsjö and Sorsele, are in the process of implementing the system.

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