There are three government systems in Luxembourg from which our family benefits on a daily basis that are sure to boggle the American mind. I like to call them "The 3 Magic Cs of Luxembourg." The first has nothing to do with families, but the other two are very specific to families with kids. And a disclaimer: I'm not an expert on these systems and don't pretend to understand how they work, so my explanations are most certainly lacking as a result. Perhaps someday I will more thoroughly understand. For now, the mind continues to boggle.
If your place of work does not have a cafeteria on site, you have the option of purchasing "cheque repas" (meal checks) from your employer. Cheque reaps is sort of a mash-up of Groupon and food stamps: prepaid coupons subsidized by the government. They are also called LunchPass, but despite this name, their use is not limited to buying the lunch you're supposedly missing out on at work.
|our friend, the LunchPass|
You may then use the cheque repas just like cash to buy groceries or restaurant meals at virtually every establishment in the country. After 8 months living here, I still hold them out sheepishly to the cashier, fully expecting to be laughed at and denied. But to my continued astonishment, the things work! Buy 4€ of food with a LunchPass, and get 4.40€ back in regular ol' change! Or pay for your whole grocery bill in cheque repas while simultaneously perfecting the art of mentally adding multiples of 8.40!
As I mentioned, the program is subsidized by the Luxembourg government--that's the food stamps part--except it doesn't matter how much money you make. Everyone's entitled to the same amount.
|Luxembourg food stamps for all!|
This is money you receive from the government simply for having children in your household. Again, it's the same for everyone regardless of income. The amounts are adjusted from time to time, but we currently receive a total of over 400€ every month because we have two kids under 18. They also kick you a couple extra hundred euros at the beginning of Fall to help with purchasing school supplies, clothes, etc.
I've heard that other European countries have a similar system, but that some are being phased out and that Luxembourg's allowance is particularly generous.
This is the system that subsidizes childcare. With this program, everyone working in Luxembourg is entitled to at minimum 3 free hours of childcare per week. After that, the rate you pay is determined by your salary. We use this system to pay for lunchtime care at school for the kids. You'll see in the table below, for example, that everyone pays a maximum of 4€ per hour per child after the first free 3 hours, up to 24 hours a week.
So, what do you think, Americans? Do you have a hard time wrapping your minds around this stuff like we do? I suppose at least we don't take it for granted.