According to a study, there is a lack of around 430,000 daycare places in Germany - despite the legal right to a childcare place. Although there has been progress in expanding daycare offerings, the need has continuously increased and the situation is now "unsustainable," it said when the Bertelsmann Foundation's "Country Monitoring of Early Childhood Education Systems" was published. The analysis sees a daycare crisis and calls for energetic short- and long-term measures.
In the western German states there is a lack of 385,900 places to meet the care needs. There is a gap of around 44,700 daycare places in East Germany. Since 2013, children have had a legal right to a childcare place after their first birthday. The entitlement has existed for boys and girls aged three and over since 1996.
According to the information, more and more parents want childcare, especially for their younger offspring. The shortage is correspondingly great, especially for U3 places, i.e. for under three-year-olds. The shortage of personnel is still a serious problem.
In East Germany the proportion of children who attend daycare is significantly higher than in the West. When it comes to the staffing ratio, the situation is less favorable in the East: a full-time skilled worker there looks after 5.4 children under the age of three. For older boys and girls aged three and over, one teacher looks after an average of 10.5 boys and girls. In the West, there is one skilled worker for every 3.4 under three-year-olds and 7.7 older children aged three and over.
According to scientific recommendations, a staffing ratio of 1 to 3 for the little ones and 1 to 7.5 for looking after those over three years old is suitable for children, according to Gütersloh. The shortage of skilled workers is making it increasingly difficult to implement the educational mission of the daycare centers. “The situation has become intolerable for children and parents as well as for the existing staff,” emphasized education expert Anette Stein.
The authors see opportunities for “noticeable” improvements by 2030. However, immediate action must be taken to achieve this. In the East German states, due to the declining number of children, the analysis believes that it is possible to align the staffing ratio with the West level, as well as to cover the space requirements. However, the prerequisite: “For all eastern federal states, the current daycare staff must not be laid off and new skilled workers must even be recruited.”
It could become more difficult for most West German states to achieve their goals by 2030 in terms of meeting space requirements and personnel ratios. It is important to speed up the expansion of space. Things tend to look more positive in Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.
The team of authors calls for long-term strategies for attracting and qualifying new specialists. Attractive working conditions are also needed so that staff stay in their professional field. As an immediate measure, the educational staff should be relieved of housekeeping and administrative tasks. Even career changers could relax the situation. However, there should not be any compromises when it comes to pedagogical qualifications.
In some federal states, a temporary reduction in daycare opening hours until 2025 could be helpful. Such a drastic measure must be well coordinated with all partners. The foundation emphasized that the daycare crisis has progressed to such an extent that “new answers” are needed.