Germany is grappling with a severe deficit of approximately 430,000 daycare places, even with the legal entitlement to childcare. Despite efforts to expand daycare services, the demand continues to outstrip supply, leading to an unsustainable situation, as indicated by the latest findings from the Bertelsmann Foundation's "Country Monitoring of Early Childhood Education Systems," released on Tuesday. The study identifies a daycare crisis and advocates for both immediate and long-term measures to address the pressing issue.
In the western states of Germany, the shortage amounts to 385,900 places to meet childcare needs, while East Germany faces a gap of around 44,700 daycare spaces. The legal entitlement to a childcare place has been in place since 2013 for children after their first birthday and since 1996 for boys and girls aged three and older.
The demand for childcare, particularly for children under the age of three (U3 places), is on the rise, intensifying the shortage. The scarcity of personnel remains a significant challenge, exacerbating the problem.
East Germany demonstrates a higher proportion of children attending daycare compared to the West. However, the staffing ratio is less favorable in the East, with one full-time skilled worker responsible for 5.4 children under the age of three and 10.5 older children aged three and over. In the West, the staffing ratio is one skilled worker for every 3.4 under three-year-olds and 7.7 older children aged three and over.
Scientific recommendations advocate for a staffing ratio of 1 to 3 for younger children and 1 to 7.5 for those over three years old, promoting a child-friendly environment, as emphasized in Gütersloh. The shortage of skilled workers hampers the fulfillment of the educational mission of daycare centers, reaching an intolerable point for children, parents, and existing staff, according to education expert Anette Stein.
While the authors of the study foresee opportunities for noticeable improvements by 2030, urgent action is required. In the East German states, the analysis suggests aligning the staffing ratio with the West and addressing space requirements due to a declining number of children. However, this necessitates the retention of current staff and the recruitment of new skilled workers.
Meeting goals by 2030 in terms of space requirements and personnel ratios may pose challenges for most West German states, requiring an acceleration of space expansion. Positive prospects are noted in Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein.
The authors advocate for long-term strategies to attract and qualify new specialists, emphasizing the need for attractive working conditions to retain staff. Immediate measures include relieving educational staff of housekeeping and administrative tasks, with potential support from career changers. However, the foundation underscores that pedagogical qualifications should not be compromised.
In certain federal states, a temporary reduction in daycare opening hours until 2025 is considered a helpful measure, contingent on well-coordinated efforts among all stakeholders. The foundation concludes that the daycare crisis has reached a point where innovative solutions are imperative.
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