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How Germany plans to help working parents with guaranteed all-day care for children

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How Germany plans to help working parents with guaranteed all-day care for children
Children in after-school care in Germany. Photo: DPA
12:36 CET+01:00
Working parents often face difficulties in finding childcare for school-age children that lasts all day. But the German government has taken a huge step forward to tackle this.

Germany’s grand coalition plans to introduce a legal right to an after-school care space for all children in primary schools. 

From 2025, the government wants to see these youngsters have the right to care that lasts until the end of the working day. A special fund totalling €2 billion has been set up to fund the initiative. 

The cash boost is earmarked for states and local authorities to invest in Germany’s 15,000 primary schools or build more premises for all-day services.

Currently, after-school care is set up in schools but spaces fill up fast and children often miss out on places, meaning parents have to work fewer hours or opt for more expensive private care.

READ ALSO: Why are parents suing for a childcare spot in Germany?

One million additional places needed

The legal changes, which will then pave the way to the actual legal entitlement to all-day places, will be initiated at a later date. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the CSU along with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) had previously agreed to introduce these measures by 2025 to improve the compatibility of family and career.

In an interview with German daily Die Welt this week, Family Minister Franziska Giffey said that in addition to reconciling work and family life, it was about offering children the chance to do something stimulating after school.

The SPD politician estimates that 75 percent of primary school children need an all-day place and that up to one million additional places would have to be created at the schools. 

There is a particular backlog for demand in western Germany. Eastern regions are less affected, partly because state child care was already the norm in East Germany, where the idea of working women was part of the model of socialist society. The infrastructure remained in place after reunification.

"While traditionally more than 90 percent of children in the east have the possibility of an all-day school place, in the west it is only 30 percent in some cases," Giffey said.

READ ALSO: How a childcare crisis is leaving Berlin parents stuck at home with their kids

Family Minister Franziska Giffey visiting a Kita in Mainz on October 31st. Photo: DPA

How does after-school care work in Germany?

In Germany, before-and after-school care is typically provided by on-site ‘school clubs’ (Hort), usually only available to children attending the school in question, or at an off-site premise. 

Day care is typically organized by the individual school, and will provide services based on local demand and facilities available. It would usually close between 4 and 6pm depending on the facility.

Fees for before or after-school care are usually fairly reasonable; however this will vary depending on the facilities offered (for example if meals are given too), the number of hours and competitiveness of the region.

'Children have right to high-quality care'

The German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) welcomed the move to bring a legal right to all-day care for children but warned it could fail due to lack of staff. 

The 16 states must "immediately massively expand their training capacities for educators and primary school teachers", deputy head of the DGB Elke Hannack told DPA

The legal right to full-day care is a milestone in social and educational policy, "but children and parents also have a right to a high-quality childcare place," Hannack said. "It is therefore important that this legal right is guaranteed by well-trained specialists."

According to calculations by the German Youth Institute (DJI), significantly higher investments than the planned €2 billion will be needed before the legal entitlement can be enforced.

In order to actually cover the expected demand for places from 2025, the institute estimates that €5 billion is needed.

They said that was because new population projections by the Federal Statistical Office show there will be a significantly higher number of primary school-age children in the coming years than expected.

The DJI puts the current operating costs for all-day care from 2025 at around €3.2 billion per year.

Germany to improve childcare in Kitas

Childcare has been receiving a boost in Germany in recent months. As the Local recently reported, Germany's 16 states are set to receive a share of about €5.5 billion from the government over the next three years for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte or Kita for short).

They want to provide a higher quality of pre-school education for youngsters, reduce the costs of childcare for families, as well as decrease the burden on working parents.

READ ALSO: Explained: How each German state plans to improve childcare and lower Kita costs for families

Vocabulary

Primary school - (die) Grundschule

All-day care - (die) Ganztagsbetreuung

All-day care place - (der) Ganztagsplatz

Primary school children - (die) Grundschulkinder

Legal right - (der) Rechtsanspruch

Additional - zusätzlich

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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