Corona generation in Germany ‘faces drop in income’ due to school closures

School closures due to the coronavirus crisis will have a major impact on the lives of children in Germany, a new report says.

Corona generation in Germany 'faces drop in income' due to school closures
A school in Brandenburg in April. Photo: DPA

Germany is comparatively well positioned internationally when it comes to its education system. But the weeks of school closures could have massive financial consequences in the long-term for the generation of students affected.

That's according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Director of Education, Andreas Schleicher.

READ ALSO: 'Room for improvement': How Germany's schools compare to the rest of Europe

'Corona generation' faces loss of income

During the presentation of the annual OECD report 'Education at a Glance' in Berlin on Tuesday, Schliecher spelled out the possible long-term impact of the shutdown.

“The education losses during school closures (…) could mean a three percent drop in life income for the corona generation and add up to hundreds of billions of euros in losses by the end of the century,” he said.

According to the report, schools in Germany were “effectively closed for 17 weeks in one form or another” until the end of June. The average length of closures in OECD countries was 14 weeks.

School and daycare centres were first closed in Germany in March during the peak of the crisis.

Stefanie Hubig, head of the Conference of Education Ministers and education minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, said closing schools and daycare centres again must be a last resort. “They must remain open,” she said, adding that distance learning can't replace classrooms.

The report adds: “If a second wave of infection were to lead to another lockdown, the situation would be even worse, and the education sector would not be spared.”

The more than 500-page-long study compares education systems among OECD countries. Among other things, it examines how much countries spend on education and how schools and daycare centers are staffed.

READ ALSO: German schools lagging behind on digital learning

Praise for vocational training

Overall, Germany's education system receives good marks in the report. Vocational training is highlighted as a plus point.

This system ensures a high level of employability and will play a key role in the recovery phase after the coronavirus crisis, it says.

According to the report, 88 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds with a vocational qualification were in employment in 2019. The employment rate was just as high as for peers with a university or other degree.

The real strength in Germany is the dynamic between school and company learning, said the OECD's Schleicher. According to the report, on average 46 percent of all students in the upper grades in Germany opt for a vocational training path.

Achim Dercks, Managing Director of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, said that in the pandemic, vocational training had proved to be an important anchor of stability.

“From the point of view of the business community, it is now important to further develop the successful model of vocational education and training in a way that is future-proof,” he said.

This includes making sure there is modern equipment at vocational schools, he added.

Joachim Maiß, chairman of the Federal Association of Teachers for Vocational Education and Training, referred to a “blatant lack of teachers” at vocational schools. “The dual training must be moved further into the focus, its attractiveness must be emphasized,” he said.

Although vocational training is being praised, the situation on the training market is suffering because of the pandemic. The supply of apprenticeships has recently declined, while the number of applicants has also fallen.

German spending on pupils 'higher than most other countries'

The report also looks at how much the country spends on education.

In Germany, the ratio of education spending to gross domestic product (GDP) is below the OECD average. According to the report, Germany will spend 4.2 percent of GDP on education in 2017 (OECD average 4.9).

READ ALSO: More schools in Germany reopen to pupils – but with strict social distancing rules

However, the per capita expenditure per student was higher than in most other countries: a total of $13,529 each (OECD average $11,231).

Germany also receives positive marks for early childhood education: in Germany, there are five children for every teacher in this field, compared to the average of seven children in OECD countries.

In 2018, 41 percent of one-year-olds in Germany will be attending institutions such as crèches or daycare centres. This puts Germany well above the OECD average of 34 percent. Among two-year-olds, the figure was 67 percent (21 percentage points above the OECD average).


Vocational training – (die) Berufsbildung

Consequences – (die) Folgen

Key role – (die) Schlüsselrolle

Anchor of stability – (der) Stabilitätsanker

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.