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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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.