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How much does childcare cost across Germany?

When it comes to affordable childcare in Germany, it can be something of a postcode lottery. Here's what you need to know about the fees for Kitas in various German states.

How much does childcare cost across Germany?
Children arrive at a nursery school in Kiel. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Since 2013, every child over the age of one has had a legal right to partially subsidised state childcare in Germany. There are different types of day care options, from Kinderkrippen (nurseries) to Kindergärten (pre-schools), but they’re all encapsulated under the umbrella term of Kita, which is short for Kindertagesstätte (child day care centre). 

Unfortunately, having a right to a Kita place in theory isn’t always the same as securing one in practice. Demand for childcare massively outstrips supply in Germany, so it’s not unheard of for soon-to-be parents to even start making their enquiries during pregnancy.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Kita fees and government childcare subsidies are decided at a state level. To make matters even more complicated, these state decisions are implemented differently across different regions, meaning two sets of parents in two different cities in Baden-Württemberg could be paying completely different amounts for their childcare.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about parental leave in Germany

Here’s a run-down of the main things to know about childcare costs in each of the federal states.

How much do I have to pay? 

Bavaria

In Bavaria, the cost of childcare varies hugely from city to city and district to district. In Munich, for example, the amount of fees depends on the type of facility the child attends: care in a kindergarten (pre-school) is free, while nursery schools for younger children are not. However, parents with a joint annual income of less than €80,000 can apply for reduced fees.

Under a certain income limit, parents can also apply for the Bavarian day care allowance (Krippengeld). This is a contribution of €100 per month towards the cost of childcare for children over the age of one. 

Children in German kita

Parents drop their children off at nursery school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

Baden-Württemberg 

In Baden-Württemberg, parents shell out different amounts for childcare depending on where they live. In Heilbronn, for example, childcare is free from the age of three, while in Stuttgart, families pay fees that are partially linked to their income. Residents of the state capital with an annual income of up to €70,000 can receive a family card that reduces their childcare fees by around ten cents per hour. In other parts of the state, parents can be asked to cough up as much as €600 per month for childcare. 

Berlin

Since August 2018, nurseries and day care centres in Berlin have been free of charge for all children, though parents are expected to pay a small contribution for the meals. Kitas are also allowed to charge extra for additional services such as special sports activities, organic food or language lessons, meaning costs can range anywhere between €30 and €90 per month. 

Brandenburg 

In Brandenburg, every child receives their last year of pre-school care for free. For younger children, parents are expected to pay a contribution towards lunches and the operating costs of the nurseries. These costs vary across the different districts and are also linked to parental income.

However, people receiving social welfare and those on low incomes can receive all their pre-school childcare for free. 

Bremen 

For parents living in Bremen, childcare is free between the ages of three and six, with parents only contributing to the cost of meals. For younger children, the cost of a place a nursery is dependent on a wide range of factors, including income, the number of children in the family and the scope of the care. 

People receiving social benefits and BremenPass holders can get their childcare for free, regardless of the child’s age. 

READ ALSO: What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Hamburg

In Hamburg, care for five hours a day including lunch is free of charge for parents. Those who take advantage of more extensive care, i.e. daycare for six hours or more a day, pay a contribution that is graded according to income level, family size, age group and scope of care.

For a child receiving eight hours of care, the costs can range anywhere between €11 and €191, for example. You can calculate the costs of your childcare using this calculator on the state website.

German nursery school

A whiteboard with notes welcoming children to nursery school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

Hessen

In the central state of Hesse, children between the ages of three and six get up to six hours of care a day for free. For younger children, fees vary from region to region. In Frankfurt, for example, parents can expect to shell out around €200 per month for a place at a nursery, as well as €30-50 for meals. In Wiesbaden, meanwhile, costs are linked to the duration and type of care required. 

Lower Saxony

In Lower Saxony, children can get up to eight hours’ free care a day from the age of three. For children under the age of three, fees are usually staggered and can depend on the district in question. In Hanover, for example, the childcare fee depends on the type of childcare and the parents’ income. Parents also pay €30 a month to cover the cost of meals. 

Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania

For lucky parents in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg, all childcare places in nurseries and day care centres are paid for by the government. Parents can take advantage of up to 10 hours of free childcare throughout the week without worrying about any eye-watering costs.

READ ALSO: 7 cultural differences between raising kids in Germany and the US

North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) 

In NRW, the last two years of a child’s care before starting school are generally free of charge. For younger children, the local youth welfare office decides whether and to what extent parental contributions are levied for the use of services in day care centres or in day care for children.

Rhineland Palatinate 

In this western state, parents can send their children to a nursery free-of-charge as soon as they turn two. Before that, childcare fees vary depending on the district.

Children play in the grounds of a German nursery school

Children play in the grounds of a German nursery school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

Saarland

Unlike most other states, Saarland leaves decisions on nursery fees up to the individual institutions. Unsurprisingly, this makes the tiny western state one of the most expensive in Germany. In Saarbrücken, for example, parents can expect to shell out around €187 for a half-day place at a nursery and €368 for a full-day place, excluding meals.

Saxony-Anhalt 

In Saxony-Anhalt, parents only pay childcare fees for their oldest child, and can apply for the fees to be waived (or partially waived) depending on their income. As a general rule, however childcare costs between €100-200 per month, with parents in Halle paying €165 a month for an eight-hour place in the nursery, and €119 euros for an eight-hour place in the kindergarten. 

Saxony 

In Saxony, too, the parental contribution towards childcare varies from region to region. However, the fees should not exceed 15-23 percent of the average municipal costs for a nursery place and 15-30 percent of the costs for a pre-school place. Children also receive their last year before school free-of-charge.

In Leipzig, the parental contribution is based on the number of children, whether the parent is a single parent, and the duration of care. Fees vary between €56.30 (second child, 20 hours per week) and €311.39 (first child, 55 hours per week). People on lower incomes can apply for various reductions. A full breakdown of the standard costs can be found here.

READ ALSO: 7 surefire signs your kids are definitely German

Children at a kita in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein.

Children at a kita in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Schleswig-Holstein

Since January 2022, childcare costs for parents in Schleswig-Holstein have been capped at €232 per month for eight hours of daily care at a nursery and €226 per month for eight hours of care at a kindergarten or pre-school. Parents pay half of this amount for a second child and there are no contributions from the third child onward. 

While the amount parents pay generally isn’t linked to income, people on benefits don’t pay contributions at all and those on low incomes can apply for Kita Geld to help them with their childcare expenses. 

Thuringia

In the state of Thuringia, the last year of Kindergarten has been free to families since 2018. And since mid-2020, the second last year before school is also free of charge. However, meal costs still have to be paid. Fees for other years depend on parents’ income, the amount of care hours and the number of children receiving care among other factors.

Please note that our article is for guidance only and you should contact your local authority for more information. 

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HEALTH

‘Breaking point’: Why German pediatric wards are filling to capacity

Overcrowded patient rooms, days-long stays in the ER, transfer of sick babies to hospitals more than 100 kilometers away: the current wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections in Germany is pushing children's hospitals to their limits. 

'Breaking point': Why German pediatric wards are filling to capacity

The German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi) said on Thursday that there was a “catastrophic situation” in children’s intensive care units. 

According to the physicians, a wave of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections can be expected every year starting in the autumn. 

Yet this year “there are fewer and fewer pediatric hospital beds available overall” as well as a lack of nursing staff, Divi Secretary General Florian Hoffmann explained Wednesday on ZDF’s Morgenmagazin.

Because all beds were full in one case, a child was transferred from the Hannover Medical School (MHH) to Magdeburg on Friday night, a distance of around 150 kilometers. 

“My colleagues had called 21 clinics,” said Gesine Hansen, Medical Director of the MHH Clinic for Pediatric Pneumology, Allergology and Neonatology, told DPA. 

The child, who was about one-year old, had an RSV infection, which can be life-threatening, especially for babies and children with pre-existing conditions.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about visiting a doctor in Germany

‘Catching up’

Some health experts have said that hospitals are now filled to capacity because children had minimal social contact during the pandemic and are now catching up on infections.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), an estimated 5.6 severe cases of RSV respiratory illness occur worldwide per 1,000 children in the twelve months after birth. 

Within the first year of life, 50 to 70 percent would typically have experienced at least one infection with RSV, and by the end of the second year of life, nearly all children should have experienced at least one infection. 

In the wake of protective measures against Covid-19, however, many such infections had temporarily failed to materialise. 

‘Breaking point’

According to Divi, hardly any clinics had a free crib or free pediatric intensive care bed in the past few days.

“Children have to lie in the emergency room for days,” Hoffmann said.

Yet the peak of the current wave of respiratory infections in children has by no means been reached, Hoffmann said. “The situation in practices and clinics will get even worse in the coming weeks.”

“We are at the breaking point,” said Matthias Keller, head of the Children’s Hospital Dritter Orden Passau already. The rooms are often double-occupied, he said. In some cases, there were too few monitors and not enough equipment for respiratory support.

READ ALSO: Flu season makes a comeback in Germany

A child with RSV being treated at the Olgahospital in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

“Some patient rooms are like bed storage areas, where you really have to crawl over the beds to get to the sick child, because the parent bed is lined up with the patient bed,” said Keller, who is also chairman of the South German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

This has far-reaching consequences for other young children who need treatment. When an infant who has just been resuscitated is admitted to a children’s hospital that is actually fully occupied, a three-year-old has to wait there for the third day in a row for his urgently needed heart operation.

‘Responsibility of politicians’

A wave of infections usually lasts six to eight weeks. In Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Berlin, as well as North Rhine-Westphalia, clinics are reporting a “maximally tense situation,” reported Divi on Thursday.

The Düsseldorf University Hospital, for example, is experiencing a wave of influenza among its young patients in addition to the RSV wave, which is “causing massive problems primarily for children up to elementary school age,” said University Hospital spokesman Tobias Pott.

In the Rhineland, “all beds are completely full” at times, said Jörg Dötsch, president of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. An ER waiting time of six to seven hours is not uncommon, he says. 

“It is very unpleasant when children and their families have to virtually camp out in the emergency room,” says Dötsch, who is also director of the Clinic for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital in Cologne. 

READ ALSO: Healthcare in Germany: How to get a faster appointment with a specialist doctor

What are the solutions?

At their meeting on Thursday in Hamburg, intensive care physicians and intensive care nurses will discuss approaches to solving the crisis. 

One solution may be to temporarily bring nursing staff from adult facilities into the children’s hospitals, says Hoffmann, who is also a senior physician at Dr. von Hauner’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Munich. 

But above all, he says, many more pediatric nursing staff need to be trained. “We need to strengthen nursing,” he explained. “Only then do we have a chance.”

Others said more money needed to be invested in pediatric medicine and vaccines, even if it is less profitable.

“The fact that children’s lives are currently in danger is the responsibility of politicians,” said Jakob Maske, spokesman for the Professional Association of Pediatricians and Adolescents.

“Nowadays medicine has to be profitable – not cure diseases, but make money.”

READ ALSO: How private investors are buying up healthcare practices in Germany

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