According to new calculations for the nationwide State Monitor of Early Childhood Education, there is likely to be a shortage of around 384,000 Kita places nationwide in 2023, creating more stress for new parents as they battle to access childcare.
The shortfall is most prominent in western Germany, where 362,400 additional childcare places are required to bridge the gap. In eastern Germany, in contrast, just 21,200 extra places are needed.
In order to meet the demand, 93,700 specialists would have to be hired in the west and 4,900 in the east, the Bertelsmann foundation, who carried out the study, announced on Thursday. This would result in additional personnel costs totalling €4.3 billion per year.
Bertelsmann’s estimates are based on surveys from 2021 that reveal that parents’ demand for daycare places significantly outstrips the number of daycare places available across almost all German states.
According to the analysis, the largest shortfall exists in Germany’s most populous federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia, where 101,600 extra Kita places are needed. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Thuringia, on the other hand, no expansion of places is necessary.
According to the calculations, the need for extra care facilities is highest for children under the age of three. In western German states, around 250,300 additional daycare places for this group are needed, while eastern Germany – including Berlin – faces a shortfall of around 20,700.
As a short-term solution, the study suggests reducing childcare hours in order to make childcare available for more children.
At the same time, a “fundamental definition of the core tasks of day-care centres” is needed, the foundation explained. Daycare centres should also consider whether some day-to-day tasks such as documenting educational procedures or conducting tests can be limited in order to free up more staff time, it added.
Since 2013, children over the age of one have been legally entitled to childcare in Germany. This commitment won’t be met for hundreds of thousands of children next year, the authors of the study revealed.
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‘An alarm signal’
Responding to the study’s findings, the German Children’s Fund – a charity dedicated to helping children out of poverty – urged governments to invest more in expanding the childcare offer in Germany.
“The figures presented today by the Bertelsmann Foundation on the lack of daycare places and the inadequate staffing in many places are not a surprise, but rather another alarm signal,” said Holger Hofmann, Federal Executive Director of the German Children’s Fund. “This cannot continue to be accepted more or less with a shrug of the shoulders.”
In addition to a hiring offensive to plug staffing gaps, the children’s rights organisation believes that more financial resources and uniform national minimum standards for the quality of care are required.
They are also calling for part of €2 billion earmarked in the Kita-Qualitätsgesetz (Daycare Quality Act) to be used for the construction of new nurseries over the the next two years.