Germany to be short of 384,000 Kita places ‘by 2023’

A new study has revealed that Germany is facing a shortage of hundreds of thousands of nursery places by next year.

A young boy plays with bricks in a nursery school in Potsdam
A young boy plays with bricks in a nursery school in Potsdam. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Settnik

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.

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

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.

READ ALSO: How much does childcare cost across Germany?

‘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. 

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Germany poised to increase child benefit to €250 ‘from next year’

As part of its energy relief package, the German government has agreed to increase child benefits by more than expected for the first, second and third child in the family.

Germany poised to increase child benefit to €250 'from next year'

Under plans agreed by the traffic-light coalition parties, families are set to receive €250 per month for their first and second child and €275 per month for their third child from January 2023.

This marks an increase of €31 per month for the first and second child, and an increase of €25 for the third child. Child benefit for any additional children will remain unchanged at €250 per month. 

“I’m glad that we have succeeded in providing much more relief for families and in increasing child benefits once again,” Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) told DPA on Thursday. 

She said families with children had suffered more from inflation, especially the increase in rent, food and energy costs, since they often have to spend more on their living costs than households without children. 

According to DPA sources, the opposition CDU/CSU parties are also supporting the plans to relieve families in light of the higher cost of living.

The proposals will be voted on in the Bundestag on Thursday before being put to a vote in the Bundesrat (upper house of parliament) on Friday. 

READ ALSO: What benefits are you entitled to if you have children in Germany?

‘Largest increase in history’

The governing Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) had initially set their sights on a much more modest increase to child benefits.

Under the previous plans laid out in the second energy relief package, families with up to three children were set to receive €237 per child per month. This represents an increase of €18 per child for the first two children and €12 for the third. 

Speaking to DPA on Thursday, Rolf Mützenich, the chairman of the SPD parliamentary fraction, said the government had decided to go “one step further” in order to offer more tangible relief for low- and middle-income families.

The move was also hailed as the “largest increase to child benefits in the history of Germany” by FDP parliamentary group vice-chairman Christoph Meyer. 

He said that ensuring families had more money in their pockets at the end of the month was a priority for the traffic-light coalition.

Basic child allowance

In their coalition pact agreed last November, the traffic-light parties set out plans to reform the benefits system for families and introduce a ‘basic child allowance’ to replace child benefits.

This would see multiple forms of social support for families bundled into one.

It would also guarantee a basic monthly stipend for all children and young people, regardless of their family’s income. However, people on lower incomes would be eligible for additional financial support.

Andreas Audretsch, the vice-chairman of the Greens, said the hike in child benefits was a “step in the right direction” towards the implementation of the basic allowance.

Currently, the traffic-light coalition intends to roll out the new system by 2025, but has not released details of how much families will be entitled to. 

READ ALSO: How much does childcare cost across Germany?