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Just how bad is Germany’s childcare shortage – and where is it worst?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Just how bad is Germany’s childcare shortage – and where is it worst?
A young boy plays with bricks in a nursery school in Potsdam. Despite a legal entitlement to childcare, Germany is currently short about 430,000 places. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Settnik

A new study has found that Germany is short around 430,000 kita or daycare places, despite the legal right of parents to childcare spaces for any child they have under three years of age.

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The authors of a new study by the Bertelsmann Foundation say immediate government action is needed in order to ensure an improvement in the kita place shortage by 2030.

The main culprit is a shortage of skilled childcare workers to staff kitas, which it turn makes it more difficult for Germany to recruit skilled workers from abroad who have young families and thus need childcare spaces.

The study finds marked differences between western Germany and eastern Germany – each with very different problems.

READ ALSO: Majority of parents with toddlers in Germany ‘need a childcare space’

Western Germany’s huge shortage

Western German states are short over 385,000 childcare spaces – making up about 90 percent of the total shortfall.

Almost a third of these are in Germany’s most populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which is short over 110,000 places. Bavaria, which has about two-thirds of the population that North-Rhine Westphalia has – is short about 70,000 places. Baden-Württemberg comes in with a deficit of around 60,000 spots and Hesse with just over 40,000.

Although every federal state is low on kita places, some fare comparatively better. Hamburg, with a population of nearly two million people – has a shortfall of about 6,400 childcare spots. That compares with a shortage of 6,500 in Bremen, which has a population of less than 600,000 people.

The problem is also comparatively worse in Berlin, which is around double the population of Hamburg but short more than three times the number of kita places – with a gap of around 20,000 spots.

READ ALSO: How much does childcare cost in Germany?

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Eastern Germany’s overworked childcare specialists

Eastern Germany has a less severe shortage overall – at least when it comes to absolute numbers. The eastern states put together are down about 45,000 childcare spaces compared to what they should have.

Children play a colouring game at a German 'Sprach Kita'.

Children play a colouring game at a German Kita. Eastern childcare workers are currently responsible for an average number of children that it much higher than their western counterparts. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Büttner

However, Bertelsmann experts caution that eastern-based childcare workers are simply responsible for too many children. Each worker must care for around 3.4 kids in western states but 5.4 kids in eastern ones. Kindergarten groups have an even larger burden – with 7.7 kids in western states but 10.5 on average in eastern ones.

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

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What do the experts recommend?

Study authors say there’s no way around simply hiring more skilled childcare workers and ensuring that the ones currently employed don’t leave. That will simply require more financial resources to be put in childcare.

At the same time, experts note that the contractually agreed number of care hours are often above what some parents actually need, and that a more flexible model would free up more available childcare hours.

READ ALSO: Why Germany could soon recruit Kita educators who speak ‘little to no German’

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Comments (1)

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Lyssa in Mainz 2023/12/20 08:12
Same problem in the US. In places where care is limited to 4 children per staff member, it means more staff must be hired. The cost of care split over the group goes way up and many parents can't afford it. The problem with making services "rights" is the obvious part when you can't legislate things into existence. You can't get more tax money to pay for more staff or get people to want this kind of work from the current population without opening up immigration.

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