Lack ǀ where to go with the child?

Lack ǀ where to go with the child?

Where to with the child?

Desperate parents sit at the end of July in the citizen consultation hour of Monika Herrmann (The Greens), the mayor of Berlin-Kreuzberg: they cannot find a place in a daycare center. Because they do not know how to look after their children, they are now at risk of losing their jobs. You are not alone in Berlin with this problem. Care places are lacking throughout Germany. Large cities are particularly affected. In Leipzig, the police recently moved in because 450 people were queuing for a daycare center and the queue was blocking traffic. For families affected, especially for single parents, the lack of childcare places can become an existential question. "It mostly affects women, so you can talk plain text," says Herrmann in conversation.

If parents cannot find a childcare place for their child, this especially prevents mothers from going to work. According to the Federal Statistical Office, women earn an average of 21 percent less than men. Here, their employment history plays a decisive role: they work part-time more often and have longer breaks in their working lives. The range of childcare places is a decisive factor for this. "That is very clear," says Wido Geis from the Cologne Institute for Economic Affairs (IW). "It has shifted a bit, but it is still the case that it is women who do most of the family work and reduce employment, while men see almost no adjustment."

Employers know this and are therefore committed to comprehensive childcare options. Almost 300,000 childcare places are missing in Germany, as the employer-oriented IW currently calculated. The employers’ associations are committed to reconciling work and family because they are looking for specialists. Women are lacking, especially in the nursing and health sectors, as well as in education. The demand from parents, districts such as Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain and employers is therefore: "The federal government, the federal states and municipalities must work to ensure that childcare places are created as quickly as possible."

NRW has to be detained

In 2008, the grand coalition passed a legal right to childcare from the first year of life with the Child Promotion Act. It came into force in August 2013. Since then the number of children in daycare centers has increased. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 561,600 children under the age of three were cared for in a day care center in 2014. That is a good eleven percent more than in the previous year. In Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, the number of children looked after increased the most, at around ten percent, compared to the previous year. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the growth was lowest at just under two percent. There were already high numbers of childcare providers in the eastern German area.

Demand is growing faster than the childcare offer. According to current figures from the Institute for Economic Affairs, the shortage of childcare places in North Rhine-Westphalia is particularly high. There is no room for 16 percent of children under the age of three who need it. That corresponds to 77,459 missing places. In the mid-2000s, around 35 percent of families with children under the age of three in Germany indicated that they needed a childcare place. Today it is 46 percent. Researcher Wido Geis explains this with a change in values: "Since 2007 we have been observing significantly changed family patterns: women want to work faster again." Already in 2011, two years before the legal claim came into force, the Federal Government reported that the need for places had grown more than expected. In addition, contrary to all forecasts, demand is being driven up again by rising birth rates.

Many facilities could accommodate more children if they had more caregivers. The talk about the lack of daycare places is misleading. It is not primarily necessary to build or expand daycare centers, but to bring enough qualified educators to the labor market.

Berlin district mayor Herrmann says that she pointed out the lack of daycare places back in 2008. At that time, the infrastructure was lacking, so the district built daycare centers with the sponsors. The hardware is now there, says Herrmann, but with the lack of staff, a district mayor cannot do much. In Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg alone, 400 day care places could not be filled – "because there is no staff". Berlin’s Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family is responsible for the training capacities. "The authority has not taken the problem seriously for too long," complains Herrmann. You see it differently in the Senate. The capacity has been doubled since 2011, and the state is paying the school fees for private teacher training schools – in order to increase the number of apprentices. The simultaneous improvement in quality in day care centers swallows additional staff. "We are expanding massively. But this is a Herculean task. It is the same problem nationwide, ”said spokeswoman Iris Brennberger. In many places, positions cannot be filled. The question remains why they remain open.

Underpaid teachers

Working conditions for teachers are poor. There were said to be no vacancies in Munich because the educators could not have paid the rent from their wages. The workers who are already there have to struggle with the thin staff, because it worsens the working conditions even more. Just under five percent of the workforce are men.

Since it has been recognized that early childhood education is extremely important for the development of a child, the level of qualifications for educators has been raised. In many federal states they now need a high school diploma. The level of education is actually an important factor in determining wages – actually. However, neither the increase in the level of qualifications nor the increased demand for nursery teachers is reflected in the salary. “The tariff for educators has to be reconsidered nationwide. The salary is a crucial factor, ”says Herrmann.

The situation in daycare centers mainly affects women – as mothers or as educators. In Germany women work almost twice as often at low wages as men, often in the social sector. Kindergarten teachers perform a form of work that women in the family context often perform free of charge. From the 1960s onwards, the GDR focused on the targeted development of all-day care. Here, too, a goal was to increase the employment of women. In the FRG, half-day care was a social consensus. German politics has long followed the breadwinner model. There was one main earner: the man. The woman earned too. Her career was characterized by part-time work and the low-wage sector. Both, the lack of childcare places and the poor working conditions of teachers, are related to a structural disadvantage of women in working life. And together they belong in a Germany before our time.

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Christina Cherry
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