It takes countless calls, conversations and tears before Elena* gets daycare places for her two children in her place of residence near Düsseldorf. "I communicated like a savage, let Vitamin B play, and I would have complained if I hadn't gotten a place," she says. Elena works full-time, her husband also works full-time, her grandparents live far away.
Despite this, in the first and second municipal allocation rounds, they did not get a childcare place for their children, who are three and one years old. The fact that it finally worked out in round three and that she was even able to place both children in the same facility is mainly due to her own persistence and a dedicated daycare manager. Elena therefore does not want to give her real name publicly.
Daycare groups cannot open
One of the reasons why it is so difficult to get a daycare place is the lack of staff. In Neuss, eleven daycare groups could not be put into operation. The city explains that the main reason for the delayed commissioning is a lack of specialist staff. "However, the city of Neuss has so far been able to offer all parents a childcare place, but not always in the family's desired and optional facility," says a spokesman.
For years there has been a lack of educators nationwide, according to a study carried out once a year by the organizer of educational congresses "Fleet Education" and the Education and Training Association. In 2022, around 4,800 day-care center managers were surveyed. The result: Recently, the shortage of skilled workers has worsened again, also due to the corona pandemic.
"An estimated 9,000 day-care centers in Germany worked more than half the time in the past year with staff shortages relevant to supervision," says Udo Beckmann, Federal Chairman of the Education and Training Association. That is more than twice as many daycare centers as a year earlier.
"On the one hand, in Germany we have a legal right to a place in a day care center from the age of three, and on the other hand, we see that this is not possible with the available staff."
In many federal states, in 2022, there will be a long way from complying with the scientifically recommended skilled worker-child ratio, regardless of whether it is for the over-3s or for the under-threes. A survey by the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband among day-care center managers this year came to similar conclusions.
Refugees with support needs
The educators, who have to make up for the lack of staff, also suffer from this. Andreas Aguirre runs a day-care center and a family center in the Mettmann district and advises the ver.di trade union as a confidant. His facility was also understaffed for a long time because no replacement could be found for three pregnant colleagues. The carrier finally took the step of advertising pregnancy replacements for an unlimited period in order to attract staff.
"We feel that every day in our educational work that we are working at the limit," he says. His day care center looks after many children from refugee families with special language needs. Due to the large groups, it is difficult to do justice to all children. This cements inequality of opportunity as early as childhood.
Training allowance and more benefits
How can you get more people excited about the profession of educator? Udo Beckmann from the Education and Training Association is convinced that it starts with better training pay and overall significantly better conditions for daycare workers. In addition, the state governments need a “personnel offensive” for more specialists.
Day-care center manager and ver.di shop steward Andreas Aguirre knows facilities that offer a salary above the standard pay scale and entice with offers such as a free subscription to the gym. "But I'd rather have good collective agreements that bring good wages to all educators."
It is also important to have more social appreciation for the job and relief – in the form of more staff and smaller groups. "The noise and stress levels in the day care centers are currently very high. I know many colleagues who suffer from tinnitus who are burned out," says Aguirre. Many considered quitting the job altogether.
need for care is growing
In the end, families who are unable to find adequate care, although they have a legal right, also suffer from the lack of staff. Elena has sobered up the tedious search for two daycare places for her children. "It's really frightening how difficult it is made for you."