It is nothing more than a cry for help: According to a study, many day care centers in the country are working so hard with staff that they can hardly guarantee the care and safety of the children. The Education and Training Association (VBE) draws this conclusion from a broad survey of day-care center managers in Baden-Württemberg. “It has never been worse,” said state chairman Gerhard Brand on Monday in Stuttgart. Twice as many day-care centers than a year ago would have to work with “understaffing that is dangerous for the well-being of the child”. The association calls for a specialist offensive – and 80,000 additional jobs.
The staff shortages are now so serious that educators can no longer supervise the children as prescribed. According to this, in one third of all day care centers there is not even a minimum staffing on at least four out of ten working days, which is necessary according to the specifications in order to fulfill the supervisory obligation. Brand demands that those responsible must act now. “Any further postponement would be a failure to provide assistance.” For care of an appropriate quality, almost twice as many educational staff are needed as are currently available in the facilities.
Brand reports on a day care center in Stuttgart where, after two teachers had already fallen ill, another specialist caught Corona. The facility was forced to close, otherwise the children would have had to be left alone with an apprentice and an intern. “The parents now have a problem,” says the VBE boss. Three, four, five daycare center managers called him every week and told him that they had to close because there was no other way. “If we don’t get more staff at the daycare centers, we will have to close daycare centers.”
Shortage of staff worsened in the past twelve months
Around 2,000 day-care center managers from Baden-Württemberg alone took part in the study – most of the 4,827 participants came from the south-west. The figures show that the situation has come to a head. Selected results in detail: Eight out of ten daycare center managers (83 percent) report that the shortage of staff has worsened in the past twelve months and that it has become even more difficult to fill vacancies with suitable applicants; In 2021 it was 70 percent. 16 percent of all day care centers (2021: 8 percent) have had to work “with a significant understaffing at risk of supervisory duties” more than half the time in the past twelve months.
“In view of the enormous importance of early childhood education for the entire educational biography of children, this is a single catastrophe,” states Brand. Out of necessity, many carriers hired staff who were no longer “perfect”. “We should have well-trained staff and not staff that isn’t up in the trees by three.”
There are scientific recommendations for the ratio of educators to children – in the Ü-3 area, i.e. when looking after older daycare children, it is 1 to 7.5. In the southwest, this standard value is torn in seven out of ten daycare centers. At 27 percent of daycare centers in the Ü-3 area, a single specialist even has to look after twelve or more children.
In the U-3 level, where reliable attachments and relationships are particularly important for development, one caregiver should take care of three children. In fact, the rate here is 1 to 5 and worse in four out of ten daycare centers. In 13 percent of the day-care centers, a specialist even looks after eight or more U-3 children.
High workload leads to health hazards
According to the survey, the educators feel valued by their environment despite the stresses they face – by colleagues, by the provider, by the parents and especially by the children. Educators only see things differently when it comes to politics: According to the survey, eight out of ten daycare center managers feel little or no appreciation of state and federal politics.
Nine out of ten Kita management report that the high workload of the educators leads to higher absenteeism and sick leave. According to this, seven out of ten daycare centers do not have a health prevention concept for the educational staff. Two-thirds of day-care center managers feel psychologically stressed. Some report dragging themselves to work even though they don’t feel able to work.
Despite all the announced skilled worker offensives, the problem has not improved.
Gerhard Brand, VBE State Chairman
“Despite all the announced skilled worker offensives, the problem has not improved, but on the contrary has worsened,” says VBE country manager Brand. The pressure to act is now massive – especially with a view to challenges such as the integration of often traumatized refugee children from Ukraine. These are not yet “priced in” in the study. Brand also addressed the competition for skilled workers from the primary school sector and the legal right to all-day care for children of primary school age from 2026.
The VBE is therefore calling for a nationwide specialist offensive and strong investments in daycare staff. Despite Corona and the Ukraine war, there is enough money, as the latest tax estimate has shown, says Brand. The educator job must be more attractive. Incomes have risen in recent years, but from an extremely low level. Brand also suggested that municipalities could support daycare managers with administrative tasks.
The GEW education union is calling for a campaign to make daycare more attractive as a workplace. Those responsible in the state, municipalities and independent providers have it in their hands to make daycare groups smaller, to invest more in health protection and to allow more preparation and follow-up time, said state chairwoman Monika Stein.
It is estimated that an additional 40,000 educators will be needed by 2025
She estimates that an additional 40,000 educators will be needed by 2025. “If a large car company said it would shut down production due to a shortage of skilled workers, you could be sure that the prime minister would be at your door the next day, offering support and a strategic dialogue.”
And the responsible Ministry of Education? Speaks of a “major challenge for everyone involved”. CDU State Secretary Volker Schebesta said there was close contact with municipalities and trade unions to address the situation on the skilled labor market in the short and long term. The professional field must be made more attractive in the long term. “However, it should not be forgotten that day care centers can already hire so-called additional staff who can provide relief.”