Our figure of the month 06/2020: When socially necessary services disappear: nursery schools closed – who is affected?

Worst effects of closures expected for working parents in Eastern Germany

Children are particularly affected by restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus Pandemic and so are working parents, who now have to organize other ways of child care. Due to closures of nursery schools as part of the anti-coronavirus measures, regular external care of nursery school children is no longer available. Politics have adopted drastic measures. Emergency care is provided for parents of certain occupational groups. But most parents have to find solutions by themselves. In the following, the number of small children who regularly attend nursery schools in each federal state are compared with the employment statistics by region to identify where closures hit parents most strongly.

According to the latest figures of the Federal Statistical Office from March 2019, about 700,000 children under 3 years of age and nearly 2.1 million children aged between 3 and 6 are attending nursery schools in Germany. When comparing the figures of the 16 federal states, most nursery schools can be found in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the state with the highest population, as can be seen in the figure below. However, the number of under 3-year-olds attending nursery school in Bavaria is even slightly higher than in NRW. A relatively large number of under 6-year-olds is also cared for in nursery schools in Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony. At the other end, Bremen and Saarland as states with the smallest population also count the least number of nursery schools.      

Based on results of the latest microcensus from 2018, we know that in more than two thirds (67.2%) of all German families with minors both parents are employed. In the Eastern federal states, this share is even higher with a share of 73.8%. In 26.5% of all families in Germany both parents work full-time. In most cases, however, one parent works full-time and the other one part-time (70.2% of all families with minors).

Measured by the number of employees, the share of children under 6 years of age cared for in nursery schools amounts to 6.2% on average in Germany (red line in the illustration). This means that for every 100 employees, there are only six small children who are regularly cared for in nursery schools. Especially in Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt, this share is comparatively high with over 8%. In general, it is noticeable that the shares in the Eastern federal states are above average, which is not surprising given the relatively high employment rate of parents in these states. In Bremen, Saarland and Bavaria, the proportion of children under 6 years of age compared to the number of employees is relatively low. Hence, politicians and parents in these states in Eastern Germany are more strongly affected by the closure of nurseries due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and are thus called for/ forced to find solutions.

Educators who work in nurseries are also strongly affected by the measures. They cannot practice their profession as usual and must implement new requirements for re-opening under strict hygiene standards. Since they provide socially necessary services, they are part of those occupational groups that are focused in the project “Ensuring socially necessary services: Is working for the common good attractive?”. The project has been conducted by the Sociological Research Institute Göttingen (SOFI), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and GWS since November 2019. It addresses the problem that working in public welfare services has become less attractive in recent years, which endangers the provision of necessary services. The project is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

An overview of the topics discussed in this research study is given in the recently published short message by GWS “Ensuring socially necessary services. So that we remain crisis-proof – in times of coronavirus and afterwards.

Other figures can be found here.

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