The day care center crisis is causing problems for working parents

MAnne Rübsam-Rivierre sent out more than fifty applications when she was looking for a daycare place for her first child. The Berliner was under stress. “My boss at the time belonged to the old school. He had absolutely no understanding of the fact that having children also changes working life,” she recalls. “But complaining and moaning doesn’t help.” So the project and event manager at the time decided to get to the root of the problem and offer childcare herself: Work’n’Kid helps parents to reconcile job and child.

In Berlin’s Kiez Friedrichshain, Anne Rübsam-Rivierre offers coworking with childcare. There are currently six places that parents use by the hour or by the day. Work’n’Kid is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The workplace with childcare by trained staff costs an incredible 15 euros net per hour. “It only works through cross-subsidization. We also offer our rooms for events and organize events ourselves,” explains the 42-year-old managing director.

So far, the Berliner has tried in vain to get state subsidies for her business model. Work’n’Kid does not fit into the financing grid of childcare facilities. That’s “short-sighted and unfair,” says Anne Rübsam-Rivierre. “We help mothers and fathers who have a legal right to childcare that the state cannot redeem for everyone.” She would like to expand her childcare offering to other Berlin neighborhoods. “The need is there. But because of the high rent and real estate prices, we cannot afford additional rooms.”

The care rate is increasing – but is that enough?

According to the Bertelsmann Foundation, there will be a shortage of 17,000 daycare places in Berlin this year. The Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family disagrees. “We cannot understand the calculation in this way,” says a spokeswoman. “There are no missing daycare places in Berlin.” 187,238 places are currently available, of which 176,049 are occupied. “That corresponds to a utilization rate of 93.9 percent,” she calculates.

So there is no childcare shortage at all – or only in the particularly popular districts? Are demands from demanding parents, such as proximity to home or pedagogical orientation, exaggerated to the day-care center crisis? The fact that Berlin also wants to further increase the number of childcare places speaks against this – the 200,000 mark is to be reached in the capital by the day-care center year 2025/2026.

One can hardly accuse politicians of inactivity when it comes to expanding the day-care center. Hundreds of thousands of new places have been created in recent years. According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, the childcare rate has almost doubled since 2008 on average across Germany from 17.6 percent to 35 percent in 2020. But that’s just not enough.

Reference is then often made to information from the Bertelsmann Foundation, according to which around 384,000 places are missing nationwide. According to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, the underlying calculations are “methodologically difficult”. However, there is undoubtedly a gap: almost 47 percent of parents with children between the ages of one and three reported a need for childcare in 2021. However, the actual care rate was only 34.4 percent.

The situation is better for children between the ages of three and school age. The real care rate for this age group is 92.2 percent. One thing must not be forgotten: the parents do not come as petitioners. Every child has a legal right to day care from the age of one until they start school, regardless of their parents’ employment and income.

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