The triple burden as an employee, childcare worker and educator has recently pushed many parents to the limit. What we can learn
The corona crisis put families through a very special stress test. Because of the closed schools, working parents mostly had to take care of the children and the lessons in addition to their jobs.
Many couples were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Single parents and employees who had difficulty moving to their home office had particular difficulties. After the summer holidays, regular operations begin again in schools, and everyday life is slowly returning to daycare centers. Unless there is a second wave of infection.
What went well
A little exaggerated, Federal Minister of Family Affairs could Franziska Giffey (SPD) did not really show anything until three months after the first signs of the corona crisis: In early June it became Federal government’s stimulus and crisis management package announced, which also included the “children’s bonus”. 300 euros should flow for each child – albeit spottily in September and October.
That costs 4.3 billion euros. And Giffey had to listen to a lot of criticism. The money is distributed with the watering can, is a “symbolic stroking of the head” for the families, a “disguised care allowance” or even “hush money” – and just a drop in the bucket.
In fact, in the high phase of the lockdown, many parents would have preferred functioning daycare centers and schools rather than a bonus that only comes in in autumn. For parents who are affected by short-time work, who have lost income or who earn less money because they look after their own children, payment can be an important relief.
Giffey himself called the children’s bonus a “real family-political boom” in the way that is typical of her. The coalition is thus helping many families. “Every euro is welcome, especially where it is financially tight,” she said SPD-Politician.
She also emphasized that the 300 euros were “of course intended as an economic stimulus” and not as a “stress-reducing factor”. Working parents may only understand this to a limited extent in the crisis.
In fact, the design of the children’s bonus turned out to be very accurate. The payment is not counted towards the basic security. This means that the money not only reaches parents with low incomes, but also Hartz IV recipients.
Families with high incomes, on the other hand, will not benefit from the benefit because this is offset against the child tax allowance. So Giffey avoided the very big watering can campaign. According to the minister, a couple family with one child should have something of the child bonus “up to a range of 90,000 euros in taxable income”.
Another part of the stimulus package has also been a success for Giffey: An additional billion euros will go into expanding daycare for children. A significantly higher federal participation would have been desirable. But at least up to 90,000 additional childcare places can be created. However, the funds can also be used for renovation measures or for investments in new hygiene and space concepts.
“Right now in the crisis it is becoming clear how important good childcare offers are, so that children and parents are doing well and the overall system is working, ”Giffey said. The care serves the well-being of children, without them parents could work and family not agree, and the economy would have fewer skilled workers.
Katharina Spieß, educational and family expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), agrees that the government has taken such “investment measures with a sustainable character”. What the money actually flows for has yet to be proven. The “Good Daycare Law” is a warning example here. Because first balance sheets on the use of billions are rather mixed.
Giffey has implemented many individual measures, such as the corona-related change in parental allowance, the emergency child supplement or the extension of continued wages for parents without childcare options under the Infection Protection Act.
But it has also excelled on a sensitive subject. The SPD– Politician warned of an intensification of the generation conflict in the corona crisis and rejected calls for special protective measures only for older people. “We cannot permanently exclude certain groups from participation in society,” warned Giffey.
What went bad
As vehemently as Giffey warned of the elderly being excluded from the corona crisis, the de facto exclusion of children. The family minister was satisfied with the limited influence she has over the sovereignty of the country in early childhood education. First she shied away from an announcement that the daycare centers should be closed when the pandemic broke out, and then she was unable to implement a uniform plan for easing the situation.
The 3.7 million daycare children nationwide would have deserved more active coordination by the federal government – i.e. Giffey – in times of crisis. And in many other areas, the Chancellor or the Federal Minister, if in doubt, paid little attention to the responsibility of the federal states.
However, when a patchwork of open and closed care facilities emerged in the federal states at the beginning of the pandemic in March, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs said on request: “Whether daycare centers and day care centers have to be closed due to the spread of the coronavirus is not the responsibility of the federal government . ”
The minister did not make any recommendations – unlike her cabinet colleague Jens Spahn (CDU). The Federal Minister of Health explicitly advised the federal states to cancel large events more aggressively than before – federalism or not.
And when in April the question of what a responsible return to childcare could look like, Giffey and the state ministers only vaguely advocated “phases”. At this point, the closure of daycare centers and schools had already left many parents and children in great despair.
Child welfare and the well-being of parents were not particularly high on the list of priorities, health protection dominated everything. North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Family Affairs Joachim Stamp (FDP) openly admitted: “The effect of the lockdown on children has played a completely subordinate role in previous consultations by the federal and state governments.”
The situation hardly improved in May either. After a federal-state meeting to relax the corona requirements, there was harsh criticism of the daycare decisions. “The plans to open the daycare remain vague,” criticized Greens faction leader Katja Dörner.
And even SPD leader Saskia Esken described the agreements as a “fatal signal to the families”. There was a concrete concept for the national football league, but not for the education and care of children, she criticized. So far, many daycare centers do not yet offer regular operations. Giffey recently comforted parents for the time “after the summer vacation”.
That women in the corona crisis often came under professional pressure due to the lack of childcare and the already low level of equality was further set back, Giffey recognized and denounced early on as Federal Minister for Women. But she doesn’t even sit in the Corona cabinet – which Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt considers “symbolic”.
After the stimulus package had been adopted, Giffey published a two-page statement on how the package provided “important impulses” for equality. Reference was made to daycare expansion, bridging aids and short-time allowance. But Giffey couldn’t get aid to go to businesses, bring the women to the boardrooms or prove equal pay.
What can we learn
In the future, there will be a lot to do with skilled workers in several ways. The daycare centers will need even more staff, also with a view to a possible second wave of infection, to ensure that children can be looked after even in times of crisis.
According to information from pre-Corona times, there will be a staff shortage of more than 190,000 educators by 2025. The number should therefore continue to rise. This is where concepts for how to increase the attractiveness of the profession have to be found, for example through adequate pay.
Women as specialists must also come into focus. You deserve professional advancement and cannot use any setbacks – whether in the corona crisis or afterwards.