Ver.di to mourn the state of Germany’s Kitas with weekly protest vigils
One of Germany’s largest trade unions, ver.di, has announced the beginning of a protest action lasting until Christmas; Kita staff will meet outside official buildings to hold a weekly vigil mourning the current state of German childcare services.
Germany’s childcare staff announce weekly protest action
From October 19, 2023 until Christmas, staff working in Kitas will take part in a weekly protest outside Germany’s chancellories, senates and ministries to draw attention to the desperate conditions in public childcare services.
Under the motto, “There is thunder in Germany’s Kitas - children and staff are in danger!”, staff will hold weekly protest vigils to mourn the ongoing childcare worker shortage and consequent lack of Kita spaces available in the country.
“Staffing levels are wearing so thin that neither parents nor children are reliably provided for. Employees are happy if children and employees survive the day in one piece. This cannot continue and daycare workers will now make this clear with their vigils,” ver.di representative Christine Behle wrote in the press release.
Kitas are hit hard by Germany’s worker shortage
According to the Federal Employment Agency, the current state of affairs in Germany is such that, due to an ageing population demographic, even if the country were to “leverage all domestic potential, [filling all vacant jobs would] not be possible without further immigration”.
The scenario is particularly dire in certain professions. Childcare is one of them, with the occupation recently being named an “Engpassberuf” (bottleneck occupation) by the German Agentur für Arbeit (Employment Office), meaning that there are “no more than three statistically recorded unemployed people are available for any one open vacancy”.
Ver.di says that staff shortages in Kitas mean that adequate care may not be provided. According to the union’s own estimations, in the summer of 2021, there was an average staff shortage of three employees each day, a total of 172.782 workers, and the number of vacancies is only growing. At the same time, Kita spaces, to which all children over 12 months are legally entitled, are harder to find than ever before, with an estimated nationwide shortage of 383.600 places.
Ver.di calls for government to hold Kita summit
A few childcare-targeted policies to help fill vacant positions and ease the burden on Kita staff who are at risk of burnout have been floated. Back in July, FDP politicians called on the government to reduce German language requirements for people working in childcare, but for ver.di, the urgency is not being felt.
"If the Kita system is not to go totally to the wall, this vicious circle must be broken immediately. We must focus on stabilising the current Kita system. We must not stand by and watch the shortage of skilled workers grow from day to day," Behle stressed. Concluding its announcement, the organisation called for the federal government to organise a Kita summit, so that a detailed, step-by-step plan on how to find qualified staff can be drawn up.
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