It has been clear since last autumn that in a few years every primary school child will have the right to all-day care. In a study, however, the alarm is sounded.

In the future, every single elementary school child will be entitled to all-day care – according to a study, however, tens of thousands of educators and social workers in Germany are missing for the implementation by the end of the decade.

The federal states must act now, together with all those responsible, to prevent the increasing shortage of staff in elementary schools and after-school care centers, said Anette Stein from the Bertelsmann Foundation, which published the study.

In total, more than 100,000 pedagogical specialists could be missing. In the west in particular, the implementation of the legal entitlement will therefore be difficult, in the east, on the other hand, the comparatively poorer personnel ratio at western level should be improved. According to the study, money is not a problem – there are simply too few people who want to take up the profession.

Last September, the federal and state governments decided on a legal entitlement to all-day care in primary schools, which is being gradually introduced. From the 2026/2027 school year, the regulation will apply to children in the 1st grade, from 2029/2030 to all grades.

Good reference for Berlin, Hamburg and Thuringia

The initial situations in the federal states differ greatly: in the east, an average of 83 percent of primary school children are already using an all-day offer. In addition, there are 3.5 percent who attend an afternoon offer until 2:30 p.m. In the west, on the other hand, it is only 47 percent in the all-day and 18 percent in the midday range. On the other hand, staffing in the East is lagging behind: In after-school care, for example, a full-time specialist has to look after more than twice as many children as a colleague in the West.

The study only gives good marks for Berlin, Hamburg and Thuringia. According to the forecast, by the end of the decade there will be enough staff there to offer every single elementary school child a full-time place – and with a good childcare ratio.

All other eastern German federal states can also offer every child an all-day offer by 2030. However, the Bertelsmann Foundation advocates improving the staffing situation in elementary schools and after-school care centers. According to the forecast, if one were to orientate oneself to West Germany, around 26,000 additional skilled workers would be required. According to the study, they could be financed with federal funds from the All-Day Promotion Act.

The west German federal states, on the other hand, would have to concentrate on expanding space. If every single child in primary school were to be offered an all-day offer, more than a million additional places and around 76,000 skilled workers would be needed by 2030. Even if only the current rate in East Germany – where more than four out of five primary school children are cared for all day – were to be targeted, there would still be a lack of 55,000 skilled workers. And even if some of the children continue to use the afternoon offer, there would still be a minus of 34,000 skilled workers, according to the study.

Long-term skilled worker offensive required

The figures showed that “our early childhood education system is on the verge of collapse and we absolutely have to act now,” said Doreen Siebernik, board member of the GEW education union. Colleagues in day care centers and schools are at the limit after the exhausting challenges of the past few years. “The workload is often too high. This state of affairs is no longer acceptable,” she said.

Expert Anette Stein from the Bertelsmann Foundation called for a “long-term specialist offensive by the federal and state governments”. For better and nationwide equipment, politicians must now create a legal framework, sufficient training capacities and incentives for entering the profession. GEW and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) also called for a “skilled workers offensive”.

Nicole Gohlke, spokeswoman for education policy for the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag, also sees the federal government as having an obligation to deliver. He should not always duck away with reference to state sovereignty, but must make his contribution.

The deputy FDP parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, Gyde Jensen, said, on the other hand: “This study is a clear alarm signal to the federal states to set the necessary course now.” Structural and longer-term strategies are necessary, but one should not get bogged down. “We also need the openness to discuss new and short-term ideas, for example in relation to the training of skilled workers,” she said.