Too few qualified employees in daycare centers

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(© Image: Depositphotos)
(© Image: Depositphotos)

Supplementary family childcare in Switzerland lacks qualified staff. This has a negative impact on both the development of the children and the well-being of the employees. This is shown by a study conducted by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

In Switzerland, a considerable proportion of staff in supplementary family childcare work without formal qualifications. In a study, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) investigated the use of such formally unqualified caregivers in early childhood education, care and education (ECEC) and found major deficiencies in the framework conditions. The project was supported by the Mercator Foundation and the Migros Kulturprozent.

Early childhood as the most important educational phase

Early childhood lays the foundation for social competence, health, creativity, motor and language skills, and emotion regulation. Good quality early childhood education can enhance the child’s developmental trajectory, promote school careers, and facilitate entry into the workforce. Missing these opportunities increases the likelihood of health and social problems later in life. Children from stressful families are particularly at risk. They are often exposed to a lot of stress at home and could find the balance in good quality supplementary family care.

Lack of qualifications among childcare staff

With the increasing employment of both parents, childcare staff in supplementary family childcare are taking on greater responsibility. However, it is estimated that half of the staff in daycare centers, playgroups or home visitation programs have neither a professional qualification (e.g., childcare specialist EFZ) nor a tertiary degree in pedagogy. "As a caregiver in a daycare center, you are not responsible for one or two children, as would be the case in your own household, but for a large, heterogeneous group," says study co-author Martin Hafen. "Without additional formally trained employees, our current care system cannot survive at all on a temporary basis," says the sociologist.

Hard work at minimum wage

Shortages of skilled workers and a lack of government investment can have a negative impact not only on children, but also on employees. Working conditions are difficult; work is often characterized by noise and a hectic pace, making it very stressful. Scarce staff resources and the high level of responsibility further intensify these stresses. In addition, remuneration is low and the employees - in fact, as in all care sectors, mostly women - are rarely insured by a pension fund. One possible consequence for employees is poverty in old age. "The low wages are in no way commensurate with the importance of this pedagogical activity," says Hafen.

Higher qualification level indispensable

The team of researchers therefore recommends both short-term and long-term measures to improve the profession and care in equal measure. In the short term, existing FBBE staff must be supported through continuing education and other quality assurance measures. "In the medium term, low-threshold opportunities to acquire such a qualification must be created for staff who are not formally qualified, as is currently happening in Austria," Hafen says. "In the longer term, the qualification level for supplementary family childcare should be aligned with that of the rest of our education system."

This requires financial resources. The National Council recently passed a subsidy program that is now pending before the Council of States. In addition to financial support for individual families, this also includes funds to improve the quality of the services. However, the responsibility for this lies with the cantons and municipalities. Through framework legislation and performance mandates, the FBBE institutions could be obliged to ensure quality. However, the necessary financial and human resources must also be made available for this purpose.