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Childcare in Times of Covid-19: Even with the same workload, mothers are more likely to be an alone-caretaker than fathers

Due to the temporary closures of schools and daycare centers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic this spring, many working parents were suddenly faced with the challenge of caring for their children and pursuing their gainful employment at the same time. The third analysis of the Corona supplementary survey as part of the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), the largest long-term education study in Germany, now shows how working parents organized the care of their school and daycare children in the first months of the pandemic. The data point to a central role for mothers, but also show that one-third of older school children were without supervision during this period.

In early September, the OECD's latest education report praised Germany for its success in expanding childcare, which is central to balancing family and work. But the interplay between childcare and work abruptly stopped working for more than four million working parents in mid-March due to pandemic-related school and daycare closures.

A new analysis of the Corona Supplemental Survey of NEPS participants examines how families managed child care during the Covid-19 crisis and how parents' work schedules affected their care arrangements. In doing so, the report takes a look at different groups of families with children of a wide range of ages who attended day care or school before the Covid-19 crisis.

Mothers often cared for children alone

The data show that mothers continued to be the primary caregivers during the crisis. In all families studied, mothers were more likely than fathers to care for their daycare or school children alone during the pandemic. Fathers were also involved in childcare, but often only together with their mothers or with the support of others. Almost one in three schoolchildren around the age of 14 also looked after themselves for the most part during the school closure. What impact this has in light of the challenges of homeschooling, where some parents were able to provide inadequate or no support to their children (see Report 1 - in German language), needs to be analysed in more detail in further research.

Occupational conditions support fathers and mothers differently in their child care arrangements

The care arrangements families implemented during the pandemic were also influenced by parents' occupational conditions. Especially the possibility to work from home takes an important role. For example, parents who worked from home offices became more involved in the care of their children. Changes in working hours and working in a system-relevant occupation also influenced the care arrangement chosen. What stands out is this: The influence of occupational conditions differs for men and women. Even when both parents had similar occupational pressures, such as a system-relevant job or the ability to work from home, mothers were more likely to provide child care alone.

How parents' job situation influenced child care arrangements and other findings from the evaluation can be found in the full report, "Kinderbetreuung in der Corona-Krise – Wer betreut, wenn Schulen und Kitas schließen?" available for download in German language at with additional background information.

The supplemental survey conducted as part of the National Education Panel in May and June identified NEPS participants' current experiences and impressions during the period between the start of the restrictions and the first relaxations during the Corona crisis, making them useful for education research. Data were weighted and post stratified to adjust for bias in the sample.

The supplementary surveys asked about four broad themes of everyday life: current employment situation, everyday life and learning, trust in politics and society, and health and well-being. The data collected in this way can be used to obtain a differentiated picture of the Corona impact on respondents' educational biographies.

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