Across the countries of focus, which includes Germany along with the UK, France, the Nordic countries, Australia, the US and Japan, demand drivers for the sector, which include birth rates and female unemployment rates, generally remain very positive and are likely to remain so. The sector is seen as providing a vital service to many families which is delivered by excellent operators who are passionate about the care and educational input they provide. Whilst there are many structural and cultural variances, the role of the workforce is crucial to the delivery of effective early years provision.
The report identifies a key emerging trend with birth rates throughout the countries of focus, that is the number of children per female is reducing. Germany stands out however, as one of the only 2 nations where birth rates have seen an increase. The average number of children per woman has increased by 2.2% from 2014-2017.
Within Germany in particular, the report also highlights a key trend in female unemployment. Rates have decreased from 7.6% to 3.1% over the last 10 years and are currently amongst the lowest of the countries of focus.
Christie & Co’s research, which included a survey of operators across these multiple jurisdictions, found that average ECEC staff cost margins, expressed as a percentage of revenues, range from 35-80%, with the ratio of children to staff member being a critical factor in determining the level of staff costs.
It is observed that German staffing ratios are amongst the highest of all the focus nations, with staff members required to care for anywhere from 4 to 8 children aged 0 to 3-years-old. From age 3 to 5 the staffing ratios increase substantially, with staff members required to care for anywhere between 9 to 20 children. There are many factors impacting staff ratios including regulatory requirements, qualification levels, the age range of the children and operational factors associated with different operating environments.
The report also looked at the ‘Childcare Gap’ – the period between the end of maternity leave and when the entitlement to childcare begins – which is evident within the childcare models of the countries of focus. Key factors influencing this gap were identified as maternity leave, legal entitlement to childcare and compulsory school age. Key drivers identified are the overall population of the countries, the population of 0-4-year olds, trends in birth rates, employment trends and the demand for childcare.
In Germany the childcare gap is moderate, when compared to the comparative childcare gaps across other countries. Government funding such as fully paid maternity leave is relatively low, with 8 weeks on offer to mothers. However, children are entitled to childcare provisions from the age of 1, which gives parents the opportunity to re-enter the workforce earlier. As a comparison, Denmark has 32 weeks paid maternity leave.
In countries such as the Nordics, there is a smaller childcare gap, mainly because children are legally entitled to a childcare place from an earlier age and the governments are responsible for ensuring this demand is met.
Courteney Donaldson, Managing Director, Childcare & Education at Christie & Co comments, “Due to our profile as leading ECEC experts our team are privileged to visit 1,000+ settings each year across Europe, The Middle East, Asia, China, Hong Kong and Japan. Whenever we are assisting clients, no matter where they may be across the world, it’s always fascinating to meet with owners and in understanding the nuances associated to their individual ECEC centre, observe the commonalities between ECEC settings worldwide, despite the varied economic, regulatory, and demographic landscapes and despite the geographic distances between them. The ECEC landscape has changed in so many ways over the past 2 decades. This report has been produced out of a desire to investigate and compare the UK ECEC operational landscape against other selected countries, doing so with long term sustainability and the highest quality of ECEC outcomes, and workforce at the forefront of our thoughts. We have produced this report with the hope to inform, encourage and stimulate debate about global ECEC workforce trends.”
Michael Hodges, Head of Consultancy – Healthcare at Christie & Co comments, “Christie & Co is proud to work in the early years market which, as this report shows is a hugely important global sector. Through comparing and contrasting the different countries, it is clear that there are many cultural, structural and regulatory variances although there are also key themes which emerge and transcend country boundaries. Very positively, investor demand and appetite for ECEC businesses remains good due to the strong underlying demand drivers which are underpinned by need and demographic trends. What is really impressive is the level of passion shown by so many operators to the sector they serve as they strive to provide the best possible outcomes for the children.”