This is no longer a game that is happening in Germany's kindergartens at the moment. There is a shortage of educators everywhere, the opening hours, which are too short anyway, are being cut back even further – and far too often entire groups are closed at once. Even in better times, children are far too often only kept in custody, the educators overwork themselves in the long run.

In these weeks, a rarely seen number of infections are encountering an already thinned-out staff - now the stress is also reaching the parents who have to look after their children themselves. Even childless people are not spared if they have to take over the work of absent parents. It can't stay like this, everyone says. And yet the hard news is that it will probably stay that way for a while.

This autumn is the time to finally be honest: things can't go on like this. The government, companies and the parents themselves wanted to get parents into work. Disadvantaged children should be supported at an early age, which is why kindergartens should be established. But they are lighter built than filled with life.

Educator is already a trendy profession

It is complicated enough to set up rooms for a daycare center in the German chaos of rules. However, this has happened in recent years. Many companies and practically every new development area are setting up a kindergarten, staff are being increased for better childcare rates and longer opening hours. The educators take advantage of their new opportunities and cheerfully apply away. Now Germany has more than 60,000 daycare centres, staff shortages everywhere – and soon a new legal entitlement to care for primary school children.

The obvious solution is always the first to be demanded: the salary and working conditions of educators must be improved. This sentence is not wrong, but it is not entirely correct either. Over the past 15 years, the public sector has repeatedly provided kindergarten teachers with above-average salary increases, and it has worked. Largely unnoticed, being an educator has become a trendy profession.

In the past five years, the number of trainees has doubled. Some drop out again, but the profession now also attracts many career changers. In the meantime, instead of 860,000 people working in child-rearing, there are more than a million. 150,000 people have joined. No other profession in Germany has had such an influx in the past five years, not even parcel carriers. And yet even this incredible influx is not enough. This is because the demand for kindergarten places is increasing even faster. Whether more people can be trained quickly to raise children is highly questionable.

Germany needs a plan

That is the reason why Germany needs to be honest. A few educators can still be won over if Germany recognizes the qualifications of immigrant colleagues more quickly. However, there will only be a real solution if the country does not rely solely on increasing numbers of educators.

That makes the short-term solutions pretty ugly. Germany has the choice between constant absences in childcare or generally shorter opening hours. There is no alternative, so the number of kindergarten places could be reduced instead. Or reduce the staffing ratios. Every single proposal is outrageous in itself, but if someone doesn't come up with a plan soon, then reality will take its own course. It has already started this autumn.

Baden-Württemberg has already started and allows kindergartens to reduce the staffing ratios. The facilities can shorten opening hours anyway. In this way, everyone can find their own solution. But whether the number of places can be reduced depends on the federal government. Drawing up a realistic childcare plan would be a measure against child poverty that tackles the causes rather than the symptoms. What is the Minister for Family Affairs doing right now?