If a child from a family that has fled to Germany attends a daycare centre, the mother in particular has a much easier time integrating into society insofar as she becomes more fluent in German, among other things, which facilitates an easier job search and alleviates homesickness. Overall, mothers with children in daycare – measured by an overall index for integration – are 42 per cent better integrated than refugee mothers in Germany who do not have a child in daycare. This is the result of a study conducted jointly by researchers from ZEW Mannheim and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

ZEW study proves the positive influence of day-care attendance on the integration of refugee families.
Daycare centres facilitate the integration of refugee families, especially mothers, in Germany.

Representative data from the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees in Germany from 2016 and 2017 were evaluated for the study. “Attending a daycare centre is not only incredibly important for the children of these families but their parents as well, which produces a double integration yield,” says Professor C. Katharina Spieß, head of the Education and Family Department at DIW Berlin. According to the authors of the study, the positive results associated with attending a daycare centre should therefore be more strongly shared with refugee families, along with sufficient places being made available for them.

The analyses show that the successful integration of mothers and fathers is also linked to many other characteristics, such as education or length of stay in Germany. But even with those factors taken into account, having the children attend daycare remains relevant. In particular, mothers with a child at daycare have a much easier time integrating than mothers without. Counting both parents together, the authors found the integration index to be 24 per cent higher. For mothers, the correlation is much stronger (42 per cent) than for fathers (11 per cent). Having their children attending daycare plays an even greater role in the mothers’ integration than education does.

Daycares could be developed into centres for families

Furthermore, the authors of the study were able to rule out the possibility that the mothers’ children attending daycare produced only a “fictitious effect” on integration. Although the proposition that already better integrated mothers tend to send their children to daycare is conceivable, further calculations clearly show that this “fictitious effect” line of thinking could be ruled out. The influence of the child’s attendance of daycare on the mother’s integration remains statistically significant, with the influence becoming greater the longer the children are cared for in daycare.

However, compared with other children, refugee children attend daycare much less frequently. Whereas in 2017 around 90 per cent of all three-year-olds in Germany were looked after in a daycare, only around 60 per cent of children from refugee families were put into daycare. “The potential is great,” says Dr. Guido Neidhöfer from ZEW’s Research Department “Labour Markets and Human Resources”. “Whether children with a refugee background attend daycare depends, on the one hand, on the parents’ willingness to make use of it. But, on the other hand, it also depends on whether there is enough space at the daycare in the first place,” continues Neidhöfer. More daycare centres should continue to be set up, according to the authors of the study. It would also be conceivable, Spieß adds, to further develop the daycares into centres that take into account the needs of the family as a whole.





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