Timm Bönke has often sent emails in the middle of the night over the past few months. Sometimes you get a message from the Berlin economics professor at 12:30 a.m., sometimes at 2:20 a.m. The father calls it the “shift system”: looking after the children during the day because the daycare is only open in case of emergency. Work in the evening and at night. Not only does this sound stressful, it has been a reality for many parents over the past year and a half.
The corona pandemic has forced parents to change jobs. Day care centers have closed for months, as have schools. Or they hardly offered any lessons – so parents would sit next to the younger ones so those pages with teacher copied tasks could really tackle. Berlin economist Bönke is an example of what this means for work. After the start of the pandemic in April 2020, one in three fathers at least partially shifted their paid work to evenings or weekends. In the case of mothers of children under 14, it was even every second. This is what a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) shows today.
“Mothers in particular worked more often on weekends or evenings, among other things to be able to take care of their children when schools and daycare centers were closed or during distance learning”, explains Corinna Frodermann, researcher at the ‘IAB. Your investigation also shows that multiple corona exposure was not over anytime soon. In October 2020, one in four mothers and one in five fathers with young children postponed their working hours.
All of this affects many people in Germany. According to the Federal Statistical Office, there are 3.2 million families with children under the age of eleven in which the mother and father are employed. 600,000 single parents with children of this age also go to work. Almost one in two people work full time.
In some professions, you can’t even extend working hours to weekends
Researchers report that this only shows part of the challenges posed by the pandemic. Previous studies by the Hans Böckler Foundation suggest that mothers in particular often reduce their working hours for the company in order to care for the children – and therefore earn less. While office work is more likely to be done in the evenings or on weekends, that is often not the case for jobs in hospitals, stores, or crafts.
Moreover, parents weren’t just a problem for closed daycares and schools. Playgrounds, zoos and other recreational facilities were also cramped. “In addition to the challenges of everyday life, parents are concerned about the education, health and future of their children and, in many families, also about the economic situation”, explains C. Katharina Spieß, responsible for education and family at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).
Spieß demands more efforts from politics. The agreed-upon two billion euro catch-up program to relieve families and compensate for learning delays is just the start. “This will not be enough to support the families in particular who have been and still are particularly affected by the pandemic. “
After the pandemic, many would like more flexible working hours than before
When it comes to changing working hours, working people don’t see it all negatively. Obviously, it’s hard to have children and to work one after the other. In general, however, parents and other active people appreciate being able to make their work hours more flexible. The study by IAB researcher Frodermann provides indications that working hours were not only changed during the pandemic because of children. Working from home also plays a role. During the pandemic, workers who do not have children also postponed their jobs.
According to various studies, many employees would like more flexible working hours than before after the pandemic. They hope businesses respond to them more frequently than before – as employees working from home have been found to be just as productive, if not more productive, than in the business.
Such flexibility, just like working from home, also raises questions. For example, if employees operate, have additional costs for equipment and furniture, or if workplace safety is reduced. The unions therefore demand that these issues be resolved in the company or by law so that employees are not disadvantaged in the new world of flexibility.