In some quarters in the States, it’s thought that in Europe, daycare for kids is plentiful, state-provided and thus inexpensive, one of the positive side effects of high taxes. That may be true somewhere, but it’s certainly not the case in Munich.
The city-run place closest to home has capacity for roughly 70 kids, and regularly has 700 applications. For another location I know about that’s downtown and thus close to many people’s workplaces, the figures are roughly to 60 and 600. The actual numbers are not quite that bad, but only thanks to another absurdity of the system. Even for centers that are run by the city, there is no centralized registration. Not only that, there is no online, telephone or fax registration. Not only that, registration can only be done during a specific two-hour window in the middle of the afternoon each week. So you go down to the daycare place, fill out the form, and are cheerfully (or not-so-cheerfully, depending) told that many children spend the entire three-year period of eligibility on the waiting list.
Some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that there’s a market in this one metro area of several hundred thousand euros per month that’s going unserved. I suspect political and bureaucratic reasons, but that’s another story, and it’s also seldom a good idea to overestimate the power of the market in Germany.
Once the little darlings get into daycare, eventually they are too old and go to kindergarten, which is for kids aged three to five. The daycare year ends on the last day of August (after two weeks in which the institution is locked up tight and parents either go on vacation too or otherwise fend for themselves) and the kindergarten year begins on the first of September. Does that mean that all kids start kindergarten on the first? It does not. We were told that they can only get a couple of new kids adjusted to the place each day. Ours would be welcome starting on the 13th.
Somewhere in Europe, the child care situation may match its reputation in the US. Just not in Munich.