Such a saving – One of the best future investments

In recent weeks there have been reports of kindergartens having to close due to staff shortages. Educators took to the streets of the country. The city, state, and federal government are mutually responsible for this. This is due to the complexity of the funding and organizational structure, where states are responsible for providing places in kindergartens, but any additional expenditure must also be clarified with the federal government and municipalities. . Responsibility is therefore shifted. To the detriment of future generations and the economy. There is no doubt that education is the central foundation of a thriving economy and society. Education is of particular importance for the development of an economy and is associated with considerable economic and fiscal consequences. Elementary pedagogy plays a special role. Economic research on education particularly emphasizes the importance of early childhood education for later development. Skills acquired at an early age facilitate the acquisition of skills later in life. Currently, only 0.7% of GDP is invested in primary education. This puts Austria below the EU average of 0.8% and well behind leaders Norway (2.0%), Sweden (1.8%) and Denmark (1.3% ). This means that in Austria little is spent on exactly the level of education where income is highest. At the same time, spending on schools in this country is among the highest in the world with modest results on standardized international tests. Although there is potential for efficiency in elementary education, there is no doubt that much more needs to be invested in this area. At the end of August, the 15a agreement between the Federal Government and the Länder governments on kindergarten subsidies expires in Austria. According to this agreement, it was previously regulated which special purpose grants the federal government made available to the federal states. The current negotiations are an opportunity to improve the conditions together. And the need is great. In order to reach the Barcelona target of 33% care for children under three in kindergartens and 75% for older children across Austria, around 270 million euros and more than 5,000 additional teachers are needed. This really should only be the minimum goal. To catch up with pioneer Denmark, it would take 1.6 billion euros more. Unfortunately, education is one of the policy areas where reform is particularly difficult to implement. On the one hand, it has to do with the high proportion of veto actors in the system. On the other hand, educational reforms, particularly in primary education, only come into force after several years, which means that the political and economic incentive to carry them out is very limited. However, with the growing problem of labor shortages and insufficient qualifications among the available workforce, the pressure on politicians is increasing, for example from employers. Hopefully this will bring the results we urgently need here too.

Monika Köppl-Turyna is an economist and director of the research institute Eco Austria.

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