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Who cares when care closes? Care-arrangements and parental working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany

Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsverläufe (LIfBi); Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB)

This study examines the short-term consequences for care-arrangements among working parents, who were affected by the closure of schools and institutional childcare as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany.

  • Netzwerk: RatSWD
  • Disziplin: Bildung, Sozial
  • Forschungsmethode: Quantitativ
  • Forschungsdesign: Repräsentativ angelegte Befragung, Sekundäranalyse
  • Erhebungsstatus: Daten zugänglich, Ergebnisse veröffentlicht, Erhebung abgeschlossen

Ziele der Studie

The study investigates which individual or job-related characteristics (system-relevant occupation, altered working hours, and remote work) are related to different care-arrangements. It’s focus is on parents who were all employed before the COVID-19 pandemic and were thus particularly affected by the closure of schools and childcare facilities.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term negotiation processes based on previously stable opportunity structures, economic ressources, and individual work-care norms might have lost importance. Instead, Zoch et al. expect parental working conditions to play a particularly important role for care-arrangements in families during the pandemic. In particular, parents working in ‘system-relevant occupations’ faced a particular challenge. Many of them were unable to work remotely, and often even had to extend their working hours, especially in the health or food sector. Conversely, pandemic-related reductions in working hours or extended remote work for parents in office jobs most likely provided better opportunities for parents to look after their children themselves. Hence, they expect that parents will be less involved in childcare if they work in a system-relevant occupation (hypothesis 1), have to work more hours (hypothesis 2), and are unable to work remotely (hypothesis 3).


To test their hypotheses the scientists used novel data on parents with children that are based on two independent panel surveys of the National Education Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 2 (NEPS-SC2‘Kindergarten’) and 6 (NEPS-SC6‘Adults’). They combined the (1) publicly available scientific use files of the two NEPS starting cohorts with (2) the recently collected and therefore unpublished respective waves (consortium data B130_C1 and B145_C1), and with (3) a supplementary COVID-19 web survey of both starting cohorts (Corona_CAWI_C2). In the latter, participants were asked about the direct consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing particularly on the respondent’s working conditions as well as chosen care-arrangements of parents during the closure of schools and childcare facilities.

These novel longitudinal data makes it possible to examine how pandemic-related changes in working conditions influence the care-arrangements in two types of families that are based on the two NEPS starting cohorts: The study NEPS-SC2 (2010–2019) consists of mothers with at least one child aged 14–15 years. It contains detailed information on the child, the parents, and the household context. The supplementary COVID-19 survey interviewed the parent who was also the respondent in previous waves, in most cases the mother. The analytic sample was reduced to mothers that were employed before theCOVID-19 pandemic and affected by the pandemic-related closure of schools. Due to low case numbers, fathers were excluded from the analyses. Based on observations with complete information on the care-arrangement and relevant controls, the first analytic sample consists of 785 mothers in couples with at least one schoolchild aged 14–15 years. The study NEPS-SC6 (2009–2020) consists of more than 17,000 individuals born between 1944 and 1986. The supplementary COVID-19 survey addressed all respondents. The analytic sample was reduced to mothers and fathers in couples with a pre-school or school child under14 years of age. Again, all parents were employed before the pandemic and affected by the closure of the school or childcare facility. Based on observations with complete information, the second and third analytic subsamples consists of 139 mothers and 156 fathers.


The data of the starting cohorts are available under the following link:

The data of the Corona additional survey (NEPS-C data) will be made available promptly or at the latest within the framework of the proper files of the scientific usage files after the political processing and anonymization. The data will be free of charge and available on the website of the education panel.