Parents in Copenhagen continue to struggle to balance family life and work while waiting for places in the city’s overcrowded daycare institutions. The lack of space and long waiting lists have some parents saying that they may have no choice but to give up their jobs to take care of their children. And with the number of children growing by 100 each month, relief may be a long way off.
Mayor Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne), who ran on a promise of making Copenhagen a “children’s town”, says he is living up to his promises.
“We are spending nearly a billion kroner to build 6,500 new daycare institutions in Copenhagen,” Jensen said in a statement. “By 2014, we will live up to our promise that there will be daycare for everyone within four kilometres of their home.”
Businesses in Copenhagen are also expressing concern about the lack of space and inconvenience for families. Some employees are simply choosing not to come back to work after having children.
“Companies are often forced to wait longer for workers to come back from paternal leave, and I hear often from our company members that they have to make special arrangements for workers who cannot return from leave on time because they can’t find arrangements for their children,” Ole Steen Olsen of the Danish chamber of commerce Dansk Erhverv told Berlingske newspaper.
Meanwhile, some parents are accusing Jensen of reneging on a promise that siblings would be guaranteed spots in the same institution.
They say Jensen made the pledge in an interview that he gave to Berlingske newspaper shortly after he was elected in 2010.
Jensen denied that he guaranteed that siblings would be able to attend the same institution and said that he regrets using the phrase “sibling guarantee” in his 2010 annual report to Copenhagen’s Socialdemokraterne.
”If we were to guarantee such a thing, we would have to hold places open while we waited for babies number two and three to grow up,” Jensen said. ”We obviously cannot do something that would be so expensive.”
Jensen said he understands parents frustration and that the municipality does its best to put brothers and sisters together. Jensen said that currently less than three percent of siblings in Copenhagen do not attend the same institution.
Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for culture, Pia Allerslev (Venstre), said that although she appreciates Jensen’s push to build more places for Copenhagen’s kids, it is too little, too late.
“We have too many parents in an impossible situation,” Allerslev said. "Even though Frank Jensen has set aside money and started building, Socialdemokraterne have ignored Copenhagen’s parents for too long."