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Germany: A modern family policy for a compatible partnership of family and career and for economically stable families

A partnership-based reconcilability is good for both families and society. With its modern family policy, the Federal government creates a favourable framework for families. This includes a combination of targeted financial benefits, a good childcare infrastructure and a new policy in keeping with the times. This is focused on the compatible partnership of family and career. Many mothers would like to make a greater commitment to their careers, while fathers would like to spend more time with their children. Mothers benefit from this increased partnership by having better professional opportunities and fathers gain more time for their families.  Children on the other hand will see their parents under less time pressure and as equal caregivers within a family that is more economically stable.

Access to appropriate resources

Promoting labour market participation of parents

In order to facilitate the division of family tasks within the partnership, the German government has introduced Parental Allowance Plus with Partnership Bonus.  In addition to the parental allowance in its current form, which will continue to exist (basic parental allowance), it will also be possible to claim Parental Allowance Plus for children born after 1st. July 2015. Parental Allowance Plus is also available for parents who would like to work part-time while receiving parental allowance.  Parental Allowance Plus is calculated in the same way as the basic parental allowance, but amounts to a maximum of half the amount of parental allowance. Parents with no part-time income are entitled to this after the child has been born. It is paid for twice the period of time: one Parental Allowance month = two Parental Allowance Plus months. Thus, parents also benefit from Parental Allowance Plus after the child has reached the age of 14 months and can make better use of their parental allowance budget.
If both parents work an average of between 25 and 30 hours weekly during the following four consecutive months, each parent will receive additional monthly amounts of Parental Allowance Plus (Partnership bonus) for these four months.

With the business programme “Success Factor Family”, the associated corporate network with around 6,000 members and the “Family-conscious Working Hours” initiative, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, together with the industry and the unions, promotes a family-friendly working environment and supports employers implementing such an environment.

The approximate 670 networks of the “Local Alliances for Families Initiative pdf“ support families and especially parents in gainful employment with specific projects when it comes to creating a work-family balance.

Guaranteeing an appropriate living standard by combining benefits

The compatibility of family and career plays a central role for families. The Federal Ministry of Families relies on established benefits and develops them further in order to support young parents to live family and career on a partnership basis.

This includes child benefit, parental allowance, childcare in nurseries and with childminders, but also maintenance payments for single parents or the supplement to child benefit for low earners.

Child benefit is the most important of these (cf. Final report: General Evaluation of Benefits for Couples and Families in Germany)

However, the most important means of ensuring an adequate standard of living is the fact that a good balance between family and work allows parents to work as much, or as little, as they like. The introduction of parental allowance as well as the expansion of childcare resulted in a significant increase of gainfully employed mothers in recent years. After having previously declined, the working hours of mothers in Germany are increasing since 2006. Since 2007, and also as a result of parental allowance, there has been an increase in the gainful employment of mothers with children aged one and two, while the “protective cushion” created with the parental allowance is being used during the first year after a child’s birth. Once their youngest child reaches the age of two, 42% of mothers are already back in work, whereas the employment rate of mothers with children aged three already totals around 55%. In 2006, the corresponding figures were 9% and 13% lower, respectively. Mothers also increasingly re-enter into almost full-time or medium-level jobs in terms of working hours.

Social benefits for children and young people in Germany are applicable according to the eighth Code of Law, Child and Youth Welfare Services. The general role of Child and Youth Welfare Services is the support and development of children and young people and the protection of their wellbeing with a wide range of benefits.  The central focus of the range of benefits for children and young people is the family and social environment of minors / young adults. Thus, they are based on the support, establishment and restoration of parental responsibility.  Their brief is essentially fulfilled by the provision of services and benefits by social services and through organisations.

Access to affordable, high quality services

Reducing childhood disparities by investing in early-years’ education and care

Since 1 August 2013, every child between the ages of one to school entry age has the legal right to early childhood support in a day care centre or day nursery.
Attending a childcare facility between the ages of two and three years of age promotes a child’s development. Furthermore, developmental disadvantages arising from an economic burden within a child‘s family can be partly or wholly compensated by visiting a childcare facility (cf. Final report on the Overall Evaluation of Marriage- and Family-related Benefits in Germany).

Although the German Länder and municipalities are primarily responsible for providing childcare facilities or day care centres, the Federal Government provides extensive financial and qualitative support for the needs-based expansion of day care services for children younger than three years. The Federal Government has made available a total of 5.4 billion Euros for the development of childcare facilities for children under three by 2014 for investment and operating costs. Thus, since 2008, around 300,000 additional childcare places have been created. In this parliamentary term, the Federal Government has reduced its special fund by 550 million Euros to one billion Euros for further day-care development. The states have already been the recipients of 845 million Euros annually for operating costs. Also, the states and municipalities will receive an additional 100 million Euros in 2017 and 2018 to assist with their operating costs.

Moreover, the Federal Government is establishing additional federal programmes to ensure and improve the quality of childcare:

The federal programme „Sprach-Kitas: Weil Sprache der Schlüssel zur Welt ist“   (“Language day-care: Because language is the key to the world“) will promote a range of linguistic educational opportunities nationally in around 4,000 day-care facilities from 2016. The programme is aimed at child day-care facilities with an above-average proportion of children with special needs in terms of language development, amongst which there are already facilities looking after children from refugee families.
The federal programme KitaPlus (Day-care Plus) which started in 2016 aims to enable children from families with special organisational structures to access a range of day-care facilities with opening hours beyond what is normal for childcare and childminding facilities. Those benefiting from this are mainly single parents, shift workers and professional groups whose working hours are not compatible with the usual opening hours of childcare establishments.

Between 2016 and 2018, the skills-oriented qualifications handbook for childminders is to be promoted within the federal programme “Childminding“ „Kindertagespflege“ developed by the German Youth Institute (Deutsche Jugendinstitut) supporting the regular employment of day-care providers. Since 6. November 2014, there has been an annual federal/regional conference at ministerial level on the early years education and childcare system.  The process was initiated by a communiqué between the relevant ministers from the federal and regional government regarding quality in childcare which took place with the participation of local associations. The first report on the status of implementation is due to be submitted by the end of 2016.

With regard to the ESF federal programme initiated in 2015, “Opportunities for Parents II -  Engage families early in Education” (,,Elternchance II – Familien früh für Bildung gewinnen“), by 2020 early years personnel working with families in family centres, parent-child centres, child day-care facilities and other family education institutions, will also be qualified  as parental contacts. This will focus on specialised employees and parents promoting the development and education of children. “Opportunities for Parents II” is based on the experiences of the federal programme “Opportunities for Parents are Opportunities for children” („Elternchance ist Kinderchance“) (2011–2015), for which around 6,000 staff were trained to become parental contacts.

By promoting research, the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) supports the states, supporting organisations and municipalities in its endeavours to improve equality of opportunities for children with good early years education.

With its “Framework Programme for promoting empirical Educational Research”, BMBF is enabling educational policy and practice to make decisions based on scientific research. This is based on the principle of a high-performing and fair educational system. The research focus ranges from illiteracy and language education to professionalisation of educational personnel to managing the educational system. The framework programme for the period 2006 to 2019 includes a total subsidy of around 168.5 million Euros. There is an additional 21.5 million Euros for the federal/provincial initiative “Education via the spoken and written word” ("Bildung durch Sprache und Schrift".)

Improving the impact that education systems have on equal opportunities

Education and optimum support of all children from the outset creates equality of opportunity. Children and young people learn in all aspects of their environment:  both in school and within their families, within their friendship circle, through their leisure activities, through the media. Early years education in day-care facilities is of key importance in implementing equal opportunities.

Educational matters are fundamentally regulated by the respective Länder. On the basis of administrative agreements, the Federal Government and states have made a considerable investment in an extended infrastructure for all-day education and childcarepdf in recent years, aiming to make educational success less dependent on social background and guaranteeing more equality of opportunity.

Almost 60% of all secondary schools in the country offer all-day provision. The expansion of all-day schools is helping to reduce social disparities. The German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs supports the municipalities in youth social work (in the transition from school to work). The infrastructure of youth education at the Federal level, as well as model projects on current requirements for action in the field of child and youth welfare are promoted.

Improving flexibility of health systems with regard to the needs of disadvantaged children

The German health system allows for extensive services of the statutory health insurances for children and young people. The law of 25.  July 2015 to enhance health promotion and prevention should also noticeably extend the range of services for prevention and health promotion in childcare establishments and schools. The Federal Joint Committee is mandated by the prevention bill to further develop health checks for children and young people: it should be possible for young people to access these approved medical examinations until the age of 18 which also include medical prevention advice targeted at specific risks to the child.

Safe, adequate housing and a corresponding living environment for children

Approximately 11% of all households in Germany receive direct financial support for living (public spending for housing, basic security benefits and housing benefit in 2013: €16,5 billion). With the so-called Social Housing Promotion the Länder promote rented housing and the creation of owner-occupied residential property, especially for the benefit of families with children, with approximately €2 billion every year. In 2015, the Federal Government is providing 518.2 million Euros to support the states and, from 2016 until the end of 2019, 1,018 billion Euros annually.

The Federal Government supports cities and communities with federal financial assistance from urban development promotion, pilot projects and action funds to better tailor their urban infrastructure to the needs of children and young people.

The joint ESF-federal programme of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs and the German Federal Ministry for Construction ,,JUGEND STÄRKEN IM QUARTIER” (EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD) supports 179 municipalities with youth social work in disadvantaged neighbourhoods to improve the transition from school to work.

In the series „Youth. City. Lab“ („Jugend.Stadt.Labor“), projects in the following areas are being carried out until 2016: urban space, business, green futures, housing and education. There is a budget for this via a local youth fund.

With the “Youth form for Urban Development“ („Jugendforum Stadtentwicklung“) of the German Federal Ministry for Construction (2015) on the subject of housing, young people were able to incorporate their experiences and ideas from the projects and youth advisory councils into the work of the Ministry. In order to create a wide range of housing for different target groups, the young people have suggested new cooperative models and assembly group models such as cooperative leasing and housing leasing.

Promoting support for families and improving the quality of alternative care services

Families can draw on a high-quality and nationwide range of advisory services provided by different institutions and bodies if they have questions regarding the education of children and living together as a family. Advice is given free of charge in more than 1,000 education and family advice centres (Erziehungs- und Familienberatungsstellen) and is generally open to everyone.

The Federal "Early Support" initiative ("Frühe Hilfen") is an integral part of the Federal Child Protection Act that came into force on 1 January 2012. By the end of 2015, the initiative exemplarily promotes the expansion and development of multi-professional networks especially in the fields of child and youth welfare and health as well as the commitment of family midwives and comparably qualified healthcare professions – even including volunteer-driven structures.
The Federal Government has lent its wholehearted support to the qualitative development of its all day provision by promoting its supporting programme “Ideas for more people! Learn all day” („Ideen für mehr! Ganztägig lernen“)(2004-2015) and the national study in support of this “Study for the development of all day schools“ (since 2005), as the effectiveness of its all day provision depends on its quality.  Here, quality encompasses various dimensions of child wellbeing, cognitive and social/emotional development and the acquisition of skills (cf. 14th. Child and Youth Report 2013).

A child’s right to participation

Promoting the participation of all children in activities in the fields of game, leisure, sports and culture

Through the education and participation packagepdf all children can be part of society. With the programme „Culture empowers. Alliances for education” („Kultur macht stark. Bündnisse für Bildung“), the Federal Ministry for Education is promoting extra-curricular educational measures for (educationally) disadvantaged children and young people aged between three and eighteen until the end of 2017. The measures are to be implemented as a local education cooperative venture, alliances for education, “Culture empowers” („Kultur macht stark“.)

Creating mechanisms that promote the inclusion of children in decisions affecting their lives    

The participation of children and young people is explicitly mandated by Federal law in book VIII of the German Social Code, section 8, §1 (§ 8 Abs. 1 SGB VIII). Hereafter, “children and young people are to be involved in all decisions affecting them in the area of public youth welfare, according to their level of development”.
Together with the Federal Child Protection Act, a separate subjective right to advice for children and young people in emergency and conflict situations has been introduced as of 1 January 2012 (German Social Code Book VIII, section 8, §3 [§ 8 Absatz 3 SGB VIII]). Furthermore, children and youth institutions have to provide instruments for the participation and possibilities for complaints to ensure the rights of children and young people (German Social Code Book VIII, section 45, §2 No. 3 [§ 45 Abs. 2 Nr. 3 SGB VIII]).

Outlook

With policies for families and children, it remains especially important to outline future prospects and to sustainably strengthen the confidence in a reliable and targeted family support. Equality in the employment market, more flexible working hours, a family-friendly working environment and a needs-based range of care places with a special emphasis on quality are also the key to supporting families in the future.

The information included in this country profile was most recently updated in December 2015.

The parental allowance, which replaces the parent’s loss of income after a child’s birth for a maximum of 14 months, is to be supplemented by another design component – the new parental allowance “Elterngeld Plus” which mainly supports parents who start working part-time again soon after the birth of a child. These parents can receive parental allowance for a longer period which goes beyond the 14th month of the child’s life. Furthermore, a partnership bonus is to be introduced: If both parents are working between 25 and 30 hours per week for four months at the same time, they will receive an additional four months‘ payment of the new parental allowance. This is to better promote couples who share work and family responsibilities equally.

Municipal Family Time Policy: Many local players are needed, in order to provide families with more time for each other. Municipalities have to adjust to more flexible acting families. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs supports municipalities with establishing Family Time Policy as a municipal task – for example with a practice guide on municipal Family Time Policy (“Kommunale Zeitpolitik für Familien“) or by promoting the “new times for families“ initiative (“Neue Zeiten für Familie“) by mayors in major German cities (www.neue-zeiten-fuer-familie.de). On 1 September 2014, a project analysing the costs and useful effects of municipal Family Time Policy in carefully chosen locations (“Projekt zur Analyse von Kosten und Nutzeffekten der Praxis kommunaler Familienzeitpolitik an ausgewählten Standorten“) was launched. This project is aimed at determining the economic value of a Family Time Policy for municipalities and developing model calculations for different types of municipalities.

The Federal "Early Support" initiative ("Frühe Hilfen"), an integral part of the Federal Child Protection Act that came into force on 1 January 2012, is used to expand and develop multi-professional networks especially in the fields of child and youth welfare and health and to commit family midwives and comparably qualified healthcare professions – even including volunteer-driven structures.

For further information

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