In addition to a secure financial livelihood, an infrastructure is needed that meets demands in order for families to get on well together, as well as sufficient time for each other within the family and for other areas of life. For families to be able to assume responsibility for raising their children, they need room for manoeuvre and good general frameworks. The politicians' task is to provide supportive frameworks in such a way that they embrace people's diverse needs and wishes and guarantee the necessary flexibility.
The German Federal Government is currently developing a separate time policy for families. Its aim is to open up more opportunities for people to decide how to use their own time and create a better balance between time structures predetermined externally (working hours, opening hours of childcare facilities, school holiday periods, etc.) Mothers and fathers will thus be offered opportunities to combine career and family responsibilities. The expansion of the childcare infrastructure and the development of family-friendly working conditions in companies will support parents in their everyday situations with children.
Family benefits have been realigned in Germany in recent years and parental benefit in particular has become a benefit greatly appreciated by parents.
The existing marriage allowances and family benefits are being examined in an interdisciplinary research process, the overall evaluation, which will be completed by 2013. A range of measures for older family members will complement the sustainable family policy.
Better compatibility of family and working life also provides financial stability for families. Well-educated mothers in particular are an important resource for the labour market. With family-friendly flexible working hours, businesses are able to increase their attractiveness as employers, win over qualified, specialist staff and keep them within the company.
The proportion of women on the labour market has increased substantially over the last decade. According to the EU statistics for 2010, 67.7% of women in Germany are in gainful employment, therefore significantly more than the 60% given by the Lisbon target. Almost half these women (45.7% in 2010) work part-time (EU average 32.1%). After the Netherlands, this is the second highest proportion for part-time work in the EU.
With the business programme "Success Factor Family", the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, together with the leading German business associations and the Confederation of German Trade Unions, aims to make family-friendliness a hallmark of the German economy.
As part of the Local Alliances for Families Initiative launched by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, around 670 amalgamations of various social groups throughout Germany are moving towards more family-friendly solutions. Their aim is to improve families' living and working conditions locally with specific projects and create a work-family balance.
Good-quality childcare and early-years support for all children are some of the most important tasks for the future in Germany. In order for young people to be able to fulfil their wishes for children, child-care provision that is responsive to needs, good quality and diversity have to be guaranteed. Child daycare (childminders) has a major role here as a particularly flexible and family-based form of care. Its attractiveness will increase and the qualifications of childminders continue to be enhanced.
By 2013, a childcare place will be available nationally in Germany on average for every third child under three - around one third of new places are being created in child day care. That same year every child reaching the age of one will be legally entitled to support in a child daycare facility or with a childminder. Payments to help with childcare costs will be introduced at the same time for those parents who do not want, or are not able, to leave their children in publicly funded facilities.
In addition to the expansion of childcare places, national, regional and local government in Germany will crucially be improving the quality of care. This will specifically include comprehensive language development support for all children before they start school, the recruitment of educators and childminders as well as appropriate key supervision.
Parental leave and parental allowance: breathing space for families after the birth of a child
Both parents are entitled to a maximum of three years parental leave , until the child is three years old. With the employer's consent, a maximum of 12 months of this can be carried over to the period between the child's third and eighth birthday.
In January 2007, the parental allowance was introduced. Parents of new-born children have been entitled since then to 67% in principle of their last net income for 12 months (or 14 months, if both parents take leave). The parental allowance comprises:
a maximum amount of €25,200 (€1,800 per month) in 14 months (parents received a maximum amount of €7,200 under the previous childcare allowance);
a minimum amount of €300 a month, irrespective of income, for up to twelve months;
an additional sum of €300 per month for every second and additional child of a multiple birth;
up to €180 (10% of the parental allowance, but a minimum € 75) extra per month if there are two children under three or three children under six in the family;
the opportunity to work part-time in addition to receiving the parental allowance – up to 30 hours a week. Here, the parental allowance makes up the difference between income before the birth and the part-time income.
Since 2011, parents have still only been receiving 65% of their net income due to cuts in the German federal budget if their monthly salary before the birth is more than €1,200. Furthermore, the parental allowance claim does not apply if the parents had a combined taxable income in the year before their child's birth of more than €500,000 (an upper limit of €250,000 applies for lone parents).
Continual monitoring of the parental allowance has scientifically substantiated the success of this family benefit.
The parental allowance has increased the income of families after the birth and in so doing provides young families with the breathing space they need. It has allowed fathers to become more involved in childcare immediately after the birth of a child; according to the statistics on parental allowance, fathers have received parental allowance for more than every fourth child born in 2010 (25.3%). Fathers use the time for childcare and make it easier for their partners to return to work earlier. Mothers whose partners are on parental leave have twice as high an employment rate (36%) than mothers whose partners are (currently) not on parental leave (17 per cent).Due to the parental allowance, the proportion of women overall entering jobs in their child's second year has risen by around 4 per cent (3.6 per cent). More mothers are therefore able to secure their own sustainable economic existence. The law is producing all the effects it was intended to do..
Parental allowance and additional relief for families on a low income
At the start of 2010, the German Federal Government increased child benefits by €20 per child. The Child benefit varies according to the number of children and amounts to €184 per month for the first and second child, €190 for the third and €215 for the fourth and each child thereafter. Child benefit is paid for all children up to their 18th birthday, for young people in training or education generally up to their 25th birthday and for unemployed young people up to their 21st birthday. There is no age limit for children who are not able to support themselves because they have a disability.
Children under 12 years of age living with a lone parent and not receiving any, or any regular, maintenance from the other parent are supported with the additional maintenance payment. The monthly additional maintenance payment amounts to Euro 133 for children from 0 to 5 years old and Euro 180 for children from 6 to 11 years old. Additional maintenance payments are made for a maximum of 72 months (6 years).
The child benefit supplement amounts to a maximum of Euro140 per child and is paid to parents for each child living in their household if their income is actually sufficient to cover their own requirements, but not those of their children. The child benefit supplement makes it possible for families on a low income not to become dependent on benefits to cover subsistence costs.
Key outcomes of the education and participation package introduced on 1 January 2011 are the targeted promotion and support of the education and participation of children and young people from families on a low income receiving benefits to cover subsistence costs or child supplement or housing benefit.
The education and participation package comprises:
• one-day school and day-care trips,
• class and day-care trips lasting more than one day,
• personal equipment that children need for school,
• transport for pupils to school,
• out-of-school learning support,
• participation in a collective lunch scheme in school or in childcare facilities (supplement) and
• participation in the social and cultural life of the community, for instance by attending a music school, through membership of a sports association or by attending courses.
Unlike general cash benefits, the education and participation package applies when using goods and services, thereby achieving a high degree of ring-fencing and acceptance. Initial evaluations show that more children are now benefiting from education and participation packages. Families receiving child supplements are using them primarily for equipment their children need for school (38%), taking part in social and cultural life (28%), class and daycare trips lasting more than one day and lunch schemes (both 25%). The clear majority of users (83 per cent) regard the package as valuable assistance.
In Germany, over 1.5 million dependents are cared for at home by family members and by community services. Over two thirds of all dependents are thereby cared for at home within their families. The launch of family care time on 1 January 2012 has made it possible to care for close relatives and to continue working at the same time. Employees in family care time looking after close relatives are able to reduce their working hours over a maximum period of two years as far as 15 hours in a working week. If working hours are reduced to 50 per cent, for example, employees continue to receive 75 per cent of the last gross income. To cover this, they must work full-time again following the care phase, but in this case will continue to receive only 75 of their salary until the time account is balanced once again.
Intergenerational homes carry over the principle of the extended family of the past to today's society: the natural give and take between people of different ages is activated in intergenerational homes. Age and care, integration and education, supply and mediation of household-related services as well as voluntary activities are four priority issues shaping what the homes offer for the years ahead. For many families they therefore offer help and support where these are needed.
With the German Federal Voluntary Service's provision, since 1.7.2011 there have been new opportunities for volunteering for people of every age. Young and old therefore have the opportunity to meet and talk to each another in a wide range of fields – from nature conservation, culture to caring for the elderly.
With the "Images of Old Age" programme, ideas about life in old age will be exchanged and older people encouraged to share their skills within society and within the family as they themselves decide. Young people will be motivated to review the image they have of old age. Only when the images of old age and the ageing process match will acceptance and openness be possible. The willingness of young and old to learn with and from one another is reinforced. The promotion of realistic images of old age constitutes a firm foundation for mutual understanding, thereby fostering the social cohesion of society.
The information contained in this country profile was last updated in November 2012.
With the German federal programme "Elternchance ist Kinderchance" (Parental opportunity is an opportunity for children), parents will be given additional guidance on promoting family life during the initial stages of education or during the periods of transition between their children's educational institutions. Between 2011 and 2014, 4,000 specialists who are already working in parental and family education, will firstly gain further qualifications as parent counsellors. Secondly, " Elternbegleitung Plus" (parent counselling plus) is being trialled at 100 pilot locations in local education cooperation initiatives, so that socially disadvantaged families can be won over early for the education of their children.