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Germany: A modern family policy for more partnership when it comes to creating a work-family balance and 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 the combination of targeted financial benefits with a good infrastructure and new time policies. The focus of this modern family policy is the partnership-based reconcilability when it comes to creating a work-family balance. Many mothers would like to become more involved vocationally, whereas fathers wish they could spend more time with their children. More partnership will provide mothers with better career prospects and fathers with more time for their children. 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

The expansion of childcare and the introduction of parental allowance resulted in a significant increase of gainfully employed mothers (cf. Family Report 2012, p. 74pdf).

The evaluation of marriage- and family-related benefits in Germany has shown that there are three kinds of family benefits in particular, which promote the participation of mothers in the workforce:

  1. public funding for childcare,
  2. parental allowance and
  3. childcare tax deductibility

(cf. Final report on the Overall Evaluation of Marriage- and Family-related Benefits in Germany).

In order to increase the participation of parents in the workforce and to facilitate the sharing of family responsibilities within the partnership, the Federal Government will introduce the new parental allowance (“Elterngeld Plus”) and a partnership bonus (“Partnerschaftsbonus”). The new parental allowance aims to eliminate disadvantages of the old previous parental allowance regulations for parents who are already in work while receiving parental allowance. Until now, an entire month of parental allowance is used up even when working part-time while receiving parental allowance – despite the fact that due to crediting the part-time salary, the parental allowance replacement rate is lower than it would be with quitting a job entirely.

The replacement rate amount is capped at half the parental allowance, which is given without working part-time. Thus, a month of the previous parental allowance turns into two months’ payment of the new parental allowance (“ElterngeldPlus-Monat“).

In addition to the new parental allowance, a partnership bonus will be introduced. This partnership bonus, which contains four additional months of the new parental allowance per parent, will be granted to parents who take care of their child together and who both work between 25 and 30 hours per week.

With the business programme “Success Factor Family”, the associated corporate network 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 Initiativepdf“ 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 is what child benefit, parental allowance or extra-familial childcare as well as the additional maintenance payment for single parents or the child benefit supplement for families on a low income are there for.

Here, child benefit is the most important aspect (cf. Final report on the Overall Evaluation of Marriage- and Family-related Benefits 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, 41% of mothers are already back in work, whereas the employment rate of mothers with children aged three already totals around 54%. In 2006, the corresponding figures were 8% and 12% lower, respectively. Mothers also increasingly re-enter into almost full-time or medium-level jobs in terms of working hours.

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.

Visiting a childcare facility between 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).

At the same time, the legal regulation for the new parental leave benefits has come into force. It’s the parental leave benefits’ aim to give young parents an extensive freedom of choice: the new benefits are granted to parents whose child was born after 31 July 2012 and who do not make use of early childhood care in publicly provided childcare facilities or day care centres. Parental leave benefits are provided following the parental allowance and are paid regardless of the parental employment status and hours of work. Parents initially received 100 Euros; as of 1 August 2014 parents receive 150 Euros per child per month.

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. With two investment programmes and the contribution to the running costs, the Federal Government has issued a total of 5.4 billion Euros until 2014.

Currently, the legal framework for the further expansion of childcare is being created; it also aims to provide further places from 2015 once the previous Federal funds have been used up. In order to secure and improve the quality of day care services and once the investment phase is over, the Federal Government will provide an additional 845 billion Euros per annum, on a permanent basis from 2015 and on top of the already existing nationwide programmes, which for example focus on language learning and obtaining qualified educational staff.

Improving the impact that education systems have on equal opportunities

Educational matters are fundamentally regulated by the respective Länder. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs on the other hand promotes the non-formal education of young people at the Federal level and also fulfils an incentive function in this field (cf. German Social Code Book VIII, section 83, §1 [§ 83 Absatz 1 Sozialgesetzbuch VIII - SGB VIII]). 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 the flexibility of health systems with regards to the needs of disadvantaged children

The German health system allows for extensive services of the statutory health insurances for children and young people. Several legislative initiatives aim to further improve the framework conditions in guaranteeing medical care for children and young people (e.g. the introduction of specialist outpatient care, German Social Code Book V, section 116b [§ 116b SGB V], from which children and young people with complex conditions will benefit as well as the Law of Care Realignment (Pflege-Neuausrichtungs-Gesetz) with improvements in benefit entitlements of the nursing care insurance also for care-dependent children and young people and their relatives). The law for promoting prevention (Gesetz zur Förderung der Prävention) aims at the further development of former screening tests, among others, for children and young people into prevention-oriented health checks that are then to be expanded to children aged 6 to 10 years old.

Safe, adequate housing and a corresponding living environment for children

Approximately 12% of all households in Germany receive direct financial support for living (public spending for housing, basic security benefits and housing benefit in 2011: €17 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 €1 billion every year. In Germany, the Federal Government will support its states with an annual €518 million by the end of 2019.

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. Furthermore, approximately 220 labour market projects with “young people” in disadvantaged neighbourhoods as their target group, among others, and in order to improve the transition from school to working life, have been, and will be, supported by the “Education, Economy, Work in the Neighbourhood” ESF Federal German Programme. The new interdepartmental ESF Federal German Programme on supporting young people in the neighbourhood („JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier“) will continue to support this field of action throughout the new 2014-2020 programming period. In addition, the research programme “Jugend.Stadt.Labor” (“Youth.City.Lab“) is currently carrying out projects until 2016. These projects are based on the following topics: urban space, economy, green future, housing and education and are funded from a budget provided by a local youth fund.

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.

A child’s right to participation

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

The education and participation package enables all children to participate in society.

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 children and their families it remains especially important to outline future prospects and to sustainably strengthen the confidence in a reliable and targeted family support.

The information contained in this country profile was last updated in October 2014.

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 (http://www.bmfsfj.de/BMFSFJ/kinder-und-jugend,did=119832.html) 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.

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