The Ministry

Families

Parents and two children lying on a field
Supporting families© shutterstock

Family is where people of different generations accept long-term responsibility for one another and in doing so, support and care for each other. This includes married and cohabiting couples with children as well as single-parent families, step families, blended families, rainbow families and families who provide care for dependent family members.

Modern family policy means respecting the diverse family constellations people choose. It also means providing families with support adjusted to their needs. Family policy is based on the three pillars of money, infrastructure and time to spend with one another. It aims on supporting a good reconciliation of family and work, maintaining economic stability of families, promoting child-wellbeing as well as helping people to fulfil the desire to have children.

Families in Germany can rely on a wide range of state-provided benefits. These include child benefit and other family-related benefits – such as parental allowance, child supplement and the tax-free allowance for single parents – which are linked to specific circumstances or needs. There are also labour law provisions in place which, for example, give parents the right to take parental leave and place expectant mothers under a protected period during statutorily prescribed maternity leave. In addition to the state governments (Länder) and municipal administrations, the German Federal Government offers families a wide range of state benefits. Marriage-related benefits (i.e. for surviving dependants) and family-related benefits amount to some 200 billion Euros per year.

Families need the right kind of support at the right time. Therefore, between 2009 and 2014 the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Finance conducted an overall evaluation and survey of marriage-related and family-related benefits and provisions in Germany – the first of its kind worldwide in terms of size and scope. The results flow into considerations as to how family-related benefits can be further enhanced in order to serve the needs and the personal circumstances of families today.

A majority of parents with young children see an equal division of responsibility for work and family life as the realm of the ideal. As the traditional division of work and family responsibilities in families is not in accordance with young parents conceptions of and wishes for equally shared responsibilities, and as it leads to significant financial disadvantages for mothers in the long run, family politics aim at supporting a more equal partnership in the sharing of work and family life responsibilities and design future family benefits accordingly. The introduction of the parental allowance plus (ElterngeldPlus) was an important step in pursuing this new policy approach. Since then parental leave can be shared more equally and can be more easily combined with working part-time. The next step shall be the introduction of a Family Working Time model (Familienarbeitszeit). It aims to encourage and support mothers and fathers in the early years of a child, to spend time with children and allow each other to pursue his or her career – according to their wishes for equally shared responsibilities.

Parents, children and society as a whole can benefit from a more equal division of responsibility for work and family life. Parents can focus on their children as well as their career, children can spend more time with their parents and society as a whole can reap the rewards. The availability of a reliable infrastructure and financial security are key pre-requisites in all of this. Families in Germany can rely on a wide range of state benefits and provisions.

To better meet the needs of families, the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs cooperates closely with strong, reliable partners from industry and business, the unions, municipal stakeholders and associations.

Family-friendly working conditions are a fundamental prerequisite for optimal reconciliation of family and working life. Employers have recognized and acknowledged that fathers also want opportunities to reconcile their work and family commitments.

The company programme "Success Factor Family" (Erfolgsfaktor Familie) is a centralized information platform which focuses on the subject of a family-friendly working world. As a programme for business and industry, it consolidates information on family-conscious human resources policy. The programme's Network comprises over 6000 businesses and institutions.

Parental allowance is designed to give parents the opportunity to take time for their child, especially in its first year, without suffering financial loss. Parental allowance (Elterngeld) thus compensates for the loss of income when a parent stops working or reduces its working hours to look after a new-born child. The allowance ranges from a minimum 300 Euros to a maximum 1800 Euros per month and is paid for a maximum period of 14 months if the other parent also claims parental allowance for at least two months.

The parental allowance plus (ElterngeldPlus) helps parents who want to work part-time soon after the birth of a child. It provides financial support for a longer period of time – including beyond the child's 14th month, as one month of parental allowance becomes two months of parental allowance plus.

Parental allowance plus is supplemented by a partnership bonus: if both parents work between 25 and 30 hours a week in parallel for a period of four months, they each receive four additional months of parental allowance plus.

In addition to parental allowance plus and the partnership bonus, the new rules on parental leave give parents more flexibility in returning to work and in reconciling work and family life. Mothers and fathers are now able to take up to 24 months of unclaimed parental leave between their child's third and eighth years.

Statutorily prescribed paid maternity leave during what is known as the ‘protected period before and after birth’ is provided to ensure safety and health at work for pregnant employees and their unborn child, employees who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Women are allocated with a protected period of maternity leave of at least 14 weeks, of which six weeks before and eight weeks after confinement. During this time, women are secured against financial loss. During the period from the beginning of their pregnancy to the end of the maternity leave, at least to the end of four months after giving birth, women are also protected against dismissal.

The national funding programme for employer-provided daycare (Betriebliche Kinderbetreuung) is designed to promote the establishment of new employer-supported daycare places.

Across the country, more than 650 Local Alliances for Families provide strong, partnership-based networks of stakeholders from industry and business, government and civil society. The aim is to provide needs-based services to help local families better reconcile family and working life.

The programme "Strong in the work place" (Stark im Beruf) targets migrant mothers in Germany who want to get back to work or start a career. The programme gives them greater access to the working world at more than 80 locations nationwide.

Families require both financial security and support services that are adapted to their needs. The Ministry for Family Affairs aims to ensure that children and teenagers in Germany receive the support that they and their families need to enjoy better opportunities in life. This means providing an effective, needs-based child and youth welfare service.

Child benefit is paid as a non-income-related benefit: for all children up to the age of 18, for children up to the age of 25 in education and training, and for unemployed children up to the age of 21. Child benefit amounts to 192 Euros per month for the first and second child, 198 Euros per month for the third child and 223 Euros per month for the fourth and each subsequent child.

Child supplement is paid to parents who are able to meet their own needs from the money they earn, but do not have the financial means to cover the needs of their children. Child supplement amounts to a maximum of 170 Euros per child and month.

Since 1 January 2011, parents have also benefited from additional provisions to promote their children's education and social participation. Moreover, a range of special financial provisions are available for single parents. The particular financial burden of being solely responsible for the family and home is recognized by the provision of a tax-free allowance, which effectively reduces a single parent's taxable income.

Maintenance advance is provided as a special form of financial assistance to help single parents with children under twelve who receive no maintenance or no regular maintenance payments from the other parent. Currently maintenance advance amounts to 150 Euros for children under five, 201 Euros for children aged six to eleven. Maintenance advance can be obtained for a maximum of 72 month and no longer than to the 12th birthday of the child. The income of the single parent is irrelevant for the entitlement.

With legislation to increase the basic tax-free allowance, the tax-free allowance for children, child benefit and child supplement, the Federal Government has introduced a package to improve family-related benefits. The package also includes an improvement in the tax-free allowance for single parents, which currently lies at 1908 Euros for the first child and allows a further 240 Euros for each subsequent child.

Education and child-rearing are key issues for families. They influence both wellbeing and quality of life, especially for children. Some 4000 parental advisers are available to families to advise them on matters of child-rearing and education. They serve as persons of trust in daycare centres, parent-child centres and other locations where family-related education takes place. The addresses of local advisory offices that parents can contact are listed on websites of the Federal Conference for Child Guidance Counselling and the German Working Group for Youth and Marriage Counselling (Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Jugend- und Eheberatung e.V.).

The Federal Government is committed to ensuring that all children, regardless of their background, receive the same development opportunities and the same access to education. Quality, needs-based childcare also promotes better reconciliation of family and working life, and that in turn benefits German industry and business.

  • By the end of 2016, the Federal Government had invested some 7.3 billion Euros in expanding daycare services for children under three. In 2017 and 2018 it is allocating an annual amount of 945 million Euros to cover the operating costs involved in expanding and securing the availability of quality daycare.
  • In this current legislative period, the Federal Government has increased the funding allocation for its daycare expansion investment programme to 1 billion Euros. Also, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is using the Third Investment Programme to focus on providing full-day childcare. The Ministry is planning a Fourth Investment Programme starting in 2017.
  • With the Federal Programme "Language day care centres", the Federal Government has allocated 1 billion Euros between 2016 and 2020 to provide additional staff (about 7000 skilled workers) at selected daycare centres to assist existing staff in the provision of speech and language tuition for children and in providing assistance to families.
  • With the Federal Programme "Day care centre PLUS", the Federal Government promotes expanding opening hours in selected child care centres which are tailored to the needs of parents (2016 to 2019).
  • With the Child Day Care Action Programme, the Federal Government promotes the expansion of flexible daycare services which are especially tailored to meet families' needs.

When it comes to starting a family, would-be parents seek guidance on a whole host of issues, ranging from childlessness to unwanted pregnancy to the provision of support in emergencies and times of need.

All women and all men in Germany are entitled to seek advice on any and all matters concerning pregnancy, and they can attend any pregnancy counselling centre regardless of who operates them. In addition to the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, both the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA ) and local pregnancy counselling centres provide information and services concerning pregnancy, pregnancy-related problems, childbirth and family planning.

The Federal Foundation "Mother and Child – Protection of Unborn Life" supports expecting mothers in emergency situations by providing grants to cover the cost of the child's immediate needs and other expenses related to pregnancy and birth.

Secret births that take place without medical supervision must be prevented, as should the abandonment or killing of a newborn child. To avoid such situations, pregnant women in need or distress can call 0800 40 40 020 – a free hotline which ensures them a safe and anonymous birth. Alternatively, they can obtain information and help online at: www.geburt-vertraulich.de.

Almost one in ten couples aged between 25 and 59 suffer unwanted childlessness and are reliant on medical help to fulfil their desire for a child. For many, the costs involved in this process can be both a financial and a psychological burden. To alleviate the situation, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has launched a nation-wide initiative to provide help and support for people hoping to have a child.

Many people in Germany would like to adopt a child. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs is responsible for adoption placement law and is working to improve its provisions and processes to enable adoptions.