On 20 March 2023, the Federal Minister for the Family, Lisa Paus, together with Prof. Renate Köcher (Director of the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research) and Christian Böllhoff (Director of Prognos AG), presented the Family Barometer in Germany.
The aim of the family barometer is to analyze the main trends in family life in Germany, in order to be able to identify concrete solutions to improve the development of family policy performance to strengthen the cohesion of society.
The importance of the family network
The family is a central uniting factor, which has been attributed great importance in professional success and material prosperity for decades. In a context of crisis, especially after the pandemic, it has emerged that families with children have higher optimism for the future and for life than those without children. In fact, extra-family social networks have remained rather unused during this period, so much so that in 2021 nearly 90 % of the German population believes that they can rely solely on the family in emergencies, especially economic hardship (IfD Allensbach, 2020). It was found that about 80 % of parents in Germany expect family policy to increase educational opportunities for disadvantaged children, and 70 % expect support to be provided primarily to separated, single or multi-child parents, according to their needs.
It is important to consider, in fact, that nowadays it is common in Germany to have single-parent households (about 18%), just as families (around 40 %) in which at least one parent has a migration background are increasingly on the rise (Destatis 2021). These groups are the ones who are in the most difficult situations when it comes to taking care of their children.
Childcare until nowadays
Although the childcare rate has increased, it is still not sufficient for the needs of parents. In fact, in 2006, the childcare rate for children under the age of three in Germany was 14 %, while in 2021 it has increased to 34%. However, participation in daycare also varies by family background. It was found that children from families with a disadvantaged financial situation or migrant background on average attend daycare less than those from a family with higher income and education.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of public childcare facilities became evident, especially between the first and second lockdowns. In many cases, childcare was organized in a much-improvised way, often parents had to take sick or vacation days or request reduced working hours so as not to leave their children unattended. It is thus apparent that child care is a key factor in the economy, so much so that 82 % of companies consider it a significant productivity factor (Prognos, 2021).
Fields of action of family policy
The goal of family policy is to provide families with effective support in times of crisis that enables the realization of central life desires. It is therefore oriented toward the guidelines of opportunity, security and justice, with the aim of bridging the gap between parents’ life aspirations and their ability to realize them. To do so, it must adapt to changes in society and changing support needs. The triad of money, infrastructure and time is essential to a sustainable family policy and it is on this that its courses of action are based, namely:
- Basic child subsidy (money)
- Infrastructure improvement (infrastructure)
- Parental leave (time)
Basic child subsidy
The basic child benefit (Kindergrundsicherung) in the future will replace a large number of child- and family-related benefits (Kindergeld, Sozialgeld, Kinderzuschlag, Kinderfreibetrag, Unterhaltsvorschuss, Teile des Bildungs and Teilhabepaketes)
First, it will include a basic child subsidy, the amount of which is to be defined according to need. This combined with time-related subsidies and good childcare provides a reliable net for all families. In addition, the focus of these reliefs is also on single parents, whom the government wants to help more than it has so far. The single-parent family support system would become more equitable and effective through tax relief and increased benefit amounts.
Financial stability, however, must also be coupled with a reliable childcare infrastructure so that families can plan for the future while relying on state support. Good infrastructure promotes education from the first steps taken by children and facilitates the beginning of schooling. This initiative benefits all children, but particularly those from educationally disadvantaged families, in economically stressed living situations, or with a migration background. Improving the childcare ratio, language education, and full-time schooling provision, the goal is to reach nationwide standards.
The German government also provides a parental leave to support families after the birth of a child. This leave is aimed not only at mothers, but also at fathers, to promote more active fatherhood, contributing to family life in its start-up phase and continuing to be a part of it afterwards. We will discuss this topic in more detail in the next article.