Germany introduces childcare allowance for stay-at-home parents

Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 00:00

After months of bitter ideological debate, Germany’s Bundestag has introduced a childcare allowance for stay-at-home parents.

Starting next August, eligible parents of infants aged between 13 and 36 months who mind their children at home rather than avail of state-subsidised childcare will receive €100 per month

From August 2014, the allowance will rise to €150. Parents who invest the State payment for their children’s future receive an an additional €15 monthly.

The measure, voted in yesterday, was championed by Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), a junior partner of chancellor Angela Merkel, ahead of next year’s general and state elections.

“It opens the door to choice in our country,” said Dorothee Bär, CSU family spokeswoman in the Bundestag.

“I want that parents don’t have to justify what model they find correct for rearing their child.”

‘Anti-children’

Opposition parties have dubbed the allowance a “stove premium” and vowed to abolish it if elected next year.

Peer Steinbrück, SPD challenger to Dr Merkel next year, said the law was a backward step: “This holds women hostage in a false family idyll.”

Jürgen Trittin of the Green Party described the new allowance as “anti-children, anti-family and anti-women”.

Opposition parties, and welfare groups, argue it will keep women from the workplace and children from immigrant families out of kindergartens, where they would learn German before starting school.

Though Germany gave the world the kindergarten, childcare facilities vary drastically from state to state. More than 60 per cent of German women never return to the workplace after giving birth.

Womens’ groups argued that the homecare allowance, set to cost up to €2 billion annually, would have been better spent on financing kindergartens. From next year, the federal government has promised a subsidised childcare place for every child, but is some 200,000 places short of achieving that goal.

Time off

“If I have no childcare place for my child, I have no freedom of choice,” said Stephanie Bschorr, president of the German Women Entrepreneurs’ Association.

The allowance follows one introduced five years ago that allows parents of newborns take up to a year off work by claiming 67 per cent of their net income from the state – up to €1,800 monthly.

Now federal family minister Kristina Schröder is planning to extend this system to allow parents return to work and transfer their allowance to their own parents who mind the children.