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map of germany2 babiesPaid Parental Leave in Germany:
Up to 1,800 € per child/month


Germany’s System Of Parental Leave

New regulations began in 2007
More specific:

Details of parental leave benefits

Parental leave as a time out

Experiences with the system of parental leave

Social background

Fertility rates and average age of first time mothers
This subject in German

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In Germany parents may obtain up to 1,800 € per month for a newborn child if the mother or father cares for the child and does not work longer than 30 hours per week. This system started in 2007 and is being seen as a further step for a better compatibility of childcare and work. Although parents were already entitled to receive up to 300 € per month in the earlier system this regulation was being seen as insufficient for working women and men to have children because the benefit was no full compensation of the wage that a parent looses if he or she cares for a child.

In the new system, a mother or a father gets 67 % of the net income in the last 12 months before the birth but not less than 300 € and not more than 1,800 €. Those who have not worked before the birth can only get 300 €. The parent demanding this paid parental leave must not work more than 30 hours a week after the birth. If there is no reduction of working time to 30 hours or less, only 300 € can be granted. If the parent earns an income after the birth the payment will be generated by 67 % of the difference between the last and the actual income.

This policy is another step to increase the number of babies born in Germany, a country with an alarming low fertility rate which rose only slowly from 1.39 in 2011 to 1.50 in 2015. To maintain the level of the population, a rate of 2.1 is regarded as to be necessary. Many projects have yet been started to have more newborn citizens but no significant success has been seen. The new model adopts the Scandinavian system which might have helped the countries in the North of Europe to have both a higher fertility rate and a high participation of women in working life. The parenthood benefit came into operation in 2007 is called “Elterngeld” in German which might be translated “parent’s money”. "Elterngeld" is a tax-financed payment by the state, and "Elternzeit" is the time out a parent may demand from work after the birth of a baby (parental leave).
A short overview

Parental leave in Germany
  • The German state grants parents of newborn children a compensation for the loss of income after the birth of a child.

  • 67% of the difference between the income before the confinement and the income after it will be replaced by paid parental leave benefit. The minimum amount is 300 €, the maximum 1,800 €. The benefit is called "Elterngeld" in German. The beneficiary must not work longer than 30 hours a week after the birth.

  • Elterngeld can be paid up to 12 months. Two more months are possible if the other parent cares for the child and does not work longer than 30 hours a week. Under certain conditions it is possible to extend the time of paid parental leave support.

  • A parent has a right to have a leave from work after the confinement. This leave is called "Elternzeit" in German and may generally last up to three years after the birth. After this leave the employee returns to work at the same conditions. An employer has no right to refuse this time out.


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Details: A mother or a father can receive parent’s money up to 12 months. Two more months will be subsidised if the other partner demands parental leave too, cares for the child and does not work longer than 30 hours a week. The government wants fathers to play a more active role in child rearing. Before 2007, only five per cent of German fathers required parental leave. This number has increased to 34% for children born in 2014. Part-time work up to 30 hours is compatible with parental leave. Students, apprentices or child minders may benefit from the new payment even if they work longer. If the other parent asks for the benefit in this two-months-time the payment depends of the net income of this partner before the confinement. The time can be divided as desired by both mother and father, must one applicant must choose at least two months.

It is possible to extend the time of paid parental leave support. In July 2015, the so-called "Elterngeld Plus" was introduced. One month of paid parental leave ("Elterngeld") can be replaced by two months of "Elterngeld Plus". If the latter version is chosen, the paid parental leave support amounts to a maximum of half of the support that is granted to a parent without part-time work after the confinement. In case of the "Elterngeld Plus", partners may get all together 28 months of financial support, if both parents care for the child and work part-time 25 to 30 hours a week at the same time. By these new regulations, part time work for both parents shall become more attractive.

Parental leave has to be seen differently from paid maternity leave which generally starts six weeks before the confinement and ends eight weeks after it. This payment will be cleared with the paid parental leave. Parent’s money will neither be taken into account up to the amount of 300 € with housing subsidy nor does it touch claims to maintenance. In general parents have to demand the parent’s money at their local youth welfare office. Paid parental leave is income and reduces basic unemployment benefits (welfare) with one exception. If the beneficiary has worked before the confinement and parent's money is a compensation for the loss of wage, parent's money will not reduce basic unemployment benefit to the amount of maximal 300 €.

Parents with very high income do not get this benefit. This applies to unmarried people with an income more than 250,000 € or married couples with more than  500,000 € a year. Parents with an income of more than 1,240 € per month will only get a support of 65 % of the last net income. The maximum amount of 1,800 € will be kept. In contrast, the rate climbs gradually for a parent with an income less than 1,000 euro before the birth.

In addition to the parent's money, child allowance is paid for all children under 18 years in Germany regardless of the parent's income (from 2016 190 € for each of the first two children, 196 € for the third child and 221 € for each subsequent child).

The total amount of money that is spent on paid parental leave benefits is 6.207 billion euro in 2014. Germany’s federal budget bears the costs. (Source: Statistical Yearbook 2016 p. 228 of the German Federal Statistical Office).

Foreign nationals may be entitled to receive paid parental leave if they are citizens of a member state of the European Union, the European Economic Area or of Switzerland or if they have a settlement permit. The same applies to most bearers of a residence permit which allows the foreigner to work.

The complement of the paid parental leave is the right of employees to demand a time out of their employment contract’s obligation to work (in German: Elternzeit). Parents may demand a parental leave up to three years after the birth of the child. This means that an employee may return to work after three years at the same conditions but he or she won’t get a wage during the leave. Employers have no chance to refuse the release. A mother or a father intending to stay away from work after the birth has to notify the employer at least seven weeks before the begin of the leave. Under certain conditions an employer has the obligation to offer half-time-work to the employee taking parental leave. In the time from asserting the parental leave until its end an employee may not be dismissed. If the employer wants to end the work-relationship at the end of the parental leave he has to do so with a three months notice.

For children born later than 30 June 2015, parents may transfer up to 24 of the 36 months of parental leave in the time between the third and the eighth birthday of the child.
Experiences with the new system

In the year 2010 around 810,000 mothers and fathers got paid parental leave support. There were 499,000 applications by single parents and 155,000 by both parents. 25% of the fathers of the 678,000 babies born in 2010 decided to receive this social benefit. But 76% of these fathers wanted to have this support for the wage lost by the reduction of working time for not more than two months. Only 6% of the fathers voted for a support of twelve months. Nearly two thirds of these couples received this support together for a relatively short time, mainly two months (which demands that none of the parents works longer than 30 hours a week). There was no overlap in time in approximately one third of the cases with two beneficiaries.

In 2010, 38% of the supported parents got only the minimum amount of 300 euro. But the average sum paid as parental leave support was 964 euro (mothers 878 euro, fathers 1,201 euro). If fathers apply for paid parental leave benefits, they generally do this for the first three months of the newborn child (41%). Every fifth father opted for a support after the first year of the child.

The participation of fathers in paid parental leave is higher if the mother has been working before the confinement (32% compared to 12% of non-working women). (Source:Press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 221 of 2012-06-27). For children born in 2014, the participation of fathers in paid parental leave benefits climbed to 34.2% (mothers 96%). 79% of the fathers decided to demand only support for the minimum time of two months, whereas 87% of the mothers chose the maximum standard time of 12 months. All together, 933,000 mothers and fathers of nearly 715,000 children born in 2014 got paid parental leave benefit. (Source: Press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 212 of 2016-06-21).

Social Background

The number of underage children in Germany dropped from 15.2 million in 2000 to 13.1 million in 2010. It is expected that this decline will continue. There are significant differences between the West and  the East of Germany. In the East, the number fell by nearly 29%, in the West by 10% to eleven million children. Most children still live with their married parents in a family (West: 79%, East: 58%). The amount of children living with only a single parent is 15% in the West and 24% in the East. 6% of the children in the West and 17% in the East live in households where the parent lives with a partner and is not married.

For the majority of children living with both parents (51%) it is normal that both parents work (at least part-time), 38% of such children have only one working parent, and 11% have parents who both do not work.

Social transfer payments are the main income for 33% of the children with a single parent whereas the labour income of the parents is the most important financial basis for 92% of children with intact family structures.

The statistics say that in Germany children are not more endangered by poverty than the average population. In 2008, 15.5% of the entire population were endangered by poverty. The rate for children under 18 years was 15%. (Source: press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 285 2011-08-03).

In Germany, the parents of approximately every third newborn child are not married. The number rose from 15% in 1990 to 33% in 2010. The number increased significantly in the late 1990ies and slowed in the last years. But there is also an increase of marriages with common premarital children from 8% in 1991 to 20% in 2010. Compared with other European countries, the rate of newborn children whose parents are not married is below the European average of nearly 38% in 2009. The highest rate can be found in Estonia with 59%, the lowest in Greece with 7%. Other countries: France 53%, United Kingdom 46%, Austria 39%, Italy 24%. (Source: press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 294 2011-08-12).




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Fertility rates of women and average age of first time mothers in Europe in 2014 (according to EUROSTAT, the statistical office of the European Union)
Country Rate Age
Austria 1.47 28.9
Belgium 1.74 28.6
Bulgaria 1.53 25.8
Croatia 1.46 28.1
Cyprus 1.31 29.2
Czechia 1.53 28.1
Denmark 1.69 29.2
Estonia 1.54 26.6
Finland 1.71 28.6
France 2.01 28.3
Germany 1.47 29.4
Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1.81 28.6
Greece 1.30 30.0
Hungary 1.44 27.7
Iceland 1.93
27.5
Ireland 1.94
29.6
Italy
1.37 30.7
Latvia 1.65 26.3
Lithuania 1.63 27.0
Luxembourg 1.50 30.2
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1.52 26.6
Malta 1.42 28.6
Netherlands 1.71 29.5
Norway 1.75 29.0
Poland 1.32 26.9
Portugal 1.23 29.2
Romania 1.52 26.1
Serbia 1.46 27.5
Slovakia 1.37
27.0
Slovenia 1.58 28.6
Spain 1.32 30.6
Sweden 1.88 29.2
Switzerland 1.54 30.6
(Source: Press release of EUROSTAT nr. 49 of 2016-03-15)
Day care for children under three years: On 1 March 2015, 32.9% of the children had child day care, for example in crèches. With 51.9% it is much more spread in East Germany than in the West of the country with 28.2%. (Source: German Federal Statistical Office, Kindertagesbetreuung regional 2015, p. 8).

Births and abortions: In 2015, approximately 738,000 children were born in Germany, 23,000 more than in the previous year. (Source: press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 225 2016-06-30). In contrast, 99,200 abortions were counted in Germany in 2015, 0.5% less compared with 2014. (Source: press releases of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 86 2016-03-09).

Supplementary regulations
In some German states there is an additional benefit for parents whose paid parental leave benefit has run out. These states are Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia (here only for children born before July 2015). There are different regulations in each state for getting this support after the "Elterngeld" which is financed by the federal budget.

In August 2013, another social benefit for parents with young children was introduced in Germany, the child care subsidy for home-based care by parents who do not place their children to crèches or in-home daycare providers (in German: "Betreuungsgeld"). The benefit amounted to 100 euro a month and was granted parents of children between 15 and 36 months of age (150 euro were transferred from August 2014). The sum was paid for a maximum of 22 months regardless of the parents' income. At the same time, children aged one to three years became entitled to daytime child care in crèches or with child minders. Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party criticized that there hadn't yet been created a sufficient number of outhouse daytime child care facilities and that the new regulation was counter-productive for the integration of women in the labour market. On 21 July 2015 the Federal Constitutional Court declared this child care subsidy for home-based care ("Betreuungsgeld") as unconstitutional because this matter may only be regulated by the German states and not on the federal level.




Last update: 17 November 2016