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GM and/or family policy

GM and / or family policy

Family policy is very different in different welfare states. While burdens on families in the Scandinavian countries are relieved by means of public services, especially in child care and nursing of the aged, most continental European countries prefer financial assistance for families.

The German government, too, has preferred to take this route. The following Benefits for Families [German link] are listed on the web pages of the German Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ):
  • child allowance, parental benefit, parenting leave, maternity benefit, maintenance advance, child supplement, traineeship grant, occupational training allowance under Book IV of the Social Code, housing benefit, children’s allowance under the Law concerning Allowances for Owner-Occupiers, statutory pension insurance and statutory health insurance.
In addition, the following elements are listed for balancing out family benefits in taxation:
  • child allowance, care allowance, child care expenses, mini-jobs and services rendered in private households, allowance for traineeship, relief for single-parent families, maintenance payments, marriage and birth allowances, income splitting between spouses, and state-subsidised pension arrangements with capital cover.
Since January 2005, the Law concerning the Expansion of Day Care [German link] has provided an additional focus. By 2010, 230,000 new day care places are to be created. This is intended to enhance the quality of care and to give parents more choice with regard to child care. This initiative is supported by the social welfare partner.

Relief for families and improved compatibility of career and family for mothers and fathers is thus another element in families policy. In addition, the political focus in the past two years has been increasingly on civil society commitment with local alliances for the family [German link].

In spite of the expansion of family policy in the direction of relieving families, especially women, who, according to the Federal Government’s Time Budgeting Study [German link], continue to bear the main burden of work in the family, the main focus of policy is still on financial transfer benefits. This orientation is not unproblematical from a Gender point of view with regard to the modernisation of the Welfare State. There is a risk that gender roles will be consolidated within families and the choices of women and men regarding career and family will be curtailed.

International comparison shows that a families policy aimed at housewives and mothers does not adequately reflect the real lives of women and men. This can be seen for example in the degree of willingness to start a family. Countries which situate care and nursing primarily in the family have a lower birth rate. Countries which consider care and nursing as primarily a state task mostly have a higher rate of employment (of women and men) and more children. As a rule, this also has a positive impact on economic growth.

As well as a low birth rate, countries with marked ‘familialism’ are experiencing fundamental difficulties with social security for their citizens. Average household incomes are lower and the risk of poverty for both single parent and two-parent families is greater. Countries like Sweden and Denmark, which integrate women into the labour market and professionalise family work, have conversely been able to stabilise their social security in the past few years. The correlation between a low level of women in employment and a high birth rate, still valid in the 1950s, is thus reversed. It is not a focus on the family (Germany and Spain) but the increase of choice for women and men (Sweden and Denmark) that brings about an increase in the birth rate under changed social framework conditions.

So a one-sided focus on simply giving financial assistance to families has considerable negative consequences. Fewer women in employment means that the tax base is smaller, and a low birth rate threatens to upset the balance between the generations in terms of social security. Gender equality and Gender Mainstreaming are thus proving themselves against the backdrop of international experience not as antagonistic to but indeed as a key to a modern families policy.

The present government coalition proposes to remove obstacles to the integration of women into the labour market and change role model patterns for men by, for example, giving tax allowances for child care and introducing parental benefit. At the same time, they propose to expand day care facilities for children and try out new models for nursing care for senior citizens. It has furthermore been set out in the coalition agreement that married women should no longer be subject to disadvantage in terms of income tax burden.

These approaches are beginning to reveal the contours of a family policy with a clear focus on enhancing individual freedom of choice, abolishing discrimination and equal participation of women and men in paid employment and work in the family. Looking at international experience, the Achilles tendon here is the provision of high quality, across-the-board child care. Only when all this is implemented will we be able to see whether the desired goals are being achieved and whether adjustments will be needed. There is a systematic discussion of the consequences of political measures for families under the heading Family Mainstreaming and elsewhere.


●    BMFSFJ: Das neue Kinderbetreuungsgesetz: Kinder kriegen mehr, brochure, 2005.
●    Esping-Andersen, Gosta: Social Foundation of Postindustrial Economics, 1999.
●    Gemeinsam für Deutschland – mit Mut und Menschlichkeit, Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und SPD [German link].
●    Hank, Karsten/Tölke, Angelike (Hg.): Männer – das „vernachlässigte“ Geschlecht in der Familienforschung, ZfF Sonderheft 4, Wiesbaden, 2005.
●    Sainsbury, Diane: Gender and Welfare State Regimes, 1999.
●    Statistisches Bundesamt: Wo bleibt die Zeit - Die Zeitverwendung der Bevölkerung in Deutschland 2001/02 [German link], 2003.
●    Statistisches Bundesamt, Alltag in Deutschland, Forum der Bundesstatistik, Bd. 43/2004.
erstellt von Administrator zuletzt verändert: 02.01.2010 20:07