These incentives aim to ease the financial burden of paying fees for kindergartens in Germany. Mothers are often awarded special treatment and protection for themselves and their young children. This also means, however, that gender roles in Germany often follow a traditional pattern where full-time working mothers and career women with little kids are rarer than in other countries.
Kindergartens in Germany used to close their doors during lunch time and reopen in the afternoon - mothers were expected to take care of their kids during that time. These expectations are gradually changing. Germany’s declining birth rate in particular has provoked many a discussion on co-parenting, childcare reform, new opening hours for kindergartens in Germany, and related topics. Some expatriates may find the relative conservatism when it comes to daycare and kindergartens in Germany surprising.
In Germany, families receive special care and protection from the state. Parents residing in Germany are entitled to several kinds of government funding, from well before the time their child will be attending kindergarten in Germany and well beyond.
The rates for income tax in Germany are not only dependent on your income, but also on whether you are a parent or not. Moreover, all parents who have been living in Germany for over six months get a so-called child allowance (Kindergeld) of at least 184€ per month for every child under 18. This can help pay for school supplies or sending your kid to a kindergarten in Germany. When you file your yearly tax return, the tax office (Finanzamt) assesses whether you are entitled to additional tax breaks or whether the child allowance itself is enough for a parent with your income.
Expat parents with a valid residence or settlement permit also benefit from this regulation. If you are a national of an EEA member state or Switzerland, you don’t even need a permit in order to receive your monthly child allowance. There are further exceptions for citizens of Algeria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Tunisia, and Turkey. To learn more about child allowance legislation, ask your local Arbeitsagentur (employment agency).
While child allowance is a financial benefit for all parents with kids from 0 to 18, maternity protection (Mutterschutz) applies to women far advanced in pregnancy and mothers of new-born infants. Every expecting working woman in Germany, regardless of her nationality, goes on maternity leave six weeks before her due date. After giving birth, she stays at home for another eight weeks. If she is not self-employed and has state-funded health insurance, she will keep receiving her average net income during the entire period. You can find official German-language information on maternal leave, maternity protection, and maternity allowance on the website of the Ministry for Family Affairs.
To support parents with babies and toddlers too young to attend a kindergarten in Germany financially, the German government introduced the so-called parental allowance (Elterngeld). If you are an expat parent, you can receive it under certain conditions:
If you meet these conditions, you will get 65% of your former average net income (up to a maximum of 1,800€) for 12-14 months. It gets much more complicated, though, when you have several children, would like to share childcare with your partner, accept a job, receive unemployment benefits etc. For detailed information, see this PDF-leaflet compiled by the Ministry for Family Affairs.
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