Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Country profiles - Germany: Policies and progress towards investing in children


Central topics of debate around childhood in Germany are the implementation of Children´s Rights, protection against poverty, protection against sexual violence and abuse and the challenges brought by digitalisation, migration and diversity, as well as civic and democratic education. In addition, the massive expansion of early education and care services was one of Germany’s key policies in recent years and played a central role within debates about fostering children and their early learning and development.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is responsible at the national level for child and youth welfare. In dialogue with state (“Länder”) governments, local administrations and welfare organisations, the Ministry aims to ensure better integration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into the legal framework for the provision of child and youth welfare services. The Federal Government intends to explicitly recognize children’s rights in the constitution. To this end, a joint working group composed of representatives of the federal government and of the Länder governments has been tasked to work out a proposal for an amendment of the constitution until the end of 2019 at the latest.

Another relevant ministry on the national level is the Ministry for Education and Research, which understands education to be the basis for leading an autonomous, responsible and participatory life and the approach that provides children with the tools they need to meet the challenges of a changing and increasingly globalized world.

Family life and work life balance

Table 1: Employment  rates (15-64) in Germany, 2018






EU average


EU average

Overall employment rate





Part-time employment rate





Employment rate of adults with children aged less than six years old





Source: Eurostat, [lfsi_emp_a]; [lfsi_pt_a]; [lfst_hheredch]

Both the female and male employment rates have increased over the past ten years. In particular, mothers with young children have increased their labour market participation.

The leave system in place in Germany consists of:

  • Maternity leave covering 14 weeks. It is paid and offers some flexibility. Mothers may take six weeks before the birth of the child and eight weeks following the birth. Taking leave before the birth is voluntary and women may continue their education or work until the birth if it is their explicit personal decision.
  • Parental leave covering up to 3 years, of which 24 months can be taken up to the child’s eighth birthday, per parent. It offers two paid schemes and allows some flexibility. Parents may choose either an income-related benefit for parents taking full-time leave or a benefit scheme, replacing a portion of income if parents reduce their working hours. A combination of both is possible. Both parents are entitled to take leave at the same time and can take up to two leave intervals.

In order to make it easier for mothers and fathers to combine a parental allowance and part-time work, the German government has introduced Parental Allowance Plus with Partnership Bonus. A report of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs from 2018 found that the Partnership Bonus Model is especially attractive for fathers.

Three German federal states (Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia) also offer additional entitlements for carers in the form of cash-for-care allowances.

After a broader reform of the maternity protection law in 2017, a law updating the legislation on maternity protection came into force in 2018. It has expanded the groups who are considered protected mothers to include students and women in the national voluntary service and development cooperation services.

Combining work and family life responsibilities

As of 2016, 30.7% of the population reported find it difficult to combine paid work with care responsibilities – which is similar between women at 28.6% and men at 33%.

In 2015, 45% of employees reported having some or significant flexibility in their working hours or setting their own hours entirely, compared to the EU average of 44%.

The programme “Success Factor Family” – run by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs in cooperation with the main German Associations of the German economy and the German Trade Union Federation - promotes a family-friendly working environment. It aims to disseminate relevant information among entrepreneurs, executives and staff managers on how work and family responsibilities can be balanced and how, and at what cost, companies can be made more family-friendly. An integral element of the programme is the “Business Network Success Factor Family”, which is the central platform for companies in Germany who are interested in family-oriented personnel policy. Since its commencement in 2006, more than 7,000 members have joined the network.

Early Education and Care (ECEC)

Table 2: Percentage of children in childcare in Germany, 2017


Children aged 0-3

Children aged 3+



EU average


EU average

Children in full-time formal ECEC





Children in part-time formal ECEC





Children cared only by their parents





Source: Eurostat, [ilc_caindformal]; [ilc_caparents]

Since August 2013, the Childcare Funding Act (“Kinderförderungsgesetz – KiföG”) 2008 has provided a legal entitlement for children to a childcare place or to family day care from the age of one. Children of families with a refugee background have the same legal entitlement to early childhood education and day care facilities from the same age.

The Good Daycare Facilities Act (“Gute-KiTa-Gesetz”) came into force in January 2019 and aims to improve the quality of child daycare in Germany. The government plans to invest €5.5 billion in child daycare before 2022 and will conclude individual agreements with the 16 federal states, which themselves decide what exact measures they need – from a good staff-child-ratio to linguistic education for teachers and children. All recipients of child allowance and housing benefit will be exempt from fees and parental contributions will be differentiated according to social criteria. This Act will undergo monitoring and evaluation each year.

Table 3: Barriers to participation in ECEC, 2016



EU average

Percentage of children who reportedly do not have access to formal childcare services for financial reasons



Percentage of children who reportedly do not have access to formal childcare services for lack of places



Source: Eurostat, [ilc_ats04]

Child and family-funding schemes

Benefits offered to families in Germany include a universal child benefit to children until the child’s full legal age. The extension of this benefit until the child is 21 years of age is possible if children are registered as jobseekers, or until 25 years of age for children in education.

There is a supplementary child benefit for families on a low income, with the amount dependent on parental income and assets. It is designed for families where parental income and assets are sufficient to ensure the parents´ minimum basic standard of living, but not that of their children. Parents who claim this must live in the same household as their child, children must be unmarried and under 25 years old and parents must not be entitled to social welfare benefits or a specific unemployment benefit (“Arbeitslosengeld II”). Germany offers no family tax credit; however, tax allowances for families with children and tax breaks for childcare are available.

Children and families at risk of poverty and social exclusion

In 2017, 18.0% of children in Germany aged under 16 years were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to the EU average of 24.4% in the same year.

The Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth is implementing and/or initialising digital services that offer access and information to social benefits, in order to reduce administrative barriers for applicants and increasing their familiarity with relevant services and benefits.

In cities and areas of high population density, it is increasingly difficult for large families with low income to find affordable rented housing. The state's Social Housing Programme (“Soziale Wohnraumförderung”) promotes rented housing with affordable rents and the creation of owner-occupied residential properties, especially for the benefit of families with children.

Parents who receive supplementary child benefit or housing benefit for their children are also able (since 2011) to claim an education and participation benefit (“Teilhabeleistungen”). This provides support for activities such as day from school, school materials, an allowance for travel costs, learning support, and afternoon care. These benefits are implemented by local authorities.

A ‘Federal Foundation for Early Childhood Intervention’ has been operational since 2018. The foundation works with families to support the healthy development of children and ensure protection from violence. With the establishment of the foundation, federal funding for early childhood intervention became mandatory, and all municipalities are eligible to apply for financial support to further develop their networks and measures. The federal government has committed central funding each year to bolster funding provided by federal states and municipalities.

The youth promotion initiative, ‘Encouraging Youth’ (Jugend Stärken), run by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, consolidates existing programmes for young people from disadvantaged families and for young adults with migrant backgrounds (ages 12 to 26). Between 2019 and 2022, the programme ‘Supporting Youth in Deprived Neighbourhoods’ (Jugend Stärken im Quartier) also supports local authorities in priority neighbourhoods with the aim of helping socially or personally disadvantaged young people to enter school, vocational training, or employment.

Through the programme 'Culture Empowers – Alliances for Education' (Kultur macht stark – Bündnisse für Bildung), the Federal Ministry for Education also promotes extra-curricular measures for (educationally) disadvantaged children and young people aged 3–18 years old. The programme will continue from 2018 to 2022, with new central funding.

Migrant children and children of migrant parents

In 2018, 84,955 people applying for asylum in Germany were aged below 18 years old.

The network Youth Migration Services (Jugendmigrationsdienste – JMD) operates as part of the youth promotion initiative Jugend Stärken for young people from disadvantaged families and for young adults with migrant backgrounds (aged 12 to 26). It consists of 465 services across Germany which offer professional support and advice for young people with migration backgrounds and their families.

A new model project 'jmd2start' offers a wide range of support specifically for young refugees who have recently arrived in Germany: for example, in finding a language or integration course; searching for a school, internship, vocational training or employment; engaging with civil services and authorities; or finding support in the case of personal problems with friends or family.

The at-risk-of poverty rate for children whose parents are citizens of a non-EU country was 21.8% in 2017. This is below the EU average of 40.6% in the same year.

Children with disabilities

As of 2018, Germany offers no specific allowances for children with disabilities. However, allowances for individuals with disabilities are applicable to children as well. This includes a lump sum depending on the level of disability of the recipient (“Behinderten Pauschbetrag”).

The right of persons with disabilities to education and training appropriate to their needs is enshrined in the Basic Law (“Grundgesetz”, Art. 3), in equality legislation, in Book Twelve of the Social Code (“Sozialgesetzbuch XII – Sozialhilfe”), and in the “Länder” constitutions. More detailed provisions are set out in the school legislation (“Schulgesetze”) of the federal states. The regulations on the participation rights differ between federal states.

Children living in single parent households

As of 2017, in Germany, 21.2% of single parents were experiencing material and social deprivation. This is similar to the EU average of 28.4% in the same year.

Local networks provide support for single parents, including, for example, on coping with everyday life and on taking up employment. Another instrument is a tax relief measure in light of the extra burden of single parents.

Germany offers advance payment of maintenance (“Unterhaltsvorschuss”) for children brought up by single parents, if the other parent does not pay child maintenance regularly. The amount received depends on the age of the children and was increased in 2018.

Innovative practices

Further information on programmes and initiatives of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth can be found at the portal www.fruehe-chancen.de. This includes the following current federal programs and initiatives:

  • “The federal programme “Sprach-Kitas: Weil Sprache der Schlüssel zur Welt ist” (‘Language-Day-Care: Because language is the key to the world’). This promotes language education in the daily routine of day care centres.
  • The federal programme “KitaPlus: Weil gute Betreuung keine Frage der Uhrzeit ist” (‘Day-CarePlus: Because good day care is not a matter of time of day’). This promotes extended care hours for day care facilities and childminders to allow parents to better balance work and family life.
  • The federal program “ProKindertagespflege: Wo Bildung für die Kleinsten beginnt” (‘ProChildminding: Where education starts for the youngest’) supports the qualification of childminders, the improvement of their working conditions and their cooperation with municipalities. The programme intends to strengthen the educational mandate for childminders of children under the age of three.
  • The federal programme “Kita-Einstieg: Brücken bauen in frühe Bildung” (“Day-Care-Enrolment: Building bridges to early education”) supports services which aim to prepare child for entry into day care.


The indicators used in this profile are drawn from the following sources: Eurostat, Eurofound Quality of Life Survey 2016 and the European Working Conditions Survey 2015, the Mutual Information System on Social Protection (MISSOC, ‘Family Benefits’ indicators) and the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASNIE) 2014 Dataset Cross-Country Report, published in 2017. Information on children in institutions was drawn from the Opening Doors country profiles (http://www.openingdoors.eu/).

The following Eurostat indicators were used: [ilc_caparents], [ilc_caindformal], [ilc_ats04], [educ_uoe_fine06], [tesem180], [lfst_hheredty], [lfst_hheredch], [lfsi_pt_a], [lfsi_emp_a], [ilc_peps01], [lfst_hh2jchi], [ilc_mdho06b], [ilc_li33], [migr_asyunaa], [migr_asyappctza] and [ilc_mdsd02]. Eurostat data was extracted 21 May 2019. 

The data available on these platforms is provided by Member States and are subject to the individual limitations of the Member State data collection processes.

These country profiles were updated from March-May 2019.

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