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«Katharina Maul, Mandy Boehnke, Silke Tophoven, Michael Feldhaus, Johannes Huinink University of Bremen Institute of Empirical and Applied Sociology ...»

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Female employment and childbearing plans in Germany

Katharina Maul, Mandy Boehnke, Silke Tophoven, Michael Feldhaus, Johannes Huinink

University of Bremen

Institute of Empirical and Applied Sociology (EMPAS)

Celsiusstr. FVG-Mitte

28359 Bremen (Germany)

Preliminary national report for the RECWOWE task “Fertility, female employment and

reconciliation policies”

1. Introduction

This paper wants to investigate the relationship between female labor force participation,

reconciliation policies and fertility in the particular national context of Germany. We will see that it is necessary to further divide Germany and to look and the eastern parts (former GDR) and western parts separately.

The focus of this paper lies on family foundation processes.

2. Background on Germany The aim of this section is to give an overview of the context in which German couples plan and have their children. Germany, being a conservative welfare state in Esping-Andersen’s classification (1990), is supposed to promote traditional living-arrangements, like the male bread-winner model.

These characterization will be verified by analyzing the developments regarding fertility, female labor force participation and reconciliation politics.

2.1. Low fertility in Germany for decades Like almost all other industrialized societies Germany is facing fertility rates below reproduction level for several decades now. Birth rates began to sink at the end of the 60s after the so-called baby boom.

The decreasing rates were due to later and fewer births. Women began to be more engaged in the labor market. New contraceptives made it possible to plan parenthood. The development of birth rates in the former GDR differs strongly from the development in the FDR. Even though a similar decrease in birth rates can be observed, family politics were able to influence this development and birth rates increased during the 80s, although they could not reach replacement level. With reunification EastGermany experienced a “demographic shock”. Fertility rate sank to historically unique numbers below one (Huinink/ Schröder 2008).

Figure 1: Total Fertility Rate in Germany 1871-2006 Germany West-Germany East-Germany Source: BIB 2008: 36.

Even though the total fertility rate is rather discontinuous, the realized fertility stayed relatively constant at 1.6 children per women for cohorts born 1940 and later. This low number is the result of fewer high-parities births1 on the one hand and a rising percentage of childless women on the other.

Figure 2: Cohort Fertility Rate for cohorts 1865-1966

–  –  –

Source: BIB 2008: 38.

Another important point in fertility development, which greatly influences the total fertility rate, is the rising age at first motherhood. Again, differences between women in Eastern and Western Germany can be observed. Women in the GDR had their children traditionally early. This circumstance is partly still valid, even though women in the East follow the Western trend and seem to adapt the pattern of late births (Huinink/ Schröder 2008).

2.2. Female employment is interrupted by childcare The enrollment of women in the labor market has been rising for the last decades. The development goes along with a higher participation in the educational system and a higher percentage of working mothers. In 2007, 71 percent of the 15 to 65 year old women and 82 percent of the 15 to 65 year old men were employed (Statistisches Bundesamt 2008a). The difference in gender is due to a different effect of having children on the employment. Women tend to take a career break and reduce working hours to raise their children. As can be seen in the following table the effect of children on female employment is moderated by education of women and the region (East or West Germany) they are from2.

–  –  –

In all groups women with young children are less often employed than women without children or mothers whose children are older. Women with university education stay employed more often even though they have young children. Another effect can be observed for the region in which the woman lives. A higher percentage of women living in the New Länder are employed while having young children. This refers to the different cultural heritage in the regions. The norm for women to be employed has been promoted in the GDR very much, while in the FDR not only the role as housewife was and is much more accepted, but also the attitude that young children have to be cared for by the mother and that they would suffer from institutional childcare was and is more dominant (Gender Datenreport 2005).

The focus of women on raising the children can also be seen when analyzing the working hours of women. Most women with young children reduce their working hours. They are either part-time or marginal employed. Marginal employment relationships are usually restricted to a certain income (400 Euros at the moment) and few working hours. Many of these jobs do not require formal qualification.

They are mostly hold by women to have an additional income for their family. Marginal employment has a special status in social law. Employers normally do not pay for social insurance and tax. With marginal employment one usually does earn only little pension rights. In December 2008, 6.7 million people had a part-time job with an income not higher than 400 Euros. 63 percent of them were women.





In addition 173,165 people worked in private households. 92 percent of these employees were women (Deutsche Rentenversicherung).

–  –  –

The differences in working hours can be seen in the table above. One third of all employed and married women with young children work less than ten hours a week. From this employment they do not earn enough for a living so they have to rely on a partner or the state. State policies did not substitute this loss of income until 2007.

In general, female employment in Germany differs very much between women with and without children. While Germany is among those with the highest female employment rate in the OECD (rank 7), this picture changes once only mothers are looked at. Here, Germany reaches rank 12 only. Most of the German women are employed part-time while for men full-time arrangements are normal. With regard to the extent of working hours we find a difference between the East and West German women, the latter working to a higher percentage part-time (27.8 vs. 45.3 percent) (Gender Datenreport 2005).

2.3. Family policies with growing interest for reconciliation policies The typical German model of labor division between men and women is the male breadwinner model.

This implies an institutional regime which encourages women to cease to work after the birth of a child. The father then has the task to support the family. A modified version of the male breadwinner model implies the encouragement of women to change working full-time into working just part-time.

Political arrangements are jointly responsible for women’s courses of action. In addition to that or because of that in West Germany especially prejudices against working mothers with young children can be detected. The improvement of reconciliation of work and family in Germany first became an important political issue with the change of government in 1998 (Bothfeld et al. 2005).

Legal regulations of parental leave influence the labor market behaviour of young mothers and fathers.

There is empirical evidence that a long-lasting leave makes it more difficult to return to the labor market. Furthermore, a low payment during the period of parental leave has a negative influence on the decision to have a baby in the first place (Eichhorst et al. 2007).

Child benefit (Kindergeld) in Germany In Germany, child benefit amounts 164 € per month and per child. For the third child families receive 170 €, for the fourth and subsequent children 195 € per month. Child benefit is normally paid until the age of 18. If children are unemployed, the benefit is paid until the age of 21 and if it is enrolled in further education until the age of 25. For disabled children the benefit is not limited at all. There is also the possibility to receive a tax allowance instead of receiving monthly child benefit. This is more profitable for families with higher income (MISSOC 2008).

Tax Relieves for German families Germany’s tax system rewards married couples. Spouses can choose between being assessed separately or jointly. In case of jointly assessment the income of both spouses is summed up and divided by two (splitting of income between spouses). The normal income tax scale is applied of each half. The calculated amount is doubled and this result is the couple’s tax due. In case of splitting of income between spouses the rate of taxation is particularly low if one spouse earns much less than the other one or even nothing, giving the women an incentive not to be employed. Beside income splitting between spouses there are other tax relieves based on having children (Dingeldey 2002). Another tax relief for families is as mentioned before the possibility to choose between child allowance and child benefit.

Development of Maternity and Parental Leave in the Federal Republic of Germany3 Since 1952 mothers are not permitted to work six weeks before the expected date of birth and (up to) eight weeks after birth (until 1968 six weeks) (Mutterschutz). During this period women receive a payment (Mutterschaftsgeld). This law – with little modification – has been valid until today. The intention of it is to protect pregnant women and new mothers for health reasons.

–  –  –

For the same reasons, a law concerning maternity leave (Mutterschaftsurlaub) was passed in 1979 to give mothers the possibility of having a break with pay lasting up to six months after giving birth.

More focussing on employment and social policy reasons, parental leave (Erziehungsurlaub) and childrearing allowance (Erziehungsgeld) were newly arranged in 1986 and have often been modified since then. Especially the duration of a possible leave and payment was more and more enlarged.

For details see table A2 in the appendix Since 1992 the duration of leave and the duration of payment differ. It was then possible to take a leave without financial support.

During the time of leave, mothers and fathers can not be dismissed. Their workplaces are supposed to be secured during this time. From 1979 to 1968 mothers could return to their old job after their break.

Since 1986 parents have a guarantee that they can return to a similar job.

The first version of parental leave in Germany only applied to mothers. Since 1986, fathers have been given the possibility to take parental leave as well. Since 2001, fathers and mothers are able to take leave together or to share the parental leave with each other (Elternzeit). Furthermore, the duration and payment of parental leave has become more flexible. Parents can choose between receiving childraising allowance for one or two years. Additionally, parents can opt to take the third year of parental leave (without cash benefit) at some time before the child’s 8th birthday (Bird 2004, 309 – 312).

Another arrangement concerning working parents is the child sick leave. In case of a child’s sickness, parents can take up to 10 days off if they have one child and up to 20 sick days if they have two or more children. Single parents receive twice as many days off (Kreyenfeld 2004, 284).

A major change concerning financial support during parental leave was passed in 2007. The so-called Elterngeld (parental allowance) now replaces the childrearing allowance. This cash benefit is at present 67 percent of the income before having a child. The maximum benefit is 1,800 €. The former income of parents shall be replaced by parental allowance. Expectations towards parental allowance were on the one hand to increase birth-rates among higher educated women and on the other hand to make women’s employment more continuous. Mothers should have more incentives to re-entry earlier in their former job (Spieß and Wrohlich 2006).

Development of Family Benefits in the German Democratic Republic4 In the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a child benefit for parents was paid as well. In addition, a birth grant was paid uniquely at a child’s birth (in most cases more than one monthly salary).

Maternity and paternity leave were also common but not lasting as long as in the FRG. Maternity leave usually lasted 14 weeks and could be prolonged up to 18 weeks (until 1972), later up to 26 weeks. Since 1972, single mothers have been able to take a paid leave of one year in case no day care was available. Since 1976, mothers with two and more children have been given a paid break of one year. In 1984, the leave was extended to 18 months for mothers with three and more children. Since 1986, all mothers have had the opportunity of a paid leave for one year. Furthermore, some arrangements have been made for single mothers and mothers with more than one child (since 1972).

Their working hours have been reduced and it has become possible for them to have a leave in case of a child’s sickness. Mothers with two and more children have been given more holidays (Kreyenfeld 2004, 280).

For details see table A3 in the appendix

2. 4. Childcare Facilities in Germany Childcare facilities are an important condition for the reconcilability of work and family. 3,218,983 places in childcare facilities were offered in 2007. 2,981,993 children were registered in a childcare facility. Thus, 93 percent of all places were taken. 78 percent of the children were between three and seven years old, 9 percent were under the age of three. The rest of the children were already attending school (see table A5 in the appendix).

–  –  –

Source: National Education Report 2008.

The data differ considerably between the Eastern (former GDR) and the Western part of Germany. In East Germany, more children under the age of three are cared for in facilities (40 per cent of all children in this age group). In West Germany, only 10 percent of the under three-year olds use childcare centres. Additionally, more school children in East Germany have a place in after-school childcare. 31 percent of children in childcare facilities are school children, in West Germany only 8 percent (table A5).



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