What it can mean to be parents under exceptional conditions, most mothers and fathers felt in the Corona crisis: stress from morning to evening, and hardly any perspective as to when this will change again. In addition, fears of existence and loss of income due to short-time work, no vacations, hardly any relief. The whole family structure often slipped, role models believed to have been overcome solidified again, as numerous studies have found, including a survey by the Hans Böckler Foundation published on Wednesday.
However, families in Germany are increasingly under pressure regardless of Corona. This is indicated in the family report that was presented in Berlin this Wednesday. The ninth report since 1968 should actually be published by the end of 2020. However, the publication of the 600-page bundle was delayed and, due to the corona, could only take place digitally.
Under the chairmanship of the research director of the German Youth Institute, Sabine Walper, the seven-person commission tackled numerous topics that have been controversial for years: spouse splitting, changeover model, family reunification for migrants, the position of mothers, high rents, parental allowance, inequality of opportunity in education, all-day schools. The report entitled “To be parents in Germany” complains above all about the increasing social division. From the point of view of the Expert Commission, it will continue if all possible adjusting screws are not turned in a concerted effort to improve families.
After the report was presented in the cabinet, Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey (SPD) said that the report would encourage the federal government to continue to relieve parents and to put security and opportunities for all families at the center of political action in the next legislature. “After the effective measures with which we have brought parents better through the crisis, the task now is to create reliable prospects for the families,” said Giffey. It is particularly important to her “to finally break the knot with the federal states regarding the legal entitlement to all-day care for children of primary school age”.
According to the chairman of the commission, Sabine Walper, parents are under so much pressure because the role of parents has changed significantly. Fathers and mothers increasingly geared themselves towards the needs of children. Above all, parents with fewer socio-economic resources foregoing a lot for their children.
The Commission calls for more and better all-day education
Then there are the challenges of digitization and its consequences for everyday family life. Above all, parents feel challenged in the field of school and education. “Parents know about the key role of education in the knowledge society and are aware of the advantages of good education across all social classes,” says Walper. But doing homework with the children and supporting them in a targeted manner is not possible for many parents. Only half of the fathers and mothers from weaker social classes are convinced that they can support their child sufficiently, compared with almost 80 percent of parents from higher social classes.
Single parents would also be at a disadvantage here. “Children from socially disadvantaged families benefit above all from the high quality of childcare,” writes the commission. She therefore urges the introduction of the right to a full-time place in elementary school as soon as possible.
In order to take pressure off the parents and to shape a sustainable family policy, the report generally names three main areas: money, time and infrastructure. Parental leave and parental allowance are effective instruments to enable a good start in family development, says Walper. At the moment, however, many parents are facing much bigger problems in lockdown. Therefore, compensating for loss of income caused by childcare and the support of distance learning must have high priority, she demands. Child benefit and the discussion about needs-based child protection are even more important today than before the pandemic.
Against this background, the Commission calls for a rethink and greater support for disadvantaged families. “The logic of the tax allowances, which lead to a special promotion of higher earners, has to be set against or alongside a logic of needs-based financial support for children,” said Walper.
The best protection against poverty: two parents who work
The best protection against poverty is still to have two working parents in the family. The aim must therefore be that mothers also participate substantially in working life. This is made even more difficult by the current tax law, criticizes Walper. “In this context, the commission has once again taken a critical look at spousal splitting and has proposed the abolition of tax classes 3 and 5 and a longer-term restructuring in the direction of real splitting.” The commission is also calling for a more dynamic parental allowance to encourage fathers to take parental leave.
In schools, the commission urges more support for parents. Teachers should be given more time to talk to them. This could be achieved by reducing the teaching load for teachers for one hour. Multi-professional teams in schools such as social workers and health professionals should also be the rule.