To encourage higher birthrates and allow parents to leave the house in search of work, Germany has promised that all families will have ready access to daycare services. The new law, which guarantees all children 12 months or older a slot in a daycare center, faces substantial funding challenges, especially in urban areas where populations are most highly concentrated. “Only three weeks ago, the German Association of Cities warned that 90,000 of the more than 800,000 daycare slots pledged by Schröder still weren’t ready.” Observers say the government has underestimated the percentage of parents who would seek a public daycare option.
What’s the Big Idea?
Universal daycare is only the latest policy out of Berlin meant to turn the tide of Germany’s historically low birthrate. “Early on in her tenure, Merkel instituted parental leave benefits that are widely considered some of the most generous in Europe. Under the program, parents can receive up to 65 percent of their monthly salary over a period of up to 14 months.” Germany currently spends $270 billion annually to promote children and families, yet its birthrate remains among the lowest in Europe at 1.39 children per woman aged 15 to 49.