Is Germany’s “Stay-At-Home” Bonus Plan Anti-Women?
Starting next year, the German government would like to put a little money in the pockets of stay-at-home parents. The E.U. Commmission in Brussels doesn’t approve, saying the bonus scheme encourages mother's not to rejoin the workforce.
BERLIN -- The E.U. Commission has reservations about the bonus that, come 2013, the German government wants to start paying stay-at-home parents. In Germany, critics have dubbed it the "Herdprämie," meaning kitchen-stove bonus.
The European Union's Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor told Die Welt that "giving parents an incentive to stay home by giving them money for doing so weakens the work force." Andor said he was surprised that the German government would encourage women to stay at home and look after their children. "The European policy of promoting the presence of women in the working world is absolutely clear," he said.
The bonus could have some undesirable consequences for the German government at the European level because -- within the framework of measures taken to combat the present crisis -- Berlin too has to present national reform programs to the E.U. Commission. Adopting such a bonus could make Germany, which likes to see itself as something of a maverick economically speaking, appear as if it is hobbling its national economy.
A dearth of state-provided daycare
The social minister for the German state of Bavaria, Christine Haderthauer, was outraged by the criticism from Brussels. "The E.U. Commission's sweeping blow to family policy stems from ignorance of the subject," she said. Haderthauer is one of the strongest advocates of the bonus. She pointed out that it's not an either/or situation. "All parents, irrespective of whether or how much they work, would get the bonus if they organize an alternative to daycare centers or other pre-school arrangements for their kids," Haderthauer said.
In reply to questions from Die Welt, E.U. Commissioner Andor criticized the inadequacy of state-provided daycare in Germany. He said he is aware Germany is working to improve the situation, but "would very much welcome it if they would increase the number of places available in daycare centers." Brussels, in other words, wants more kindergartens, not stay-at-home bonuses.
The German government must now provide a statement in writing that the planned bonus will not get in the way of integrating women fully into the work force. The E.U. Commission is not in a position to impose any sort of punitive measures, but its disapproval of the bonus plan will undoubtedly generate further debate about it in Germany, where it's a source of disagreement not only between the government and the opposition, but also within the government coalition itself.
Read the original article in German
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