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Germany

Why So Few Germans Are Taking Advantage Of New Family Care Leave

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG(Germany)

Worldcrunch

BERLIN- This past year was the first for Germany's innovative new Family Care Leave law that allows workers to take time off the job to care for needy relatives. But since coming into force at the beginning of 2012, Germany has met with little interest according to Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) statistics seen by Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Only 135 individuals exercised the option under the terms of the new law, which allow working people to reduce their time by up to 15 hours a week for a maximum period of two years.

Employers pay 75% of the worker's salary for the off-time and in return, workers work at reduced rates once they return full-time to their job. Interest-free loans are available to employers to pay the advances and an insurance policy is required for the event that the worker cannot repay the advance.

In Germany more than 1.6 million people are cared for at home either by relatives or home care services. In situations such as this, most employers make tailor-made arrangements not involving state help with employees caring for relatives at home.

A government spokesperson said that "major social undertakings" such as the Family Care Leave law required a certain amount of time to take hold and that the support of unions and employee associations was essential "for the possibility to gradually become the rule."

The BDA – the federation of German employers' associations – criticized the project sharply. "The figures show that the law is unnecessary," a spokesperson said.

Employers and employees could, depending on the company and the specifics of individual cases, create their own solutions. "Legal regulation is at best superfluous and at worst harmful," the BDA spokesperson said.

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Coronavirus

Why Making COVID Predictions Is Actually Getting Harder

We know more about COVID than ever before, but that doesn't make it easier to predict what will happen this year. It also remains to be seen if we'll put the lessons we learned into practice.

​A young boy who arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

A young boy who arrived from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

Duncan Robertson

In 2020, we knew very little about the novel virus that was to become known as COVID-19. Now, as we enter 2023, a search of Google Scholar produces around five million results containing the term.

So how will the pandemic be felt in 2023? This question is in some ways impossible to answer, given a number of unknowns. In early 2020, the scientific community was focused on determining key parameters that could be used to make projections as to the severity and extent of the spread of the virus. Now, the complex interplay of COVID variants, vaccination and natural immunity makes that process far more difficult and less predictable.

But this doesn’t mean there’s room for complacency. The proportion of people estimated to be infected has varied over time, but this figure has not fallen below 1.25% (or one in 80 people) in England for the entirety of 2022. COVID is very much still with us, and people are being infected time and time again.

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