Are economic incentives for moms to stay at home around the corner? Young Germans want it.
CRITICS call it a “hearth bonus” or “keep-your-kids-out-of-school money”. The government prefers Betreuungsgeld (“child-care benefit”). Few of its ideas are as contentious as a planned €150 ($199) monthly payment to parents who do not put their children into crèches. Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, defends this as “an essential part of our policy of freedom of choice.” But it seems to contradict much of what she stands for.
The issue is highly contentious right now, but what is most striking about the report is that younger Germans – those most likely to be mothers and fathers in the near future – are the proposal’s strongest supporters.
In truth Mrs Merkel is catering to traditional ideas of motherhood, which remain tenacious in Germany. More than a quarter of parents of young children think mothers should stay at home, according to Allensbach, a pollster. Most 18- to 29-year-olds support the new benefit, although overall public opinion is sceptical. The biggest reason for Mrs Merkel’s support is to please the CSU, which is by tradition the largest party in Bavaria. Crèches do not improve children’s educational prospects, the party insists, and they can jeopardise their emotional development.
This is good news, and a much needed development in the wake of unceasing demands for more and more government-sponsored daycare. Allowing freedom of choice is one thing. Sponsoring daycare while refusing the same honor to stay-at-home moms is another.