In the Berlin coalition in particular, it was important to us to see that families and children can get through the pandemic better now, but we also had to orientate ourselves on the decision of the Prime Minister’s Conference. I have the impression that the federal level still does not see enough that more needs to be done for families and children. That needs a higher priority. It is good that there are now additional teething days. But they will be used up by the end of February. What happens after that? What if the lockdown lasts even longer? Or if the child falls ill again in April or May? In addition, they are only available to those with statutory health insurance. I would have liked a more long-term solution for all families with their individual needs.
How do you feel about the decision that the schools won’t reopen until February 15th at the earliest ???
I can understand that this is necessary due to the pandemic situation. But I don’t have a long-term plan of what that means for the students. All the questions that are now being asked about qualifications or whether the school year can be repeated voluntarily must now be decided and initiated. I also see that the current situation is very difficult for parents, so the least we can do is to show clear perspectives on how things can continue at an early stage.
What would you have done differently as a Green politician?
In the first wave, for example, we Greens proposed a Corona parental allowance. This could be designed in such a way that both parents take on part of the care work and continue to work part-time. It should have been designed in such a way that the self-employed also benefit from it, which is not the case with the childhood illness days. Far too many still fall through the cracks because no one has given it a priority. For example, I would have sent people to the home office earlier so that the incidence could be kept low and schools could open up faster.
Nevertheless, I am glad that we in Berlin guarantee care for all children who really need it through the emergency care in daycare centers. But it is also clear: Home office and childcare do not go together – parents whose child is not entitled to emergency care therefore need alternatives such as our Corona parental allowance.
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At the moment, homeschooling and childcare are often left with mothers. As you write in your book, the problems are much more fundamental. What would have to change so that in the next pandemic the tasks would be divided more equitably between men and women?
We need a broad consensus that children’s rights must be given a higher priority in our society. If we think about family policy in terms of the child, this also has an impact on the work and life of the parents. Even at normal times, without Corona, parents can hardly create two full-time jobs with a child or children, not to mention the needs of the children. It is therefore understandable that many parents go part-time. But it is almost always the women because they have less on the pay slip. It is therefore important to ensure that men and women earn the same amount so that they can share care and gainful employment equally. This could be achieved through various policy instruments.
The se are the many social professions, carers and educators, which are often paid below average, but are important for social cohesion. A real quota of women in the executive suite would be another piece of the puzzle.
[Nina Stahr ist seit 2016 Vorsitzende von Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Berlin. Neben der Führung des Landesverbands in der rot-rot-grünen Regierung hat sie vor allem bildungs- und familienpolitische Schwerpunkte gesetzt. Zuletzt hat sie das Buch “Die Krise ist weiblich – wie wir Familienaufgaben gerechter aufteilen und was Politik dafür tun muss” geschrieben.]
Often it goes like this: Many women, especially in a university city like Berlin, study for a long time, only find a job late, then only work for a short time until the first child arrives and then drastically reduce their working hours because the man earns well. How could that be changed?
Parental allowance is another important controlling element here. It would have to be divided up in partnership. Our Green parliamentary group has already presented concepts for this. Incentives for this would have to be created through bonus months. Due to biological factors, it is of course often the case that the woman stays at home for the time being, but the switch that the father could take care of the child relatively soon just as well often does not happen – because there is a lack of role models. In Sweden you only get full parental allowance if you split it up in partnership. If you intervene like this, you create a social change. My husband, who took on most of the parental leave for our second and third child, was ridiculed by his colleagues for this. Often they are just small, pointed comments.
Quite often there are even more than sharp remarks. Many men are under pressure at work. Conservative bosses, especially in medium-sized companies, naturally assume that, for example, doctor’s appointments or sick days are automatically taken over by the woman. How would you intervene here?
When it becomes more common for men to take care of care work, it will become easier in the long run.
The two months of parental leave that fathers usually take are now also accepted. Now if I hire a young woman as a boss, I know that if she becomes pregnant, she will probably be absent for a year. But if I employ a young man, he will probably only be absent for two months, which I can easily bridge. If both parents are about the same length, as in Scandinavia, then the man is no longer necessarily given preferential treatment. And the discussion about why the man must stay at home now will also disappear at some point. It’s a process. But that would also require protection against dismissal for men who want to take parental leave, which is currently not available.
How else can politics intervene?
We need a consensus that we want to support families and that both parents cannot work 40 hours a week, otherwise the children will be in daycare for ten hours a day. Shorter working hours, a 30-hour week for parents, would be helpful. More home office so that long travel times are eliminated and more flexible working hours. That takes a lot of pressure off the parents. Of course, there must not be any delimitation of professional and private life. We also need a more comprehensive right to return from part-time to full-time.
Most of them do not work full-time voluntarily, but because they want to maintain the standard of living for the family.
One would have to discuss whether one can help out with compensation payments in the low-wage area.
The re are also families who cannot afford fathers to take parental leave because the family cannot forego a third of the man’s salary. You have to think in terms of the child and ask why only certain children have the right to be looked after by their father. For many, however, it is not always a financial problem.
The y just don’t want to get a kink in the corporate ladder or are afraid of not finding their way back to a full-time position.
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The average salary of women in Germany is around 3500 euros gross monthly. Most of them work part-time. What can a woman expect in old age if for most of her life she has only earned around 2000 euros net per month?
This ensures that if a woman has paid into the pension fund for 35 years and has earned 2000 euros net, she will end up with a good 700 euros in pension. That is below the subsistence level. If the husband dies, she gets a bit of a widow’s pension, which is usually not worth mentioning, and in the event of a divorce many pension points are lost. As a woman, you automatically slip into old-age poverty very quickly. I am very much in favor of every woman being able to decide how much she wants to work, but in my opinion many mothers do not currently have this freedom of choice because the structures are like that. This is often not chosen by us, but a forced fate and that’s where we have to deal.
Incidentally, nationwide only ten percent of women have a net income of more than 2,000 euros. And only just under 40 percent of women between 30 and 50 years of age work full-time; for men, it is almost 90 percent. In my research, I found it exciting, by the way, that homosexual couples with children are also divided like this: one parent is mainly gainfully employed, the other mainly takes care of the child and the household – simply because it is easier to organize in Germany if only one of them is out Concentrated on the job and the other on the children.
What personal tip do you have that the fair division works better for couples?
As a politician, I’m actually not responsible for personal tips, but for creating the framework. At the same time, of course, my personal experiences help me: I have three children and work full-time and of course there are discussions at home about who clears the dishwasher when and who does how much in the household. Or when we both have appointments at the same time. We don’t want our children to be looked after by others all the time in addition to the daycare. I know the stumbling blocks and therefore fight to make it easier for parents to share care work more equally. But just the discussions about dishwashers, washing clothes or who can keep which appointment when – these will also be resolved by the abolition of spouse splitting and no reform of parental allowance, however good it may be.
As annoying as that is: Equality has to be fought for in private time and again. We all grew up with certain role models, and sometimes it’s easier to do the laundry yourself quickly than to discuss it forever.
But then you quickly slip back into the old, learned patterns. That is why it is important to exchange ideas with your partner at an early stage and to evaluate again and again whether things are going as they both imagined, so that you do not inadvertently slip into a role that you can no longer get out of – that is I experienced too often.
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Family life corona crisis childhood illness days Berlin