A Generous Array of Child-Raising Benefits

GERMANY has some of the most generous maternity and child-raising benefits in Europe. Parents in more than 95 percent of eligible families take advantage of the benefits, although this group is almost exclusively mothers.

Maternity leave: Fully paid for 14 weeks (six weeks prior to delivery, eight weeks after). Employers and insurance companies share cost.

Child-raising leave: Three years unpaid leave following maternity leave, with guarantee of same or similar-status job upon return to workplace. Applies to fathers or mothers, or time can be split between parents. Only 1.2 percent of those taking the leave are fathers. (Most families don't want to sacrifice the father's higher income.)

Child-raising benefit: At birth, federal payment of 600 deutsche marks ($382) tax-free per month for up to two years (the payment is adjusted after seven months according to income). This is in addition to a federal flat-rate benefit.

Flat-rate benefit: Tax-free monthly payments of DM 70 ($45) for the first child; DM 130 ($83) for the second child; DM 220 ($140) for the third child; and DM 240 ($153) for every child after that. Payments last until age 16 or the conclusion of the child's higher education or professional training.

Sick leave: Federally mandated, fully paid 10-day leave per parent to care for a sick child. Single parents are eligible for 20 days of leave.

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