Myth and Reality 202 Mar 2006
So, did you all do your homework?
The Newsweek article Myth & Reality is in our experience mostly correct. Germany seems to go out of its way to make it difficult to be parents in a two-career household, and career women. Parents are allowed 3 years of parental leave, with employers bearing most of the costs... with the consequence that employers simply don't hire women unless they can afford for them to leave for 3 years. Second incomes are taxed at such a high rate that after taxes, transportation and child care, there is no financial incentive left to seek work. And Germany's half-day school system ensures that second earners can work at best part-time.
Duncan points out that my own family has profited from Germany's generous family benefits. Not exactly, we profited in spite of the "benefits". My wife works for an American company, where it is encouraged to place women in positions of authority, even women with children. She also planned her leave carefully, taking only 1 year, and staying in close contact with her office. She's always been the main earner, and it would have been a disaster for us had her career stagnated. Luckily we were able to buck the system. Most of the college-educated mothers we know here have not, and are frustrated.
Keeping women out of responsible positions for ancient notions of "family values" is a luxury. Over half of university graduates are women. How long can Germany afford to encourage them to stay home instead of work?