Effective today, August 1, 2018, parents will no longer have to pay fees to place their children in municipal childcare centers in Berlin. Last month, the state’s regional government announced that childcare in Berlin would be free for children from the ages of zero to six.
Sandra Scheeres, Berlin’s Social Democratic (SPD) Senator for Education, Youth and Family, spoke to DW about the decision to make childcare in Berlin free, saying that: “For many Berlin families it makes a big difference whether or not they have to pay contributions to the day care center.” She added that: “The free day care center for all means a noticeable financial relief for many parents. Childcare facilities are educational institutions, and education must be free of charge.”
The law makes Berlin the first state in Germany to abolish fees for municipal day care centers.
States like Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland still lag behind, with municipal nurseries costing between 7.5 and 9 percent of household income.
The decision to make childcare in Berlin free comes in the wake of rising births in Germany – with the country seeing the highest number of births per woman since 1973 this year. Rising birth rates come on the heels of a parental assistance program that was put in place in 2007, bringing births per woman up from 1.37 in 2007 to 1.50 in 2015. While news of the rising birth rate has gone some way in alleviating fears about the country’s shrinking population, it has also sounded the alarm about the need for adequate infrastructure to support new families.
According to DW, Franziska Giffey, the country’s federal minister for foreign affairs, wants to see other states model Berlin’s example of phasing out childcare fees. While other states have subsidized or in some cases completely lifted fees for some age groups, Berlin is the first state to completely abolish all fees for the zero to six age bracket.
The move could potentially encourage mothers to go back to work after giving birth without worrying about daycare costs.
Germany is not the only country where women lack the infrastructure to support early motherhood. In cities across the Middle East, young mothers often find that cities are difficult to navigate due to the lack of infrastructure to accommodate them.