My husband Jamie and I are both Australian citizens living in Germany. In late 2019, my husband was offered a two-year international expat assignment at his company’s head office in Munich, Germany, at the same time that I found out I was expecting a child in mid-2020. Given our passion for new life experiences, travel and career progression, we both jumped at the opportunity.
Jamie and I had often discussed the harsh financial realities of raising a child in Australia and our disappointment with the quality and affordability of early childhood education. Yet, we didn’t realise how worse off in Australia we would have been from both a financial and life-quality perspective until we experienced the impact of Germany’s family-focused governmental policies first-hand.
We are now two years into our stay and have decided to stay in Europe for at least one to three more years due to the quality of life we can offer our son Alexander here during these important formative years.
When reflecting on the reasons for this, we owe it to the following benefits:
We receive two non-means tested child support payments totalling approximately $684 per month just for having a child, one is from the Federal Government and the other is from the Bavarian State Government. This payment has definitely helped us pay for the additional costs of having a baby and now a toddler, such as nappies, clothes and childcare.
Additionally, we were able to benefit from paying significantly less tax due to Germany’s taxation rules to give parents better tax offsets when one parent is earning either a lower or no income than before.
Altogether this combined financial support enabled me to stay at home for a year with Alexander. I feel so privileged to have had this time to spend with my son as this would have never been possible for us in Australia.
High quality & highly subsidised early education
One of the key reasons we have decided to stay in Germany is due to the affordability and high-quality level of Germany’s early learning & education.
Whilst daycare is primarily free in Germany, we ended up obtaining a place at a private early learning centre (Kita) so that Alexander could be exposed to a bi-lingual atmosphere (English-German).
Our monthly Kita fee is currently ¼ of the monthly cost of an average daycare in Sydney. If we were living in Australia now, we would have been approximately $50,000 worse off due to the lack of daycare affordability and my being restricted to working part time.
The affordability of our Kita has significantly helped ease the financial pressure, enabled us to save more money and provided our son access to a high-quality education.
Additionally, due to the high carer to child ratios of 1:2-3 children, this provided me with peace of mind that my son was safe enabling me to focus on my work and other things. My son is also thriving in this environment due to the increased bond with his educators.
Our educators are very qualified, with the majority having completed a master’s degree in childhood development. They share advice and techniques with us about setting boundaries with Alexander, providing us with benchmarks about social skills development and other tips.
Family focused workplace laws
In parallel, we were able to take additional time out of the workforce to participate in a Kita induction (Eingewoehnung). This 4-6 week induction is designed for the parent and child to properly adapt and integrate into the Kita atmosphere. I found this extremely valuable as it was just as hard for me to adjust to this change. This induction provided us with greater comfort with how the Kita operated and reinforced that the culture was appropriate for Alexander.
Many German employers are more accommodating towards employees working family friendly hours. We pick up my son every day from Kita at 3.30pm. This has been life-changing as it’s enabled us to spend more quality time with Alexander. We often spend this time playing in the park or at home, rather than leaving work at 5 or 6pm at night if we were in Australia and only spending an hour with him at night.
We believe Australia is perfectly placed to adopt some of these family friendly policies from both a governmental, societal and work law perspective, underpinned by:
- Highly affordable and quality childcare supported by the government and the employer
- Increasing the wages and educational requirements of early education professionals
- More favourable workplace laws and beliefs to enable a greater work life balance for families to spend time with their children
With the 2022 election now looming, we are hopeful the government will take a more integrated approach to enable families, children and the economy to thrive, rather than barely survive.
If you would like to share your story please email Maddy at [email protected]