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German dads staying home with the kids

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German dads staying home with the kids
Photo: DPA
21:53 CEST+02:00
Nearly a fifth of new German fathers have applied for parental leave benefits allowing them to stay at home on two-thirds of their pay for a year, the Family Ministry said on Wednesday.

Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the fact that 18.5 percent of fathers had signed up to the leave scheme introduced 18 months ago meant that Germany was seeing a "revolution" on the home front.

The measure was part of efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's left-right coalition government to raise the national birthrate, which is one of the lowest in Europe along with Italy and Spain.

Von der Leyen said the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had surpassed the national average with one in four fathers of newborns applying for parental leave in the first quarter of 2008.

"It is impressive," said von der Leyen, who herself has seven children. "We are experiencing a quiet revolution - more and more fathers are claiming time to spend with their children."

Germany's birthrate increased slightly to 1.4 children per woman last year, according to the Family Ministry, to reach its highest level in 17 years. Merkel has pinpointed the shrinking population as one of the country's most pressing problems and pledged to make it easier for parents to combine a career and having children.

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