Social Policy Reforms
Chancellor Schröder holds a discussion with students in 2004 in Berlin. The pro-family policies implemented during his chancellorship improve the compatibility of work and family life – for example, through the expansion of all-day schools (photo credit: Marco Urban).

The social policies of the Schröder administration were guided by a spirit of tolerance. A reform in 2000 modernized Germany’s nationality laws, which until that time had been based on an outdated notion of blood and parentage going back to 1913. The reform made it easier to become a German citizen, the aim being to integrate, not exclude, the fifth of the population who are either immigrants or whose parents or grandparents settled in Germany from abroad. In 2004 the federal government enacted a law to promote the integration of immigrants into German society through language courses and other concrete measures. Important changes occurred in other areas of society as well. In 2001 Germany passed legislation allowing registered same-sex partnerships, conferring gays and lesbians most of the rights of opposite-sex marriage. The reform was politically controversial; three German states challenged the law before Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, though the judges ruled against them. In the area of family policy, the administration put a new emphasis on helping people reconcile work and family. This included a nation-wide expansion of all-day schools, better support for childcare facilities (especially those accepting infants and toddlers), more flexibility for parental leave, and the right to part-time work. Gerhard Schröder also broke new ground in cultural policy. Among other things, he was the first Chancellor to elevate the position of Commissioner for Culture and the Media to the level of state minister. He also increased federal expenditures for culture, especially for the German film industry.