Deadline for exchanging older German driving licences extended

German interior ministers have extended a deadline for exchanging old driving licences to ease pressure on civil servants during the Covid crisis.

German driving licence
A German driving licence document. Under new EU rules, driving licence documents will have to be standardised throughout the bloc. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ole Spata

Older drivers in Germany have been given an additional six months to organise the exchange of their paper driving licences for new digitalised versions. 

People born in the mid-1950s were supposed to be the first group to transfer their licences by January 19th – but in light of the ongoing Covid pandemic, this deadline has now been extended to July 19th.

The change was passed at a meeting of the state interior ministers on Monday under the leadership of Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU).

It affects people born between 1953 and 1958 who still use old paper driving licenses that were issued up to December 31st, 1998 – either in West Germany or the GDR.

According to Hermann, Bavaria will immediately introduce a motion to amend the driving licence ordinance in the Bundesrat (Germany’s upper house of parliament).

Until this comes into force, the otherwise-due warning fine of €10 will be waived by the police.

READ ALSO: Brexit: New licence needed to bring vans and trailers from UK to Germany

“However, all those affected should immediately take care of the exchange in the meantime,” Herrmann said, adding that new licences could take several weeks to be issued. 

Welcoming the move, a spokesperson for the German Motorists’ Club ADAC said the extra time would bring peace of mind to car drivers.

“For the affected driving licence holders, the decision brings the certainty that they can continue to drive with the old licence for the coming months without worries and do not have to fear fines,” they said.

In extending the deadline, the federal states were responding to bottlenecks in their driving licence offices thanks to ongoing Covid crisis, the ADAC explained. 

Uniform EU licences

In order to comply with new EU regulations, around 43 million driving licences will need to be exchanged by 2033. This is set to take place in stages, with the 1953-58 age group earmarked as the first set of people who to make the switch. 

This phased process is intended to prevent bottlenecks in driving licences offices, but people can nevertheless opt to transfer their licence ahead of time. 

In future, driving licences are to be forgery-proof and uniform throughout the EU. In addition, all driving licences are to be recorded in a database to prevent misuse.

After the extended deadline, the next group to change their licences will be people born between 1959 and 1964. Assuming the deadline isn’t extended again, this group will be asked to make the switch by January 19th, 2023. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in 2022

The final deadline will be January 19th, 2033. 

According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, old driving licences will become invalid after the respective deadlines have expired, with drivers who fail to exchange them subject to a warning fine of €10. 

The fee for switching the licences is €25, and no further driving test is needed in order to obtain one. 

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Why large families are set to pay less for German care insurance

Germany's highest court has issued a landmark ruling stating that families with lots of children should ultimately pay less for their social security. Here's what you need to know.

Why large families are set to pay less for German care insurance

What’s going on? 

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that parents with more than one child should pay a reduced rate of care insurance compared to people with fewer children – or those with none at all.

The case had been brought by 376 families in a campaign called Elternklage (Parents’ Complaint), who were supported by the Family Federation of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Freiburg. The families had argued that the amount of health insurance, pension insurance and care insurance they pay should be directly linked to the number of children they have.

Since raising a family costs time and money, this contribution to society should be taken into account when setting insurance rates and people with more children should pay lower contributions, the parents argued. 

What does the current law say? 

At present, Pflegeversicherung (care insurance) – a type of social security designed to fund care in old age – is already paid at different rates by parents and non-parents. Since the beginning of 2022, people without children pay 3.4 percent of their income towards social care, while parents pay 3.05 percent of their income.

The decision to have two different rates dates back to an earlier court ruling from 2001. At the time, the judges decided that charging people with children and those without the same amount of care insurance went against the Basic Law. This is because, in the view of the judge, parents pay a “generative contribution to the functioning of a pay-as-you-go social security system”, since their children pay back into the pot later in the life. The two-tiered system for people with and without children was adopted shortly afterwards.

At the same time, however, the judges ruled against a reduction in pension or health insurance contributions for parents. They said it was legitimate for the state to subsidise parents in other ways, such as through free education or topping up the pensions of people who had raised a family. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who pays the most German tax and who benefits the most?

So if parents already pay less, what’s the problem?

According to the plaintiffs, the 2001 ruling made a false equivalence between small and large families and didn’t fully take into account the loss of income, time and cost associated with raising kids. 

The lawyers argued that the plaintiffs suffered a double loss of earnings when raising their children and looking after the older generation, and pointed to the fact that women’s pensions are often much lower than men due to time spent bringing up children.

The Catholic Family Federation also suggested that families didn’t really receive free healthcare for their children. That’s because the parents’ contributions are only assessed on their overall earnings, which means that the number of children they have and the costs associated with that aren’t taken into account.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new parental benefits reforms

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

And what were the counterarguments? 

Arguing against the constitutional complaint, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said the costs associated with bringing up a child should be shouldered by society as a whole rather than any given insurance fund.

The National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV) pointed out that children may not necessarily grow up and pay into the same insurance pot that their parents’ did, making it hard to calculate parents’ contributions based on their children’s future ones. Some children may grow up and move abroad, which would mean they would pay into a different pension or health insurance fund entirely, they pointed out. 

The GKV advocated for reimbursing parents through child benefits rather than through reductions in insurance contributions. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the complicated world of German insurance

Did the judges agree with the plaintiffs? 

Partly – but only on the care insurance issue. According to the judges, the 2001 ruling didn’t go far enough in taking into account the number of children in a family. The more children a family has, the greater the effort and the associated costs for parents, they wrote in a statement announcing the ruling.

“This disadvantage occurs even from the second child,” the statement reads. “Charging the same contribution rate to parents regardless of the number of children they have is not constitutionally justified.” 

School pupils in a German classroom

School children sit in a classroom in Neckartailfingen, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

On health insurance and pensions, however, they disagreed with the plaintiffs. 

They said that time taken out by parents to look after children was already factored into the statutory pensions system and pointed to the fact that people benefit from free healthcare as a teenager and child as part of their parents’ health insurance plans. 

READ ALSO: Ehegattensplitting: How did Germany’s marriage tax law become so controversial?

What happens now? 

The court has given the government until July 31st 2023 to introduce a tapered system with larger discounts for larger families.

Speaking to RND on Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said his ministry would implement the changes to the law within the agreed timeframe. He said officials would look closely at the reasoning for the ruling and see how it could be best applied to a new tariff system.

However, Lauterbach emphasised that the social care system still needed to be properly financed. “We also want to tackle that,” he said.