German army goes ‘family-friendly’


Germany’s new defense minister wants to create a more family-friendly army by making it easier for soldiers to work part time and extending child care, she told a Sunday newspaper.

“My goal is to make the German armed forces into one of the most attractive employers in Germany,” Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s first female defense minister, said in an interview with Sunday’s Bild newspaper. “In doing so, the most important issue is the compatibility of employment and family,” the 55-year-old mother of seven said. “Anyone who, for example, uses the option of a three- or four-day week while raising a family must still have career prospects,” she told Bild.

Viewed as an up-and-coming possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, von der Leyen lost no time in visiting German troops in Afghanistan a few days before Christmas and revealed in the Sunday interview she had been tapped for the job only five days before being sworn in with the rest of the Cabinet four weeks ago.

Among the reforms, she said she was considering a system whereby overtime could be saved up and then used for looking after small children or elderly parents. She also wants to study the army’s system of transferring soldiers every two to three years, she said. “A career in the armed forces must not mean as a rule: always on duty and every few years a move,” von der Leyen said.