Skip to main content

Diverse Living Arrangements

New living arrangements are shaping German society. Targeted measures are being introduced to improve the reconcilability of career and family.
© AdobeStock

New forms of relationships and family units shape German society. Yet in spite of the individualised and highly mobile world of the 21st century, the family still retains a key role. According to a study by Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach conducted in 2019, more than three quarters of the population (77%) said their family was the most important thing in their life. At the same time, ideas are changing about what a family typically looks like. Less than half the people in Germany live as part of a family unit. Despite the decline of traditional family structures, in 2021 married couples with children under 18 constituted the most common family form, making up around 70% of family units. There were 357,800 divorces in 2021. Just over one in three marriages ends in divorce. There were around 42,000 new marriages between German and foreign citizens in 2021.

The number of children born to cohabiting unmarried parents is growing significantly. In 2019, families with unmarried parents accounted for 10% of the 8.2 million families with children under 18, double the figure for 1999. There are also 2.6 million single parents, most of whom are women. Single parents are particularly at risk of experiencing poverty and around 38% receive state benefits.

More same-sex partnerships

In 2019, around 142,000 gay couples were living together in Germany, an increase of over 50% compared to 10 years ago. Around 34,000 live in registered partnerships. Registered partnerships were introduced in 2001 and ensure legal recognition of same-sex relationships. In 2017 the Bundes­tag passed legislation to provide “marriage for all”. Gay couples now have the right to a full marriage and hence also to adopt children, for example. At the end of 2019 there were around 52,000 same-sex married couples. Furthermore, the Federal Government Federal Government The Federal Government and cabinet is made up of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. While the Chancellor holds the power to issue directives, the ministers have departmental powers, meaning that they independently run their respective ministries in the framework of those directives… Read more › intends to introduce the principles of “communities of responsibility”. This aims to make it easier for two or more people to take responsibility for one another. 

While new forms of cohabitation and family life are emerging, so is the number of single-person households, which now account for over 40% of all private households. On the one hand this development is due to demographic changes which have led to an increase in the number of older people living alone, but on the other hand more young people are also living on their own. According to a forecast by the Federal Statistical Office, one in four people in Germany will be living alone in 2040.