Austria maintains an extensive support scheme for families. For example, it is illegal for pregnant women to work eight weeks before their due date and eight weeks after their delivery, and they receive their full net pay during this period. Parents of newborns can take two years of maternity or paternity leave or split the leave time between both parents. They receive a monthly support payment of S5,100 (S7,500 for single mothers or lowincome couples) during that time. Employers also are required to rehire them in positions of equal pay and status after the leave period is over. Special payments totaling S15,000 are made for all children between birth and their fourth birthday. In addition, all mothers receive a monthly child-maintenance allowance of S1,400 for children up to age ten, at which time the allowance is increased to S1,650 for children up to age twentyone if the child is living at home, in school, or unemployed. These payments increase to S1,950 and are made for children up to age twenty-seven if the child is attending vocational training or enrolled in a university program.
Special provisions exist for single-parent and large lowincome families. Single mothers and low-income families having more than two children are most likely to be confronted with severe economic hardship, and benefits for many members of these groups need to be improved to prevent them from slipping below the poverty level. However, the policy of providing higher benefits for unwed mothers is controversial. Because unwed mothers who cohabit with their partners receive the same benefits as single mothers, the higher benefits for single mothers create a financial incentive that can encourage illegitimacy. Married couples with children are eligible for fewer benefits and view themselves as disadvantaged in comparison with unwed, cohabiting parents.
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