Justice is difficult enough, in the complicated system of German social insurance everything becomes even more difficult. Somewhere someone always gets more and someone else has less. Or one pays more and another gets away cheaper.

The Federal Constitutional Court has now warned that a relatively small section of the population is unduly disadvantaged: the so-called large families. Their descendants have not yet been included in the long-term care insurance contribution system. Instead, there is a surcharge for those who are always somewhat derogatorily referred to as childless in general usage.

In view of the applicable contribution rates of 3.05 percent of the gross income for parents compared to 3.4 percent for people without children in their wallets, this may hardly be noticeable anyway; no matter how it is calculated in the future. But it’s about children and thus about that factor on which social insurance is dependent in every variety. And it is about principles of equal treatment, which demand that unequals be treated unequally. The legislator now has until August next year to make a new regulation. What she looks like is up to politics. You can adjust the rates or make the necessary differentiation from the tax revenue.

The Karlsruhe decision testifies to an omission. Because even the current surcharge is only required because the constitutional court in its 2001 care judgment urged greater consideration. It was said that anyone who raises children, as a member of the long-term care insurance scheme, not only pays their contributions but also makes a human, “generative contribution” that has to be taken into account.

Whether this should be graded according to the number of children was discussed intensively after the judgment at that time, but without any result. The surcharge seemed simple and fair as a solution to the problem. Even in the court proceedings that have now ended, the federal government argued that the “generative contribution” in long-term care insurance should not be set too high compared to the monetary contribution; it only materialized decades later, and it was by no means certain whether children would later become contributors.

You can calculate like that, but it’s not fair, especially since around 70 percent of the total population pay into the long-term care insurance fund. With three or more children, there is an “above-average risk of poverty” for the family, according to the resolution. Because it is a success that more and more mothers can participate in working life. But with three children, things quickly change. In most cases, an income must then suffice. Couples with many children need more of everything: more living space, more food, more electricity, more heating and more beds on vacation – but they can spend less on it.

This shows a sense of reality in Karlsruhe that pleasantly contradicts political and media whitewashing of family relationships. Reconciling children and work in such a way that everyone can participate appropriately in everything is a real challenge, even with two children; from three it’s an illusion, at least so far and for those who weren’t born into wealth. The fact that half of all families in Germany are one-child families may also have a reason for this.

On the other hand, it is an individual life decision of the couple whose financial burden cannot be shared indefinitely. The Federal Constitutional Court probably sees it that way, which is why it rejected greater consideration of the number of children in the contributions to pension and health insurance. In both branches of insurance there are elements of family support that make the respective system appear fair from the point of view of equality; in the case of the pension, for example, the crediting of child-raising periods, in the case of the health insurance companies, the non-contributory family insurance.

The claimants, who had many children, were therefore able to achieve only modest success in Karlsruhe. They had promised each other more. The actual value of their process may therefore lie in having drawn attention to themselves and their situation. Politicians are free to give more support to large families according to their actual burdens. It could bring more than it costs.