Germany’s birthrate is the lowest in Europe
September 23rd 2012
In all the data about Germany, it’s the one statistic that bucks the trend. Its economy is strong, its cities are regularly cited as among the best in the world to live in – but Germany is a shrinking country. It has the lowest birthrate, just 1.36 children per woman, in Europe, and one of the lowest in the world. According to the national statistics office, fewer babies were born in Germany last year than at any time in its history. A total of 663,000 children were born, 15,000 fewer than in 2010 and in stark contrast to 1964 when German births (east and west) peaked at just under 1.4 million. The rate for younger women in particular fell last year, though it increased for those from their mid-30s to mid-40s.
Demographics and family policy experts are divided over the reasons for the apparent reluctance to have children, as well as the ways to tackle the situation. What they generally agree on is that Germany’s demographic future looks gloomy. With many more Germans dying than being born for 40 years, the obvious results will be a shrinking workforce, lower growth and a struggle to pay for a rapidly ageing population. Britain’s population is forecast to exceed that of Germany by 2040
That the government of Angela Merkel has thrown so much money at the problem is seen by many, even within her own ranks, as a mistake. ‘Elterngeld’ or ‘parents’ allowance” has cost well over €20bn (£16.1bn) since it was introduced five years ago and its results are questionable. Under the scheme, considered one of the most generous family policies in Europe, parents can receive up to 65% of their salary (capped at €1,800) per month over a period of up to 14 months. A scheme to start next year instigated by the family minister, Kristina Schröder - the first minister to have had a child in office – will guarantee every child over the age of one a childcare place. But so far similar measures have apparently done nothing to boost the birthrate.
Social scientists want a far broader approach that views the family as a whole and tries to create stronger links between the workplace and family. In many parts of Germany parents complain of a lack of access to childcare. Most schools finish earlier than elsewhere in Europe – sometimes as early as 11am – making it harder for women in particular to combine work and family. Though the phrase is used less and less, working mothers are still referred to as ‘rabenmütter’ or raven mothers.
Read the full article: The Guardian