September 21, 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.
Kerstin Schenk is a 39-year-old new mother from Munich whose experience goes some way to explaining the trend. “I had hoped to have children earlier, but I didn’t finish my studies until I was 30,” said the management consultant. “And then I felt I needed to get some work experience under my belt before I went off on maternity leave. When I did then have the right partner it took quite a long time for us to get pregnant.”
This article was posted: Friday, September 21, 2012 at 5:31 am