As Germany’s population is growing older and young Germans are not having children, immigrants are actually a way of filling the baby gap. An English Spiegel article describes this problem well. The government has long tried to encourage couples to have children, however without much success.
On Tuesday, lawmakers decided to introduce Elterngeld — tax money paid to parents so they can stay home with their baby. The change makes it easier for parents to stay home longer with their newborn without having to sacrifice their entire income. It also provides more incentive for the main breadwinner to remain at home.
The change is just one of several incentives dreamed up by Germany's own hero mother, family minister and mother-of-seven Ursula von der Leyen. In a Merkel cabinet so far characterized by docility, von der Leyen has been stirring the waters as she tries to unleash a baby wave on Germany. To help families once they have children, she has proposed an "Alliance for Upbringing" — part of which involves teaching German and Christian values as early as preschool. "Christian values like reliability, helpfulness, respect and fairness are at the basis of our society," she said at a press conference last month.
However, I don’t expect this to be successful, as Kindergeld, a certain amount of money paid to parents each month per child, has not done much to raise the number of children per women. Child care initiatives by employers are low and most schools end classes at around noon or 1 for small children. This makes it hard for women to work and have children. Spiegel further explains that
"The German population is permanently shrinking while the foreign population is permanently growing," says Dr. Herwig Birg, a demographic expert who just retired as head of the Institute for Population Research and Social Politics at the University of Bielefeld and authored "The Demographic Time Change." "Germans will soon become a minority in major German cities [like Berlin] in the under 40 age group."
A quick glance at birthrates in Germany highlights Birg's point. Immigrants in Germany — those of Turkish origin make up the largest immigrant group in the country — have about 1.9 children per woman. A modest rate given that demographic experts say a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to maintain population stability. But it's productive compared to ethnic Germans. They only have a paltry 1.3 babies per woman. In other words, a dropping population isn't the only societal change currently going on in Germany.
It's a trend that will likely only accelerate. According to projections from the Federal Office of Statistics, the country's population will shrink from its current 82 million to 70 million by 2050 assuming an annual influx of 200,000 immigrants. The population drop, combined with Germany's aging society, is likely to have dramatic effects on the country's social system and labor market.
However, this trend can be observed in almost all of Western Europe with birth rates going down and people growing older, most of the working force today is unlikely to see their social security check from the government when they retire. In the U.S., the Hispanic population rose about 58% from 1990 till 2000. Discussions about family values and religion also surfaced; however, birth rates in the U.S. are not as low as in Europe. It will be interesting to see how and if this trend continues. In the German case, however, I doubt that more money paid to parents will lead to higher birth rates, as that does not seem to be the issue.
When talking to many of my friends, they do not want children, because they would much rather have a career than stay home and raise children. If the government does not address the problems women face, when having children and a career, they probably will never see birth rates go up.
Star Phoenix Base discusses this article in further detail including the impact on society, if the indegenous population were to be replaced by immigrants.
One Response »