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German women have fewer children

German women are having fewer babies, new research has found. The revelation is likely to further fuel domestic debate about whether states should give more funding to fertility treatment services for childless couples.

Women are having fewer children in Germany, according to data released by the country's Federal Statistics Office on Thursday. Research by the organization found that in 2011, women in Germany had 1.36 children on average, less than the year before, when the figure was 1.39. The figure for 2011 was, nonetheless roughly on par with that in 2009.

Women giving birth in 2011 were also older in comparison with the previous year- women under 36 had fewer babies.

The study exposed regional differences as well. While in East Germany the birth rate has increased significantly since the mid 1990s, in West Germany it has stagnated at a low level. Between 2010 and 2011, the birth rate decreased in all western states except Saarland.

The solution: better IVF treatment?

Germany's Minister of Family Affairs, Kristina Schröder (CDU), has announced that she wants to stimulate a baby boom to combat the declining birth rate by helping childless women access in vitro fertilization support (IVF).

"No other policy has such an immediately positive impact on birth rates," said Schröder. The minister also said that seven million euros would be allocated in future budgets to help childless couples to explore artificial insemination treatment options.

But the CDU politician does not have the support from all of Germany's states. Although Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony have given their consent to providing childless couples with more support, Schröder criticized the hesitancy of Germany's 13 remaining states.

"Given the relatively small amount of money in question, I do not understand why other states have, so far, held back this strongly," she said.

sej/slk (dpa, AP, CBA)