German women had more children in 2010 than at any time since reunification in 1990, but the slight uptick was not enough to lift Germany off the bottom spot in Europe's birthrate rankings.
Germany needs more babies to counteract an aging population
Germany's birthrate got a welcome boost last year, with women having 1.39 children on average, according to official statistics released Thursday. It is the highest birthrate since reunification in 1990, when the rate was recorded at 1.45.
Compared with the 1.36 rate in 2009, which was the lowest since records began, the increase is noticeable, but Europe's biggest economy remains at the very bottom of the rankings in the EU.
The latest figures show that women who decided to have a second or third child boosted the birthrate more than those who had their first child.
With a birthrate of 1.45, women in the former East had more children in 2010 than their Western counterparts, and later in life. In 1990 - the year Germany was reunified - those mothers with the highest number of children were on average 23 years of age; in 2010 the average age was 30.
Must do better
Working mothers face many obstacles in Germany
One of the reasons behind Germany's low birthrate is a dearth of child-care facilities and the fact that German women are less integrated in the workforce than their EU counterparts.
"Germany must better integrate women into the labor market," the European Commission said in a recent report.
"Germany, but also Austria and the Netherlands, should look at the example of the northern countries," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"That means removing obstacles for women, older workers, foreigners and low-skilled job-seekers to get into the workforce."
The Commission specifically urged Germany to provide more child-care facilities and start taxing couples separately. The current system in Germany often means that the lower-paid partner ends up in an unfavorable tax bracket.
The current ruling coalition of conservative Christian Democrats and Liberal Free Democrats favors a multi-pronged approach to child-care, so women can choose whether they stay at home or not.
"That's why I support all-day child-care facilities," Volker Kauder, head of the Christian Democrats in parliament, told German daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Thursday.
"But I also say this: mothers who want to stay at home are not old-fashioned," he told the paper, insisting that his party's controversial proposal of a special allowance for stay-at-home mums in the first two years of the child's life is valid.
Author: Nicole Goebel (dpa, epd, KNA)
Editor: Martin Kuebler