Dwindling pensions and falling birth rates in Germany means the country needs more children. But, a new study has found that societal hostility towards kids is preventing many Germans from starting a family.
Meant to be seen but not heard?
Germany's declining birth rate -- just one child is born in the country for every four adults in Germany -- is often blamed on everything from the poor state of the economy, unemployment, job security to dwindling pension coffers.
But a new study commissioned by the magazines ELTERN (Parents) and ELTERN for family has uncovered some rather different reasons for Germans shying away from starting a family. It found that three-quarters of the 40,000 men and women questioned wished German society was more child-friendly.
"Having kids not sexy anymore"
"Germany is so hostile towards children that even people without children have noticed," said Marie-Luise Lewicki, ELTERN's editor-in-chief at the study's presentation on Tuesday.
Kindergarten children in Germany
"It isn't sexy to have children in Germany," said Lewicki. "That's why we don't only need better daycare and full-day schooling for families, but above all a departure from this kind of thinking in society."
Many Germans therefore have chosen to forego their longing to have a family altogether.
Welcoming children into society
Families must be given the feeling that they are welcome in Germany with their children, Lewicki said.
The study found that while 80 percent of parents found understanding and support in their private lives, publicly the opposite is the case. Half of those surveyed said children were considered bothersome in stores or restaurants.
The same, apparently, is the case at the workplace, the study found. Many bosses show lack of understanding when it comes to working overtime.
For 42 percent of mothers, children are simply "career killers." Academics in particular feel children put them at a disadvantage in their profession.
More state support needed
In addition, 37 percent said it's more difficult to find a place to live with a family than without. Three-quarters of parents said they wished there were more recognition for raising a family.
Both families with children, as well as childless men and women said they wished there was more state support, even for encouraging mothers to go back to work after having a child.
Malte Ristau from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs said, however, that family policies had been "delegated to the state" for too long.
Ristau called for more responsibility by companies, for example with flexible working hours or childcare possibilities.
44 percent of childless respondents also said they were missing a suitable partner to start a family. Every third person surveyed expressed concern about his or her job.
Family still number one
The number of births in Germany has been cut in half over the past 40 years. In 1964, close to 1.4 million children were born in East and West Germany.
Four decades later, this figure has sunk to 706,000.
Still, family does play a major role for Germans. A total of 89 percent of those questioned said family was the most important part of their lives. Their careers came in second -- with six percent.