The European Union Commission on Thursday agreed on a strategy paper to address demographic change in the 25-member bloc, including support for balancing the demands of both family and career.
Making it easier to balance career and family is an EU goal
According to EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, the first point of the strategy is to put in place policies and support systems that would allow EU citizens to "have as many children as they wish."
In addition, older persons should be able to work longer, said Spidla.
According to estimates provided by the commissioner, the number of Europeans of working age (between 15 and 64 years old) will shrink by 20 million by the year 2030, even taking into account 1.8 million immigrating into the EU every year.
By 2050, the loss of workers is estimated to come to as many as 48 million.
Vladimir Spidla, the EU's Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner
"If we do nothing, two workers have to pay for every retiree," he said, referring to the current system in which pension plans are supported by payroll contributions made by workers.
Economic and currency commissioner Joaquin Almunia called on governments to develop sustainable social models. Among EU countries, Germany has some of the bloc's highest pension costs.
Population issue in all decisions
Authorities in Brussels plan, from now on, to take the issue of demographic development into consideration when drafting new policies. In addition, every two years a demographic forum will compile information on population development from EU member states. Concrete legal regulations regarding the issue, however, are not planned at present.
Seniors working longer would also please the EU
The announcement also spoke of allowing people over the age of 65 to participate longer in economic and social life. According to Spidla, the goal of keeping older workers on the jobs longer does in no way contribute to high youth employment in many EU states.
"There is no study that says that young people stand in competition with older ones on the job market," he said. "These are two different things."
Fewer adoptions in Germany
While Europeans in general are having fewer children, Germans are also adopting fewer of them. The Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden reported on Thursday that last year, some 4,800 children were adopted, about half as many as in 1993.
The number of adoptive parents has been decreasing for years. While at the end of 1993 almost 22,000 couples were on waiting lists for adoptive children, at the end of last year that number was 9,300.
Adoption is not as common as it once was
Johannes Vocks, the head of the adoption center in Frankfurt, said that one can only speculate about the exact reasons behind the decline.
"The birth rate has been sinking for years and the population is growing smaller," he told AP news agency. "Therefore, the number of people wanting to adopt shrinks along with the number of children up for adoption."
Whether the declining interest in adoption is also a consequence of artificial insemination could not be determined by the Statistics Office due to a lack of data.
Of those adopted last year, around 40 percent are younger than six years of age; 30 percent were between six and eleven; and 30 percent were older than 12.