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Even Fewer Germans Want Kids, Poll Shows

Hardy Graupner (jen)May 4, 2005

The ongoing discussion in Germany about the demise of traditional values continued this week, spurred on by a new study on the country's falling birth rates.

They may be cute, but more Germans are saying 'no thanks'Image: Illuscope

A new study by the Federal Institute for Population Research in Wiesbaden says 26 percent of German men and 15 percent of women between 20 and 39 do not want to have children.

The study was carried out in 2003, and polled 4,000 people in both western Germany and the former Communist east.

Kinder in der Schule
Kids doing homeworkImage: AP

In the early 1990s, only 12 percent of men and 10 percent of women preferred to remain childless. German Interior Minister Otto Schily said he was alarmed by the negative trend and attributed it to mounting selfish behavior patterns in German society.

"Values must change"

He argued, too, that German social policy is not entirely to blame for the falling birth rates. People have to learn once again that if the value of children and social links between the generations are not recognized, the country will not be able to flourish, he said.

"I believe that first and foremost it's a matter of values," Schily told reporters. "What I'm saying is that if young people don't view children as an enrichment of their personal lives anymore then you can't possibly persuade them just by offering more money for the upbringing of kids."

Karneval Kinder
Kids dressed for CarnivalImage: AP

The study remains ambiguous about the root causes for Germans wanting to have fewer children. The authors claim those who do not want to have children at all are concerned about the future or worried that having kids may lower their standard of living.

But a closer look at the statistics available seems to belie any such reasoning. On a per-capita basis, many more women and men in the economically depressed east of the country wish to have one or more babies than in the more affluent west.

Factor: living conditions

Nevertheless, opposition Christian Democrat social affairs spokesperson Maria Böhmer said that the key to more children is linked to improved conditions for families across the country and economic stability on a higher level.

"Unemployment in Germany is very high," she said. "It takes a lot of courage and confidence to say yes to children under these circumstances."

Festspiel Kinderzeche in Dinkelsbühl mit Galeriebild
Not a common sight in GermanyImage: dpa

People need a positive overall outlook again, Böhmer said. Telling them that they should really have more children won't help at all, she added. What's required is an improved family policy which would enable people to combine family and work chores better, she said.

It also requires more efficient measures on the labor market front, to bring people back into employment again.

"The rest will then fall into place," she said.

Shrinking populace

Yet even if all those Germans who want to have children actually do so, the population of native Germans will still become smaller in the decades to come. While the birth rate is higher among arrivals from abroad, the Wiesbaden study also found out that at least one third of all Germans do not want to see more foreigners settling down here.

In big cities, some 27 percent of native Germans are against further immigration, while in rural areas the figure is well over 40 percent.