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German Women Take the Rap for Declining Birth Rate

DW staff (jp)
April 25, 2006

The government's family report paints an unexpected picture of contemporary women. They're not working as much as they should but that's not because they're raising families -- they're just too busy enjoying themselves.

Young German women aren't yearning for kidsImage: Bilderbox

German Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen is set to present the government's 7th family report in Berlin Tuesday, after the Cabinet spent the morning discussing how to make starting a family a more attractive option.

Women to blame

According to the daily Rheinische Post newspaper, the report reveals that the roots of the problem lie with the nation's women. Not only are they reluctant to have children, they could also be working a whole lot harder.

Mutter und Kind
German mothers: could do betterImage: Bilderbox

"Working mothers account for the narrowest segment of the labor market," said the 600-page document. Spending some two and a half hours a day with their children, they might be comfortably within the European average, but the study suggests German mothers have more free time than their European counterparts and aren't really pulling their weight.

"Rather than devoting themselves to domestic life, they are investing their time in leisure activities," it said.

It's not the money

Experts have long been insisting that Germany's family policy needs a complete overhaul, and is failing both to boost the flagging birth rate -- now down to 1.3 children per woman -- and to effectively tackle child poverty. In fact, the number of children living on the breadline is growing steadily.

Family policy currently costs Berlin some 150 billion euros ($185 billion) per year, but the report's authors say the government's emphasis on financial incentives has proved misguided.

Even financial incentives aren't enough to make families look goodImage: Bilderbox


Financial measures have not managed to encourage young adults to factor children into a broader life plan they way they do in France, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Briatian," said the report.

The standard excuse for Germany's population problem is the difficulty of striking the work-life balance. Now, the family report has unearthed a different reason -- women just don't feel their biological clocks ticking. In other European countries, "the statistical ideal family for 20-34-year-old women in other European countries comprises 2.5 children, while women in eastern Germany want just 1.6 children, and women in western Germany 1.7."

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