Low birth rates and the ageing population in Germany have dominated media in discussions about how to pay for health care and social security. Now, a study says it is men who are primarily responsible for fewer births.
Germany faces problems with low birth rates
In its study, the Robert Bosch Foundation found that "men are scared to start families," said Ingrid Hamm, managing director of the foundation. The study says one in four men in Germany do not want children, whereas one in seven women prefer to remain childless. In Eastern Germany, that rate is lower, with one in 10 women exopressing the wish to remain childless.
The study was based on responses from 10,017 people. Researchers say the survey was representative, even of the smallest groups in Germany.
Men and women in Germany also differ on the number of children they would like to have. Men want only an average of 1.59 kids; the average number of children women would like is 1.75. Both of these numbers, however, are still higher than Germany's actual average birth rate of 1.37 children per woman.
Both men and women in Germany want more babies than the number being born
Hamm said another reason for fewer children in Germany is that people feel too much pressure. They have long career training periods and then "have to do everything at once between the ages of 30 and 40: get married, have kids, build a house, pursue their careers and save money for retirement," she said. "All that pressure makes people put off having children until later or not at all."
Women, too, are faced with a loss of economic control over their lives if they choose a baby break. For a well-to-do country like Germany, the economic loss is even greater, Hamm said.
She added that, in addition, Germans lack faith in the future.
"In Germany, we have lost a sense that everything will turn out all right. Germans are prone to worrying about the future a lot more than other people," she said.
"German" is not just German, however. The study found that the wish to forgo having children is much stronger in the former West German states. In the new German states (formerly East Germany), fewer women want to remain childless.
"Children in the former GDR were everywhere," Hamm said. "Mothers and fathers both worked, and East German children grew up with the image that being both parent and employee is possible."
"Better policies could boost birth rates"
"Large families are frowned upon," Hamm said
The survey respondents said they would appreciate politicians creating better conditions to help people start families -- such as greater financial support, improved childcare and more part-time jobs created for parents.
Eighty-nine percent of the respondents said they would prefer flexible working hours for employed parents.
Increased financial support from the government would help large families and less qualified people.
On the other hand, better childcare possibilities would encourage those currently without children and aid families with only one child, as well as highly-qualified working parents and women in Eastern Germany, researchers reported.
The study said women desiring a first child wanted the most support, but also that one-fifth of the women who did not want children could still be encouraged through better family policies.
The study also found that families with one child or highly-educated people would most likely choose to have a first or an additional child if family-oriented policies were in place that fit their individual needs.
Hamm said the study showed that having children is just one of many values among Germans; it is not a top priority. Parents with many children are viewed critically, while "it is completely socially acceptable to not have kids here."
"One's status does not increase by having kids," she said.