Ursula von der Leyen. AP photoGermany’s Family Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is happy to report that the number of babies born has increased for the second year in a row. From a 60-year low of 673,000 in 2006, births increased to 685,000 in 2007 and 690,000 last year. At 1.4, Germany’s birth rate is one of the lowest in western Europe.

Mrs von der Leyen, herself the mother of seven children, said the rise in births was especially marked among women in their 30s. She put it down to a new confidence among young people that “society will not simply leave them behind as parents” — a reference to a revision of the paid parental leave scheme in 2007 which included new benefits for German fathers, allowing them to stay home with their children.

According to surveys, 56 per cent of stay-at-home mothers would like to join the paid workforce. “But not at any price,” said von der Leyen. “they want good child care and part-time work. We have to meet these mothers half way.” One survey carried out for the report found that 50 per cent of those asked said the current family policies had improved the situation for families. Around one-third said the situation had not changed. ~ Deutsche Welle, Feb 16

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet