Happy family outdoor - mother, father and son are smiling


Despite a recent “mini baby boom” Germany still has more to do to tackle its demographic problems. That’s the assessment of the founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, Dr James Vaupel. Speaking to the DW website, Vaupel noted that despite the typical German family wanting to have more than two children, the average is much lower than that (the Total Fertility Rate in Germany of births per woman is currently around 1.5).

Why is this? Vaupel notes a few, mainly economic reasons. First, there is the lack of adequate daycare for women who want to continue to work. Secondly, there is an expectation, at least in the West of the country, that women will stay home with their small children which makes it hard for women who do not wish to, or cannot, take time off work.

Vaupel cites Denmark and Sweden as countries that Germany can learn from. In those countries there is long paternity and maternity leave. There is flexitime so that people can juggle their family and work commitments. There are a lot of part-time job opportunities and there are many low cost daycare options.

Although these options would help Germany’s fertility rates, Vaupel thinks that the “attitude that women with children should not work” (an attitude that comes from “50 years ago”) is “very detrimental to fertility”. One wonders also about the change in economic conditions that means that two adults now have to work in order for most families to get by these days. Would more women want to stay at home if it was economically viable for them?

Vaupel thinks that some of the money needed for more generous parental leave schemes would be available if the retirement age was raised and older workers worked longer and paid more in taxes. (The retirement age in Germany is currently 65.25 years and is gradually rising to 67 by 2029.)

Finally, what about migration as an answer to low fertility rates? Vaupel agrees that a young migrant can replace a German baby that was not born, but assimilating migrants is far from an easy matter. (Something that Merkel is belatedly learning…)

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...