Germany has been plunged into an anguished debate about how to encourage reluctant couples to breed after new figures showed Germany with the world's highest proportion of childless women.
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Germany has been plunged into an anguished debate about how to encourage reluctant couples to breed after new figures showed Germany with the world’s highest proportion of childless women.
Thirty percent of German women have had no children, according to European Union statistics from 2005, with the figure rising among female graduates to 40 percent. Germany’s family minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said that unless the birth rate picked up the country would have to “turn the light out”.
Von der Leyen, a mother of seven and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, told Stern magazine that not only women but also “deeply uncertain” men were to blame for it. “They are unsure about the role of fatherhood,” she said
Last month, Von der Leyen tabled a series of radical proposals, including requiring men to take two months off work to look after a newborn child if they wished to qualify fully for state-funded child welfare support. The scheme would offer parents 67 per cent of their previous incomes while staying at home. It would be limited to a year, up to a monthly maximum of 1,800 euros. Working parents would also be able to offset 3,000 euros a year of childcare costs against tax, encouraging women to have more children. The proposals are based on scheme in Scandinavia, where birth rates are higher than those of Germany.
However, her proposals have met resistance. Several male politicians in her own Christian Democrat party have derided the idea to men abandoning work to change nappies. The Social Democrats, junior Partners in Germany’s coalition government, have also expressed unease because the themes of childcare and women’s right traditionally belonged to the left.
“Compulsory paid leave for fathers is a good idea”, Professor Norbert Schneider, a sociologist at Maniz University, said. Germany now has the highest number of childless women in the world. This trend has been going on since at least the 90’s. What we also know is that higher the level of education, the more likely a woman is to remain childless.
Schneider said several factors were to blame for Germany’s low birth rate, including inadequate childcare provision, a school day that ends at 1 pm, and old-fashioned attitudes among employers. By the time they had finished university, and found a good job, many German women were already in their mid-30s, he said.