Germany's birthrate is among the lowest in Europe. Picture: Gallo Images
A new study of fertility in Germany shows that the birth rate in the country continues to be low, but not because of the commonly cited reasons of the expense of raising a child or the lack of space in kindergartens.
The number remains sobering: 1.36 are born on average for every German woman. The cliche of a well-educated, but single and childless woman is still a common scenario. The question of why the birth rate in Germany is so low was posed by the Federal Institute for Population Research in a new study.
The institute examined the emotional state of Germans as well as data gathered by researching families. What is clear from the results is that not only money and availability of a place in a kindergarten are important factors. The societal climate is also important.
The concept of the good mother, who is always there for her children, inhibits women. While some words such as "Fraeulein" are passe, the word "Rabenmutter," meaning bad mother, is still present in the language.
Also striking is the difference between opinions in the states formerly comprising East Germany and those of former West Germany when it comes to mothers who work outside the home, the study showed. In the west, 63% said a little child probably suffers when its mother works, while in the eastern states 36% agreed that was true.
There are historical reasons that explain the difference. Under communism in the German Democratic Republic women in the workforce and children in preschool were part of ordinary life more so than in West Germany.
Many Germans do not consider having a child an enriching experience, the study showed. Not even half of the childless women between 18 and 50-years-old thought that having a child within the next three years would improve their lives.
Among fathers with children under 18-years-old, 88% said it is not easy to reconcile family and work. Among women it was 78%.
Germany's birthrate is among the lowest in Europe and nowhere else in the world do women reject motherhood as entirely as in Germany. Fear of excessive demands play a role, said Juergen Dorbritz, director of science at the Wiesbaden Institute.
"You are swamped by advice and people try to make everything perfect," said Dorbritz. When it comes to things related to the family there must be a change of consciousness similar to the change that environmentalists achieved with respect to the environment, he said.
Germans could learn something about politics and the family from the French, which has friendlier tax laws for families, said Reiner Klingholz, director of a Berlin institute for population and development.
The tax advantage in France is not just for being married but for having a family. Having a third child also results in a tax advantage.
In Germany there are fewer women in their fertile years than before, exacerbating the situation. The number of children per women has been low for 40 years, which Klingholz said has made it the norm.