Activity 4-Declining Birth Rates in Germany-Tara McLaughlin

The decline in fertility rates in Germany is at an all time low. The crude birth rate as of 2012 was 8,400,000 and the total fertility rate was only 1,400,000. The population annual growth rate from 2012-2013 was only 0.2% compared to 0.7% in the United States. The crude birth rate of the United States in 2012 was 13,300,000. Also, the crude death rate in 2012 in Germany was 10,800,000. With the crude death rate being higher than the crude birth rate in Germany, this creates an important health and cultural issue for this country (UNICEF 2013).

From a cultural perspective, Germany’s birth rate is declining for several reasons. Socioeconomic change is a major reason that women are deciding to have fewer children, or no children at all. One study conducted on the demographics of Germany claims that, “the availability of public day care is often assumed to be crucial to the compatibility of childrearing and women’s employment” (Hank & Kreyenfeld 2003). In Germany, there is a severe lack of childcare facilities, which directly affects women’s decision to have children. Schools in Germany get out earlier than schools in the United States- around 1 p.m.- so women often have to juggle work and taking care of their children. According to Hank & Kreyenfeld, the provision of public childcare is a municipal responsibility, and the availability of childcare differs in region according to government. Rural districts are usually at a disadvantage because there is an increased lack of childcare facilities.

Another socioeconomic factor is the economic situations of women. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany, many couples faced economic struggles. To prove this theory, a study was implemented to find a link between declining fertility rates and the unification of Germany. Statistics show that there was a 40% decline in fertility between 1990 and 1991 (Witte & Wagner 1995). Also, the average predicted number of children per woman declined from 1.5 to 0.9% (Witte & Wagner 1995). After reviewing the data, researchers concluded that “women who expressed concern about personal economic situations were far less likely to have a child in coming months” compared to those who didn’t face economic problems that came with the unification of Germany (Witte & Wagner 1995). Probabilities of East German women giving birth between April 1991 and March 1992 according to their current worries and future expectations were computed based on the question: “Are you currently concerned about your personal economic situation?” Results show that all women who said yes to this question have a probability of .04 for all births and .07 for first births. Women who responded no had a probability of .17 for all births and .31 for first births. The justification behind these responses was all directly related to couple’s current socioeconomic status. Couples that know unemployment is high, there are less generous maternity benefits, and few childcare choices “respond rationally by limiting fertility” (Witte & Wagner 1995).

Low birth rates in Germany are also going to affect the country from a health perspective. Witte & Wagner (1995), claim that researchers have theorized about possible future scenarios related to fertility and population. Their analysis raises the possibility of a “low-low-fertility scenario, where the fertility in the East stays below that of the West and the population of unified Germany falls below 60 million by the year 2030”. This predicted drop in population could create negative consequences for the future health care system in Germany. CBS news states that a growing population is vital for the function of a strong country. CBS states, “economists like to see this share of total population rise, because it means more people are earning money, expanding the tax base and paying for schools for the young and pensions and health care for the old” (CBS 2014). In other words, if the fertility rates remain low in Germany, the population will eventually shrink. This shrinkage in population will then reduce the amount of taxpayers and workers for the future, which will create an absence of health care providers for the country.

 

Witte, J., & Wagner, G. (1995). Declining Fertility in East Germany After Unification: A Demographic Response to Socioeconomic Change. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/66561/1/Witte_1995_Declining-Fertility-East.pdf

Hank, K., & Kreyenfeld, M. (2003, August 1). A Multilevel Analysis of Child Care and Women’s Fertility Decisions in Western Germany. Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.demogr.mpg.de/publications/files/1337_1386247266_1_PDF.pdf

At a Glance: Germany. (2013). Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/germany_statistics.html

Dropping birth rates threaten global economic growth. (2014, May 7). Retrieved July 31, 2015, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dropping-birth-rates-threaten-global-economic-growth/

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