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Germans Desperate to Reverse Plummeting Birth Rate


Faced with plummeting birth rates that threaten to undermine its economy, Germany is aggressively experimenting with new policies to reverse the decline. NYT:

There is perhaps nowhere better than the German countryside to see the dawning impact of Europe’s plunge in fertility rates over the decades, a problem that has frightening implications for the economy and the psyche of the Continent. In some areas, there are now abundant overgrown yards, boarded-up windows and concerns about sewage systems too empty to work properly […]

Some experts worry that Germany has already waited too long to tackle the issue. But others say that is too pessimistic. In any case, in Germany the issue is front and center now.

Read the whole thing to get a sense of the seriousness of the problem, as well as the different solutions Germans are currently debating. One clear answer for Europe in general and Germany in particular would be a more generous immigration policy. But given longstanding Euro wariness about immigration, in many countries that’s a political non-starter.

An immediate stopgap measure that Germany is already pursuing is raising the retirement age. The government has decided to increase the age by two years, from 65 to 67. Thanks to immigration, American birth rates are not as dangerously low as those in Europe, but we are still going to face a demographic crunch. We can learn from Germany’s willingness to raise the retirement age. Later retirement is not only good for the economy and for the solvency of entitlement programs; it’s also vital to the emotional and physical health of the elderly. Delayed retirement should be only the policy table in America just as it is in Europe.

[Broken euro image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    “One clear answer for Europe in general and Germany in particular would be a more generous immigration policy. But given longstanding Euro wariness about immigration, in many countries that’s a political non-starter.”

    Get real, kiddies. Germany wants to be populated with Germans — not Arabs, Turks and heaven only knows what else.

    • Cory Atkin

      It’s a pretty tough problem.

      On the one hand, if you are trying to save your culture, the last thing you want to do is start importing a bunch of people who have a completely different one, because that will just speed its demise.

      On the other hand, your own people have so rejected their own culture that they are no longer willing to procreate in order to perpetuate it.

      It sounds like they are doomed (culturally) either way.

      Western culture has had quite a long run. It makes you wonder what will replace it?

      Okay, so I guess that is a rhetorical question. Obviously what will replace it is whichever culture is still having babies.

      • Corlyss

        “On the other hand, your own people have so rejected their own culture that they are no longer willing to procreate in order to perpetuate it.”

        This has been a theme of some very concerned European intellectuals like Melanie Philips, Peter Hitchens (the late Christopher’s younger brother), Douglas Murray, Christopher Caldwell, Theodore Dalrymple, Jean Francois Revel, Pascal Bruckner, and Bruce Bawer, to name a few. The EU has been one of the principle proponents of contempt for western civilization in the last 20 years, with their obsession with stamping out nationalism and national differences by top-down law and regulation.

    • Corlyss

      Everything else, Pete. Germans have been kidding themselves ever since the end of the war. Their declining birth rate and the Golden Goose-ness of the welfare state are just two of a multitude of issues. All this utopian nattering that goes on here about the virtues of immigration for nations traditionally incapable of absorbing outsiders, like Germany, like France, like Japan, is just more of elites’ patented Magical Thinking.

      • Pete

        Yes, and as for the elites and their ‘Magical Thinking,’ they are drunk on the political correctness of Kumbaya.

        For all their education & degrees, the elites are ignorant of history & human nature, and they’re equally devoid of common sense.

  • Bruce

    This is accurate. What wasn’t mentioned was that in difficult economic times, the older people working longer prevent younger people from getting those jobs. Despite that negative, it still has to be done. The math doesn’t lie and the retirement math right now means that some bad things are going to happen to people. The moral of the story is that selling your vote to the vote buyers has negative consequences for everybody.

  • qultr

    The US is headed the same direction, and the war on the young is not helping. When young people are saddled with government-encouraged student debt and a terrible job market, they are not likely to get married and start a family. For some reason, however, they vote for the party that is fomenting this war–perhaps because they naively believe the talk about the straw man wars on everybody else? That’s the party, BTW, that hosted the love-fest for abortion at their convention last year. Last I checked, promoting abortion does not help the birth rate.

    Let’s not wait until we are Germany. Let’s start talking about pro-natalist policies now. A good start might be to allow bankruptcy to discharge student debt–which would also serve to push government out of the student loan business and bring down college tuition. Let’s do away with any tax penalties on marriage and give larger tax credits for children. And for heaven’s sake, do not support any organization that promotes abortion.

    • bpuharic

      Yeah let’s promote freedom by banning freedom. Makes no sense at all

      • qultr

        The Democratic party is extreme on abortion, much more so than Europe, where most countries ban abortion after 20 weeks. You’re talking about the freedom to kill babies–good to know.

        • bpuharic

          The Europeans provide free healhcare to mothers and babies

          The GOP lets them die. A bit of a difference

          • Tate Metlen

            You are truly hilarious. Tell us another one.

          • Earl_of_Effingham

            And despite their extremely generous system, the German left sounds exactly like you: “People just cannot afford to have children.”

            One idea is all you have.

            As if the left or the greens ever contributed anything to make life cheaper or generate growth.

            It never changes and it is never enough, and the real middle class is drained by paying for all this. There is a reason why socialist East Germany failed but you guys neverlearn.

          • bpuharic

            I’m as much a socialist as you are a nazi.

            The right uses ‘socialism’ as an ideological placeholder to avoid having to think.

          • Earl_of_Effingham

            Americans had higher birthrates than Germans for the last few decades. Free healthcare has nothing to do with it. Our birthrates began to fall relatively recently. As is Germany, they fall even as the nanny state expands. Think about that.

          • bpuharic

            Think about the fact higher birth rates generally occur among the poorest populations (red states have higher out of wedlock birth rates than blue states do, for example.) Think about that.

  • Cory Atkin

    Or perhaps they could do something real drastic and solve the problem the way the God of nature set it up for us humans.

    Get rid of the retirement age all together. Go back to the old notion where you retire when you either have enough money in the bank or have raised enough competent children that can take care of you in your old age.

    The government has taken over responsibility for taking care of people in their old age, and people have rightly realized that children are no longer an essential part of their long term survival and have thus stopped having them.

    The natural order is for a parent to take care of a child in its weakness and then the child returns the favor when the parent gets weak.

    The welfare state has thrown off that natural order of things.

    We have created a program that, on the one hand, can only survive if people continue to have lots of children but, on the other hand, gives them every incentive not to have any.

    Rhetoric can get politicians elected and win popularity for demagogs, but it can’t change human nature. Cultures that have adopted the welfare state will go extinct. There is no way around that fact.

    Dismantle the welfare state and in a few years you will see the birth rate going back up.

    • Corlyss

      Prosperity destroys the incentive to have kids. With the arrival of widely available birth control, and the consequential rise of recreational sex without fear of burdensome results, and the way children reduce discretionary income, and the self-absorption that childlessness brings, as you say, where’s the incentive?

    • bpuharic

      Yeah and let’s bring back Ozzie and Harriet while we’re at it. The romantic, 19th century view of America is dead.

      THe right’s war on the middle class has produced a generation where the middle class can barely AFFORD children let alone put enough away for retirement.

      The 1 percent have tripled their income in the last 30 years while the middle class has had


      percent increase in income. But they’re all moochers, you see

      • Doug


  • Corlyss

    This is not a novel observation, even for ViaMedia.

    The minions behind the curtain must be new interns. Economist has been covering this for a looooong time.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Well Duh! It’s obvious, the Germans need to have more SEX! That story about the stork brings them, is a crock. I suggest Nooners, as well as Good good mornings, to start their days off right, and the evening joint shower hour, 3 times a day sounds about right for the Germans.

    Oh! And also, a very large tax break for each child, which can only be conferred onto the father, and is to be retained by the father, in the event of a divorce. And finally, a decree that all children will from now on be refered to as “The Enormous Tax Deduction”.

  • Jane the Actuary

    There isn’t anything particular mysterious about why the birthrate has dropped: the current generation of Germans has grown up in families of one, or, at most, two children, and perceive small families as normal. Two children is pretty much the maximum, and one much easier, as far as the routines of daily life: homes (that is, apartments) have two bedrooms, cars have room for two children, etc. No children is easier still, and you’re not going to convince Gemans to have children they otherwise don’t want, for the Greater Good of society.

    As for daycare spots, the high cost of daycare in the US doesn’t stop Americans from reproducing — and the unavailability of daycare referenced in the article is really the difficulty of finding heavily subsidized daycare. Home day care — a Tagesmutter — is widely available, but expensive.

    Is immigration the answer? Look, not to be racist, but you can’t just swap out one group for another wholesale and preserve what makes Germany, Germany.

  • Earl_of_Effingham

    The call for more immigration is just a lazy cop out. Germany actually had lots of immigrants for decades. He results are mixed, depending on their origin. I once lived in a mid size German city in a part of town where over 40% are immigrants or children of immigrants. The idea that most of them will be net contributors to the social security system over their lifetime is absurd.

  • Doug

    Countries that fail to produce enough children die. It’s that simple. It may take a generation or two, but the country dies. Japan and Russia are on this path, too. Some people blame selfishness and the collapse of religious faith, and there’s surely some truth to that. The decline of marriage as an institution (apparently no one in Germany gets married these days) is either a contributing cause or a symptom of the underlying disease. The more I look at the problem, though, the less I understand it. Children are the best thing ever. Who could not want to have lots of children and grand children? How can having a a few more toys and possessions compare? I don’t get it.

    • f1b0nacc1

      The future belongs to those who show up for it…The Germans haven’t long left…

  • Jim__L

    If feminists can rediscover motherhood,
    If atheists can forget self-centeredness,
    If socialists can stop their war on the young,
    and if social “innovators” and the fanatical boosters of “change” can start to be selective about whether their innovations are positive or negative,

    Germany and Europe may have a chance.

    I wouldn’t bet on it. Traditional, self-reliant, religious Westerners are going to be the only portions of the West that survive, unpoisoned by their own decadence.

    • bpuharic

      And if ‘traditional, self reliant religious westerners’ can unlearn their arrogant self delusions….

      • qultr

        Unfortunately these days most of the self-righteousness is found on the left. But lefties are so accustomed to thinking that they are infinitely “open-minded,” they are utterly unable to perceive their own deep prejudices, inconsistencies and intolerance. Instead they scream shrilly about the right in a classic case of projection.

        • bpuharic

          Guess you never heard of either the civil rights or gay rights movements

          Neither of which were right wing. However, the right DOES have what it considers the greatest civil rights battle in the history of the human race: liberation of the rich from middle class oppression. The right truly suffers for the suffering of the rich.

          • qultr

            Oh for heaven’s sake, give me a break. Civil Rights were supported by conservatives more than lefties, and especially by religious people.

            Gay rights have just turned into self-righteous bullying by a group that is definitely part of the rich elite.

            The left uses rights talk as a bludgeon and a conversation stopper to bully anyone who disagrees with them. Rights talk and equality talk are substantively empty–they are a way of avoiding the real issues. Equality means nothing more than treating like things alike. Everyone agrees that is a good idea–the question is, what is the significance of the differences? Lefties blather on about rights, but cannot tell you what a “right” is–it’s a mere abstraction to avoid the real questions.

            In case you hadn’t noticed, it is the left that clings to privilege–media, the academy, even wall street–all supported Obama more than Romney. All try to bludgeon the right by constantly playing a straw man race card or gender card or whatever it may be. They are so busy being self-righteous they are incapable of dealing with this reality or the real issues.

          • bpuharic

            Wow. I knew the right was revisionist and was filled with liars. I never dreamed you’d be so brazen as to lie in such a bold faced manner.

            Conservatives FOUGHT against the civil rights movement. In fact, William F Buckley filled his magazine with remonstrations against the ‘communists’ in the civil rights movement (like Martin Luther King) and defended ‘white civilization’ (SIC) against the ‘negro threat’ posed by voter registration.

            James J Kilpatrick, writing in National Review also said blacks voting posed a threat.

            If you’re going to lie, please do so in a that doesn’t cause people to break out in laughter!

            And as to being bullied by ‘gay rights’ that’s another right wing lie. Of course, 20 years from now you’ll be here to tell us what tremendous supporters of gay rights right wingers were, just like you’re lying about the civil rights movement now.

          • qultr

            Do some research, bpuharic. Brown v. Board happened in the Eisenhower administration, which sent troops to Little Rock, desegregated the military and shepherded two Civil Rights Acts through congress, one in 1957 and one in 1960–the enforcement provisions of the 1960 act were weakened by one man–LBJ. 99 members of congress signed a manifesto denouncing Brown v. Board, 97 were Dems, 2 were Republican. The following Democratic congressmen were against Civil Rights: Harry Byrd, Robert Byrd, Allan Ellender, Al Gore Sr., J William Fulbright and Walter F. George. They went on to serve for many years in the Dem party.

            When conservatives like Buckley or Goldwater opposed CR legislation, it was because they foresaw problems with states rights, freedom of association and the like. Unlike the above- mentioned congressmen, they did not oppose such laws for racist reasons.

          • bpuharic

            The GOP was late to the party, which you’d know if you stopped listening to Rush (PBUH).

            Truman desegregated the army in 48 and the Dems had a civil rights plank in their platform which caused right wingers to bolt to the GOP.

            And southern Democrats were CONSERVATIVE racists. The south has always been conservative. It has always been racist.

            Goldwater gave aid and comfort to racists by his defense of states rights, just like conservatives do today

            Stop revising history. Learn the truth.

          • qultr

            Sorry bpuharic, you’re just wrong here. There were people against CR in both parties and people for it, but you cannot say the Democrats were the leaders. Eisenhower actually began the process of desegregation of the military in WWII, and even though Truman tried to desegregate the army in 1948, it really didn’t happen. Implementation was left to Eisenhower. In other words, it was a bipartisan effort. Try to be more nuanced in your thinking. And the race card is just not playing any more. Move on.

          • bpuharic

            Eisenhower didn’t become president until AFTER Truman desegregated the army. You can engage in special pleading and begging all you want. The fact is, southern conservatives were racists and that fact gives the lie to your bizarre delusion that conservatives supported the civil rights movement.

            Like I said, 10 years from now, you’ll be claiming that the right supported gay rights against the liberals. I can hardly wait.

          • qultr

            But bpuharic, signing laws and accomplishing the task are two different things. Civil Rights was absolutely bipartisan, and you sure could argue that Republicans led the way. As I pointed out, Eisenhower began military desegregation in WWII and finished the job in his presidency, along with sending troops to Little Rock and other things.

            I’m not sure what your point is. Are you trying to demonize conservatives and imply that we are all evil? If so that is pretty sad, but I think that is what is going on.

            I suggest that you read Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. He points out that conservatives understand progressives far better than vice-versa because the left just demonizes the right and does not try to understand the deeper issues. In my experience that is spot on.

            Conservatives champion rights for everyone, but the question is, what is a right and what makes people equal? Rights to due process, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, etc. are very important. The problem is that you can’t just shout the word “right” and not discuss exactly what you are talking about as the left likes to do.
            They just want to everyone to kowtow to what they think is a “right.”

            In the case of marriage, certainly everyone does not have the right to marry anyone else, so we have to explore the questions surrounding the needs of children and families and the effects on the larger culture of making drastic changes to marriage. Shouting about nebulous words like “rights” and “equality” doesn’t answer those questions. And the truth is, sooner or later, we have to have these discussions about the real issues. If we do it later, it is only harder.

          • bpuharic

            You’re missing the point…as usual

            Party labels mean nothing. Ideology IS the issue. And it was CONSERVATIVES who opposed civil rights

            The Southern Baptist Convention…a church NO ONE would accuse of being liberal…founded as a PRO SLAVERY church…opposed civil rights. It was conservative…reactionary

            Wiliam F Buckley…NO ONE would say he was liberal…OPPOSED CIVIL RIGHTS.

            When the Democrats pushed a civil rights plank into their party, CONSERVATIVES like Strom Thurmond left the democrats.

            Again and again it was CONSERVATIVES who opposed civil rights.

            Conservatives are elitists. They have always favored the powerful over the middle class which is WHY they opposed civil rights, which is WHY they favored busting uinions which is WHY they oppose gay rights, etc. Your delusions about conservatives doesn’t bear scrutiny.

            Look up “Epistemic Closure”. See how conservatives, from opposing evolution, civil rights, etc, understand NOTHING.

  • Earl_of_Effingham

    The salient factis that the German birth rate began its inexorable drop around 1967. It predates the huge expansion of social spending in the 1970s, when the share of social services rose from about 19% of gdp to over 30% (“sozialleistungsquote”). All this time, Americans had more children and that is true even today. The idea that free healthcare, education or day care centers make people have more children is evidently not true.

  • Blub

    Immigration, sure. A few numbers:

    70% of immigrants live off the welfare system.
    Most immigrants are Turks. 8.7% manage high school. 40% don’t manage to finish even basic school.

    In the last 20 years, immigrants killed ca 7500 young German men – that’s approximately six per week – and raped about three times as many young German women, some with sharp objects, cutting their uterus to pieces. Lets not even talk assaults.

    An effort was made to get more Indians to immigrate. They don’t come. They have closer ties with England.

    Clearly, immigration is the answer…

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