The ‘career or kids’ dilemma facing women today is a key factor in Germany’s baby drought, as not having children becomes the norm in Germany. Germany has the world’s lowest birth rate, according to a new study produced by German auditing firm BDO in partnership with the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI). Regrettably like most of the advanced and Western world, Germans are dying faster than they’re breeding.
The country’s fertility rates are among the lowest in the world even below Japan. The future of Germany as an economic powerhouse is threatened. The German population will have a drop of around 20 million by 2060, according to estimates from the German government statistics agency, Destatis.
Chancellor Merkel said at Davos” we will lose a net six million workers over the next 15 years.” This is before the freefall. Will the European balance of power change? Most likely.. Britain and France will overtake Germany’s GDP as they replenish their population and workforce much more efficiently. Britain and France have a birthrate 50 percent higher than Germany’s despite having many socioeconomic similarities to the country, such as education levels. Britain’s birthrate was 152nd out of 208 countries, at 12.68 babies per 1,000 people. The British population is expected to overtake Germany’s within 45 years.
The recent study shows that, on average, 8.2 children were born per 1,000 inhabitants over the past five years. Britain and France are in far better shape, with an average of 12.5 births per 1000 from 2008-2013. Portugal and Italy has an average of 9.0 and 9.3 children, respectively.
On the other extreme end of the spectrum is Niger which has 50 children born per 1,000 inhabitants. If the entire global population achieved an 8/1000 rate of procreation, the Earth would decrease in population by a billion in less than 150 years.
In part, this 8/1000 rate is because Germany has an ageing population and many are now too old to have children, but compounding the misery of this low birth rate lies the “total fertility rate.” This rate can be explained as women face a stark choice: career, or kids. For years, relatively few women in Germany worked, especially if they also had children.
Let’s have a look at the average number of children a woman might have in her lifetime. In Germany it has stood at around 1.4 since 1970. The rate of 1.4 is unsustainable, the breakeven rate is say around 2.1, and 1.4 is just two-thirds of that. This means that each generation is one-third smaller than the one before. In contrast France’s total fertility rate is 2.0, similar to levels in Scandinavia, the UK and the US.
This sharp lack of procreation has resulted in a restricted welcome for immigrants in Germany. A new study shows that Germans are becoming more mature in their treatment of immigrants.
A researcher Stephan Sievert has also recently dwelled on this disturbing trend summarising thus:
Germany has had the lowest birth rate in Europe in recent years, it has now surpassed countries outside the continent.
This is a matter of great concern as the economic repercussions of having the lowest birth rate in the world could be very damaging; Germany’s working-age population will shrink from its current 61 percent to 54 percent by 2030. Arno Probst, an executive board member of the BDO, said that as a direct consequence, Germany will face higher wage costs due to a shortage in skilled labor. “Without strong labor markets, Germany cannot maintain its economic edge in the long run,” Probst said.
Stephan Sievert warns ‘that without immigration, our population would continue to shrink, markedly.’ Last year, this demographic dip was cancelled out by record immigration – Germany’s net migration was an increase of roughly 400,000 people (1.2 million in, 800,000 out).
Germany is now worried about the sustainability of immigration rates that has helped the demographics so far. The threats like recession in the eurozone and conflicts in the Arab World combined to bring high immigration, once economies and conflicts die about these immigration rates are not likely to stay this high in the long term.
The warning this ticking demographic time bomb is giving is grave. Whatever radical views one may have about immigration with such a pathetic decline in the fertility rate, the dependency of Germany on further immigration will rise. Perhaps it is time for newer generations to think less about their personal income.
Already 400,000 thousands new migrants are expected this year with 10m foreign born nationals in the country. It is extremely difficult for a nation caught in the rut of this demographic tanker to get out. These are deeply entrenched structural issues and rooted in a desire for higher prosperity, and a lack of interest in taking responsibility to raise future generations.
These cultural and social patterns eat up society from the core. What is the point of affluence if within 100 years there will only be a quarter of the present population to enjoy barren autobahns and deserted cities? Without a burst in fertility rates we see a bleak future. This birth dearth is a nightmare for policymakers who are now throwing money at families in a bid to stem the birth dearth and encourage citizens to have more babies.
The German baby-drought is an eye opener for everyone in Europe; a plummeting population leaving dry sewers, vacant homes, ghost towns and fears of an imploding economy is a huge challenge and it is not something that a nation can ignore. Our existence is precarious: if everyone stopped procreating we’d be wiped off the planet in less than eight decades. A healthy birth rate at 2 is minimum guarantee of our survival as human race.
Today immigration and integration is at the heart of the demographic debate at the highest levels of policy. The very same European nations who are ‘whipping immigration’ will be begging for educated trained migrants in less than a decade as innovation and creativity starts depleting with a lack of new young minds. Immigrants are not that bad if they can populate the countries, which desperately need populating.
Image by © Bernd Vogel/Corbis