Thursday, October 11, 2007

Falling Birthrates in Europe Prompt Bribes, Shunning of Childless

European Governments Battle the Continent's Birth Dearth

European birthrates have been falling, and only Ireland and France remain at or above replacement levels. The continent averages 1.5 births per women, while the US rate remains above replacement levels at 2.8. Although immigration itself, and the relative birthrates of immigrants are offsetting these numbers, European governments are amping up their baby bribes; Zapatero (Spain's Prime Minister) revealed a plan to pay women 2,500 euros per child.

Sarier still:
[T]here is even talk of taxing those who have chosen to abstain from the biological imperative of procreation.
And yet Germany still stands out among them - childless rates range from 30-40% there. Not surprisingly, it has also responded with the most agressive programs in order to ensure more Germans.
Under the Elterngeld (parents' money), new parents can receive up to 67 percent of lost income for a year after the birth of a child. Working parents can also offset 3,000 euros annually of childcare costs against taxes.
But we've heard all this before, in different forms. This article is especially notable in the culutral backlash happening there.
In a culture that even has a word for the dislike of children (Kinderfeindlichkeit -- though it is used more often to delineate a cultural phenomenon as opposed to an individual disposition), rhetoric against childlessness has rippled through the media and blossomed at the governmental level.

The best seller lists have been saturated with titles forecasting impending doom and gloom for Germany. In a 2006 bestseller, "Minimum," conservative writer Frank Schirrmacher (ironically, father of one) resorts to scare-mongering tactics to depict a future devoid of families, and calls upon women to ultimately "save the day." In an in-depth Newsweek report last year, author Stefan Theil notes that the German media has begun to stigmatize the "cold career woman," citing an article that included photos of childfree celebrities. And most will recall the infamous remark made in 2005 by then first lady Schröder-Köpf, attacking her husband's rival Angela Merkel for not having children. "Mrs. Merkel, with her biography, does not embody the experience of most women," Schröder-Köpf told the German weekly Die Zeit. The stigmatization of the childless and the recent debates surrounding the issue of demographics have certainly touched a raw nerve among Germans.
I don't know whether to be more jealous of their birthrates, or fearful of their culture. Turning pronatal shunning of childless women into a country-wide imperative (instead of a mere organic outgrowth as it is here) raises the stakes for our poor counterparts there. If any readers are residing in Germany, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in Germany and I definitely will get the hell out of it asap if the discriminations against childless/childfree people continue. I'm not sure if this sudden surge in pro-natalist politics is going to last for very long, but if it does I won't stay here and pay for the breeder perks. And from what I've heard a lot of childless/childfree adults are already choosing to work and live elsewhere.