Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Germany's population is continuing to decline, despite financial incentives designed to encourage couples to have more children

DPA:

The Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said deaths outstripped births by 57,200 in the first three months of 2007, causing the population to shrink by 0.5 per cent.

A total of 149,300 children were born in the first quarter of this year, only 0.4 per cent more than the corresponding period of 2006 - the year with the lowest birthrate in German history.

The figures indicated that measures introduced by the government last year had stopped a decline in the birthrate but had failed to trigger a baby boom.

The scheme includes a new form of state-funded child welfare support where parents can claim a percentage of their previous income while staying at home to raise their children.

Although the measures did not legally come into force until December, they were announced in May, allowing couples to take advantage of them by having children in the first quarter of 2007.

Revised figures released by the statistics office showed a total of 672,675 babies were born in Europe's biggest economy last year, some 1.9 per cent or 13,000 fewer than in 2005.

With 822,000 deaths recorded in 2006, the number of new births was below the replacement level. As a result, the population declined by 0.1 per cent to 82.31 million, the statistics office said.

Deaths have outstripped new births in Germany every year since 1991, but the population had risen because of immigration. This trend ended in 2003 and the population has gone down every year since.

Commenting on Friday's figures, Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she was happy that more children were being born in a country which has one of the lowest birthrates in Europe.

"But a lot more needs to be done to turn Germany into a country where young men and women no longer have reservations about having children," said the minister, herself a mother of seven.

The government has also introduced tax breaks to help couples that want children and has agreed to a vast expansion of nursery school places that would allow women to raise children and continue working.

The cry should go up in Europe: more babies, please

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