German fertility rate inches upward

Germany's long-stagnant fertility rate last year was the highest its been since 2000, despite two previous years of decline, the German Statistical Office announced on Wednesday.

German fertility rate inches upward
Triplets in Halle do their part to boost the German fertility rate. Photo: DPA

The average number of children per German woman rose from 1.33 in 2006 to 1.37 in 2007, according to government statistics. The total German fertility rate in 2007 was higher than in any year since 2000, when it stood at 1.38 children per woman.

Some 685,000 children were born in Germany last year, up about 12,000 from 2006.

German family minister Ursula von der Leyen, herself a mother of seven children, called the increase a leap of faith on the part of parents.

“Federal, regional and local governments must work hand in hand with business to ensure young parents have a true chance to combine their family and work lives – if they are forced to ask themselves the question ‘career or children?’ as has been necessary in the past, family often falls by the wayside,” von der Leyen said in a statement.

“An increase in the availability of daycare and government payments for parents and children – which should be increased – create a better framework for families.”

Under von der Leyen, Germany changed its laws to allow up to 14 months of partial salary repayments for parents who take time off to care for their babies. The new law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2007 and allows up to 12 months of leave for a primary caregiver – mother or father – and two months or more for the secondary caregiver.

While births to younger women continued to decline in 2007, government data show an increase in births for women in their late 20s and older – and especially among women between the ages of 33 and 37.

“This shows the perspective is improving for mid-career women,” von der Leyen said.

The most dramatic increase in the fertility rate came in the states of formerly Communist eastern Germany, where births per woman rose from 1.30 in 2006 to 1.37 last year. Births in the east dropped significantly after German reunification in 1990, when the fertility rate there stood at 1.52 children per woman.


How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP