“Even more dramatic was the decline in eastern Germany where the number of children fell by just under 29 percent in the ten-year period to 2010,” said Roderich Egeler President of the Federal Statistical Office, which released a report on the state of Germany's children.
The report said while the number of children has dropped by 2.1 million to 13.1 million over the last 18 years, more are now living in poverty. Roughly one in six kids live below the poverty line in Germany.
Officials worry that the lower number of young people in Europe could put its social systems under strain in the future because there will be fewer taxpayers to fund care for the elderly. Roughly one in four Germans are pensioners today, and 10 percent are affected by poverty.
Neighbouring countries have put programmes in place to boost birth rates with mixed success. In France, children make up about 22 percent of the population, while in Belgium, Great Britain and the Netherlands, about 20 percent of the population are people under 18.
Germany has yet to find a solution to its demographic difficulties, although the government is attempting to expand day care for children under three in an effort to take pressure off working parents. It has also introduced up 14 months in generous parental leave.
But while countries grapple with boosting the number of children, they are also confronted with increasing poverty. In Germany, roughly 15 percent of children were living in poverty in 2008 even before the toughest part of the economic crisis; an increase of about one percent from two years earlier.
About 7 percent of families with children were unable to partake of leisure activities, such as sports or music, due to financial problems. And more than 20 percent of families said that they had to forego vacations because of a shortage of money.
Josef Hecken, an official in the Ministry for Family Affairs said the statistics showed a need for a “sustainable family policy” and that the government was on the right track.