Trend of ever more childless women comes to halt in Germany - even for academics

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Emma Anderson - [email protected]
Trend of ever more childless women comes to halt in Germany - even for academics
Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting triplets in March. Photo: DPA.

New figures released on Wednesday show that the years-long trend of women in Germany ending up childless has come to an end, with even university-educated women bringing more babies into the world.


For decades, the rate of childless women in Germany has continued to grow, nearly doubling from 11 percent of women born in 1937, to 21 percent of women born in 1967. But that pattern has now come to a halt, according to a report released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on Wednesday.

Since 1967, the proportion of women born in the late 1960s and 1970s who are childless has stabilized, the researchers found through a micro-census of nearly 800,000 people in 2016. Whether this development will continue for women born in the 1980s and 1990s is yet to be seen.

“The years-long trend of an increasing childlessness rate has evidently stopped,” said Destatis vice president Dr. Georg Thiel in a statement.

And the report notes that this shift in childbirths is not just due to the growing immigrant population, but also due to more German-born women having babies.

“Indeed the rate of childless, academically-educated women has dropped in the last few years,” Thiel observed.

Among university-educated women between the ages of 40 to 44 surveyed, 25 percent had no children - 3 percentage points lower than the 28 percent recorded in 2012.

The study suggests that the decreasing rate of childlessness is due in part to improved conditions for the balance of work and family, in particular better child care offerings. The report authors state that this hypothesis is confirmed by the simultaneous increase in working mothers over the last eight years. 

In 2016, 44 percent of mothers with one-year-olds were actively employed and not on maternity leave. In 2008, only 36 percent of mothers with children this age were working.

Among mothers whose youngest child was age two, this percentage increased to 58 percent who had jobs. But in 2008, working mums made up less than half of this same category at 46 percent.

The report also found that university-educated women are more quickly jumping back into their careers than they were eight years ago. In 2016, 58 percent of such mothers started working again when their youngest child reached age one, while 54 percent did the same in 2008.

Additionally, 19 percent of academics with one-year-olds started working again full-time. In 2008, 16 percent did the same.

For years, experts have feared a shrinking German population in the future - even with immigration - due to the long-term trend of death rates outstripping birth rates. A study in 2015 found that Germany had the second-oldest population in the world after Japan, a country which also struggles with low birth rates.

Before the influx of asylum seekers reached a high in mid-2015, Destatis predicted that same year that the population could plummet by at least 10 million people by 2060. The statisticians said at the time that while immigration could lead to population spikes in the short-term, the figure could drop again in the long-run.

Still, new immigrants to the country brought the German population in 2016 to a record level. And there was more hope earlier this year when figures for 2015 showed that Germany had reached its highest fertility rate since the end of the Cold War in 1990, when the country reunified.



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