Germany: Becoming less German

The German gov't is trying to encourage parents to have more kids by offering money as incentive, though this holds for both "old" and "new" Germans. The question is who would make better use of these incentives. If the purpose here is to encourage only "ethnic" Germans, I doubt this would work. Though Burhan Kesici, vice president of the Islam Federation in Berlin, is quoted below as saying that money is not an issue, it would certainly be an issue if it is offered.

When a bureaucracy creates a criteria by which one is eligible to receive cash it has created a new job.

Just 1.3 babies per German woman

"The German population is permanently shrinking while the foreign population is permanently growing," says Dr. Herwig Birg, a demographic expert who just retired as head of the Institute for Population Research and Social Politics at the University of Bielefeld and authored "The Demographic Time Change." "Germans will soon become a minority in major German cities [like Berlin] in the under 40 age group."

A quick glance at birthrates in Germany highlights Birg's point. Immigrants in Germany -- those of Turkish origin make up the largest immigrant group in the country -- have about 1.9 children per woman. A modest rate given that demographic experts say a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to maintain population stability. But it's productive compared to ethnic Germans. They only have a paltry 1.3 babies per woman. In other words, a dropping population isn't the only societal change currently going on in Germany.

Demographic statistics released in March by the Federal Statistics Office provided the most recent wake-up call. Only between 680,000 and 690,000 babies were born in Germany in 2005 -- the lowest number since World War II. And a quarter of the kids, according to a New York Times article, were born to women with immigration backgrounds.

Even more striking are some nuts and bolts statistics that have remained true in Germany since about the 1980s: Births here have registered somewhere in the mid 700,000s while deaths come in at around 850,000 according to Birg's research in his latest book "The Missing Generation." Meanwhile, net immigration into Germany adds up to about 200,000 per year. In other words, Germans are not only dying out, but they're slowly being replaced by non-Germans.

Dramatic effects

It's a trend that will likely only accelerate. According to projections from the Federal Office of Statistics, the country's population will shrink from its current 82 million to 70 million by 2050 assuming an annual influx of 200,000 immigrants. The population drop, combined with Germany's aging society, is likely to have dramatic effects on the country's social system and labor market.

But what to do about it? Von der Leyen's "Alliance for Upbringing" has been criticized for focusing entirely on Christian values -- her team includes both Catholic and Protestant leaders but no Muslim leaders. She has defended herself by pointing out that 73 percent of daycare centers in Germany are run by either the Catholic or Protestant church.

"There are very few Muslim daycares," she said in an interview with Der Spiegel last week. "Of course, we have to concern ourselves with these as well, but their situation differs greatly from Christian influenced daycare." She has also maintained that the German constitution is essentially a legal summary of the Ten Commandments.

But if she really wants to up German baby output, there is reason to believe that von der Leyen would be advised to promote Muslim values. According to the Federal Statistics Office, only 11 percent of Germans have three or more children whereas 20 percent of immigrant families produce at least a troika of toddlers.

"Religion, regardless of which, promotes children," Burhan Kesici, vice president of the Islam Federation in Berlin, says diplomatically. But then he cuts to the heart of the matter. "We're not afraid of not having enough money for children. We believe that Allah takes care of everything."

Source: Spiegel (English)

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