Protect job, defuse demographic time bomb – have babies!

June 19, 2009

Worried about losing your job during the economic crisis?

 

Then make the most of Germany’s generous parental benefits and job protection for parents on baby leave, and take time off to procreate.  That’s at least the message coming from a leading economist in Germany, who is urging the government to do even more for young families, and echoing loudly in the German media.

 

It may seem counterintuitive — traditionally, birth rates are seen falling during downturns, as people fear for their jobs, worry about a fall in income and seek to reduce costs — but some politicians and researchers say using the recession to have children could be advantageous for all: individuals, companies and the future economy.

 

Not only does parental leave help avoid being discharged, but you might also be doing your small part to defuse a demographic and economic time bomb, as low birth rates mean average ages are creeping up and putting pressure on the pension, health and welfare system.

 

And your temporary absence may be good for companies too, many of which are implementing shorter working hours to keep on qualified staff while adjusting to the current slide in demand.

 

“In times of a crisis, people always say you should build up human capital,” says Ulrich Blum, president of Germany’s IWH economic research institute in Halle. “But human capital doesn’t only mean further education, it also means that you should use the crisis to fulfil your desire for children.”

 

Some studies show the German population could dip below 70 million by 2050 from about 82 million.

“Seeing as we know that the crisis mostly affects young people, then we should turn this stupid situation into a golden opportunity, by providing the corresponding legal incentives,” he said.

 

The German government has introduced many parental benefits in recent years to encourage working couples to have children, and in 2007 the birth rate rose for the first time in a decade to 1.37 children per woman. But experts have argued the economic crisis could halt the rising birth rate, as people worry about their livelihoods and seek to reduce costs, and have urged the government to do more. The annual number of births fell by around 10,000 babies to 675,187 in 2008, government data shows.

 

Germany’s Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has seven children of her own, this month said she was seeking to change parental leave benefits so that young parents can still cash in on them while working part-time.  “Precisely in the economic crisis, better options for the combination of parental money and part-time work create more flexibility and security for families,” she said. “Such a system would allow companies to draw on qualified employees, even if the volume of orders drops,” she said.

 

However, the topic of population policy is a sensitive one in Germany, where Nazi methods to encourage women to have children in order to bolster Hitler’s future armies still weigh on the collective consciousness.

 

Blum’s comments have drawn some criticism from people who think that by encouraging women to take time off, the government would be confining them to their traditional role of raising children, and considering babies as economic pawns rather than human beings.

 

“So now we should have children. Because a few men in fancy suits and even fancier offices in their fancy banks overshot themselves and miscalculated slightly – no, thank you,” writes the online magazine frauenzimmer.de. “Our economy desperately needs qualified workers and people to pay into the pension scheme. But you don’t have children because of that, you have children out of love.”

 (PHOTO: Germany’s Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen poses with children during her visit at the ‘Lelka Birnbaum Kindergarten’ at the St. Pauli district in Hamburg February 11, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Charisius)

 

3 comments

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It’s only native Germans who are in demographic decline. Non-whites in Germany do not have that problem. Not in Germany, not in France, not in Britain, and certainly not in the U.S.And therein lies the Problem.

Posted by Mike in NYC | Report as abusive

This article however opinionated it may be sums up one of the major problems in this world. We have scientists trying to figure out how to stop people from having children instead of figuring out the solution to our problems. Humans are programmed to have children its a fact of life, if we all stopped having children we would die out. The problem that arises is not that we don’t have the reasources to support this new generation, its that we as individuals consume too much.

Posted by Thomas | Report as abusive

This article however opinionated it may be sums up one of the major problems in this world. How is it that America has become a debt filled bunch of embezzling chauvinists? The culture has trained us to take as much as we can and leave none for others. The solution to saving our economy isn’t having less children, its finding what we can provide for them:A. An education (technology is our future)B. Create a new system (ours is out dated hence it is failing)C. Referring to any other human civilization grow adapt and change.The idea that we are now being slipped hints through articles and such that if we have less children we will all be successful. America has reached a point where it can either be remembered or will fade into the pages of a history book, depending on its actions in the next century. In the past in times like these governments would go to war to finance and stimulate the economy, the whole of the people would back the cause and actually want to succeed. That being said, America if it were to go to war and be invaded there would be no spirit, the average human doesn’t honestly care about America that is not what the culture has taught us. Here is an idea…get people to rally around a cause, actually have faith in their government, because people can clearly see corruption. Until the individual person feels like they are making a difference, no progress will be made and we will continue to regress.

Posted by Thomas | Report as abusive

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