Which year had the lowest birth rates

The birth rate is falling, Germany is aging

"The child should only come when my living conditions are right". Gynecologist Christine Biermann often hears sentences like these in her practice in Hamburg. "Finding better career opportunities is one of the key factors in putting off wanting to have children by a few years," she says.

The number of children born in Germany in 2019 was around 778,000 babies, 9400 lower than in the previous year, reported the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) this week. The birth rate fell slightly last year compared to 1.57 in 2018 to 1.54 births per woman.

Overall, Germany's birth rate is now just below the EU average. Most children are born in France and few in Malta.

Germany's birth rate is in the EU average

Training should be worthwhile

Women in Germany have their first child later in life: on average at 30.1 years. Even later, only Italian women start having children in the EU. In Bulgaria, the youngest mothers live with an average of 26 years.

A higher level of education for women gives them more opportunities for their professional self-fulfillment. Family life with children is becoming an option among many, experts say.

West German cities have a particularly high proportion of childless women: here every fifth woman between the ages of 45 and 54 has remained childless. Above all, it is female academics who invest a lot of time and energy in their training and then want to use this qualification.

"We have a record level of students in Germany. When they are finished, a high degree of mobility is of course expected from them. This poses challenges for family planning and it is important to find solutions for the compatibility of family and work, as well as childcare is secured so that both parents can work, "says Philipp Deschermeier of DW's German Society for Demography.

Dr. Martin Bujard, Research Director at the Federal Institute for Population Research, sees no sign of a reversal of the positive trend of recent years in the latest birth rate, rather a sideways movement.

"The increase in the birth rate in Germany since 2010 is a success story," he told DW. "It is largely due to the improvement in state-subsidized childcare. The proportion of children in day-care for children under 3 years of age was mostly below 10 percent in 2007, and has now tripled."

Demography researchers are rather optimistic about the birth trend in Germany

Wealth of children only for the rich?

A survey by the Federal Institute for Population Research showed that three quarters of the young adults surveyed in Germany between the ages of 24 and 43 agree with the claim that many children are something wonderful. But more than half believe that only families with enough money should have lots of children.

However, the reality is different. According to the Federal Institute for Population Research, almost a quarter of large families are at risk of poverty.

In Germany, however, families usually only have one or two children. Only 16 percent of all families in Germany have three children or more. Here, in a European comparison, Germany is in the lower midfield, far behind the front runner Ireland with 36 percent.

In a study from 2019, the Federal Institute for Population Research sees an increasing number of children among families with a strong religious - Muslim or Catholic - character, in rural areas where much cheaper housing is available.

A family in Germany with three or more children is considered to have many children - only four percent of families have more than three children

Immigration raises the birth rate

A birth rate of 2.1 children would be necessary to keep the size of the population in Germany constant without immigration. But Germany has not had such numbers since the so-called "pill break" half a century ago. In Germany, it has been the case for decades that the population does not decrease because more people immigrate than emigrate or die.

Since the 1950s, when young, able-bodied people were recruited mainly from southern Europe, there has been more immigration than emigration in Germany. The peak was reached in 2015 with an influx of over two million people.

Immigrants are, on average, younger than the rest of the population: so they are mostly employed taxpayers and they raise families.

For women with foreign citizenship in Germany, the birth rate in 2019 was 2.06 children per woman, above the overall average. But here, too, the following applies: The birth rate of migrant women with a high level of education is just as low as that of women born in Germany. "Many young people come to Germany. That makes up for our birth deficit," says demography researcher Deschermeier.

Turkish guest worker families in the 1970s often had many children

He refers to the "surprising increase in the number of births in 2016," which the Federal Statistical Office attributed to the high birth rate among women who immigrated from Southeastern Europe. Deschermeier analyzes that Germany has once again benefited from immigration in the context of the EU debt crisis in terms of birth rates.

Germany is trendy

In mid-July, an international team of researchers led by Christopher Murray from the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation (IHME) at Washington University predicted a birth rate for the entire world at the current German level of only 1.5 children per woman, instead of that of the United Nations previously assumed 1.8.

The study was published in the medical journal "The Lancet" and predicts two billion fewer people in the world by the end of the century than the current UN forecasts.

According to the study, more than 20 countries, including Japan, Spain, Italy and Poland, will lose half of their population by 2100 if they do not experience massive immigration. China will also shrink from the current 1.4 billion to around 730 million inhabitants by the end of the century, say the researchers.

The German demographer Martin Bujard is skeptical of such studies. "I think birthrate predictions for such a long period are pure speculation," he says. "You can predict population size and aging for a few decades, but the birth rate in particular depends on factors that are still unknown today."

Fewer children - more old people

German and international studies confirm that with a low birth rate and increasing life expectancy, the global population is aging - despite high net immigration. In Germany, immigrants in the first few years now reach retirement age at the same time as the baby boomer generation.

The shifts between the age groups within the population are serious, as confirmed by the demography experts of the German federal government. The proportion of the under-20s in the population has decreased from 30 to 18 percent since 1950. Old age is becoming a mass phenomenon: in 1950, every hundredth inhabitant in Germany was 80 years or older. Today it is one in every fifteen. From around 2040 it could be more than one in ten.

The age pyramid in Germany has shifted significantly with increasing life expectancy

More old people are a burden on social and health systems as the number of people of working age declines. As early as 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described demographic change as "the greatest change in our social life, but also in the personal life of every individual in the first half of the 21st century", alongside globalization.

Demography researcher Wolfgang Lutz does not necessarily consider this to be a problem: "One should rather look at productivity. If more women work and more people work longer, the consequences of demographic change are less dramatic than expected," he says.

Coronavirus and Demographics

In times of crisis, birth declines can always be observed: In Germany, for example, after the economic crisis of 1929. In East Germany it was the uncertain turning point after reunification, for example in 1994 there was the lowest birth rate of all time with a value of 1.2.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has brought Germany and other countries into recession, demographers expect an impact on the birth rate. But which?

"I am now very curious to see what will happen to the birth rate during the Corona period," says Deschermeier. "People worry about their health and economic future, so many may have said to themselves: This is not necessarily the best time to have children. On the other hand, the lockdown in which young couples had to stay at home could have the opposite effect . "

A survey by the London School of Economics (LSE) in April and May 2020 in Great Britain, Italy, France, Spain and Germany shows a clear trend: The coronavirus pandemic has a negative impact on the family planning of the 18 surveyed in these countries. up to 34 year olds.