This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Germany Contemplates a New Family Policy

Women in Germany currently are currently bearing an average of 1.4 children, which is more in line with Germany's eastern and southern European neighborhoods than with its western and northern European neighbors, where fertility is slightly higher, although still below replacement level. A major explanation for low fertility is the difficulty facing women in combining a career and motherhood in a society like Germany where very traditional attitudes persist regarding gender roles. The belief is that women belong at home with the children, and that doesn't square with maintaining a career. Into this situation the German government is thinking about injecting a new family policy, as reported in this week's Economist:
CRITICS call it a “hearth bonus” or “keep-your-kids-out-of-school money”. The government prefers Betreuungsgeld (“child-care benefit”). Few of its ideas are as contentious as a planned €150 ($199) monthly payment to parents who do not put their children into crèches [day care centers].
The issue is whether this really fixes any of Germany's demographic problems:
Germany’s long-term worries include a shrinking and ageing population, immigrants who are not fully integrated into the workforce and women who are both underemployed and underpaid. German women work fewer hours than women in most other OECD countries (see chart). The gap in median pay is the third-widest in the club, after South Korea’s and Japan’s. That is partly because mothers stay at home. In 2008 just 18% of children under the age of three were in formal child care, against an OECD average of 30%.
It appears that the new family policy would not really accomplish the objective of helping to raise the birth rate--if that is the objective. Subsidized day care--essentially the opposite of what this legislation proposes--is much more likely to promote among women a belief that they can work and also have a second child.

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