German Birthrate Hits Bottom: Lowest in Europe
By Gudrun Schultz

BERLIN, Germany, March 17, 2006 ( – Germany’s birth rate is now the lowest in Europe. Only 8.5 babies were born in Germany last year for every 1,000 residents.

In 1964, 1.36 million babies were born in Germany. In 2005, half as many children were born, at just 680,000—the birth rate hasn’t been this low since the end of the Second World War, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

The German city of Chemnitz, in former East Germany, has the lowest birth rate in the world, with 6.9 babies born per 1,000 residents.

“The tradition in the 1950s, 60s and even the 80s in Germany was that a mother was only a mother and looked after the children,” Michael Hüther, who heads up Cologne’s economics institute, told the Guardian.

 “We are reaching a critical point,” he said to Die Welt newspaper. “The number of births now determines what happens in the next decade-and-a-half to two decades. You can’t revise it afterwards. The availability of human capital will get worse, and act as a brake on growth.”

Efforts to shore up the birth rate have been mainly unsuccessful so far. Germany’s family minister Ursula von der Leyen introduced tax breaks last year to help couples that wanted children. Increased nursery places and a new state-funded welfare scheme requiring men to take two months off work for families to qualify were also introduced, but none of the changes have had a significant impact on the rate of birth.

All of Europe is facing the same plummeting birthrate. According to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, by 2050 Europe’s population will have fallen by around 1.5%, or 7 million people. The birth rate in Britain is at 12 births per 1,000 residents. In France the number is 12.7, in the Netherlands 11.9, and in Ireland 15.2.

 In Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, birth rates are falling as well. Poland’s rate is 9.3, Bulgaria is at 9 and Latvia has one of the lowest rates, at 8.8.