Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Put Decline
Birth Rate
At The Top Of

Germany looks like it will be the first country in Europe to start facing this problem. However, as with Germany's problem with Muslim immigration, the hard part is getting over the ghosts of its past in order to find ways to deal with its current challenges :

BERLIN (Reuters) - Are Germans an endangered species?

Stunning as it may seem, a steep decline in the German population since 1972 and fears the trend will gain pace have led demographers to warn of unsettling consequences.

The number of Germans has declined by 3.2 million -- the population of Berlin -- over the last 30 years but demographers' concerns have mostly been ignored until now in a country scarred by the Nazis' nefarious procreation pressures.

German leaders have now lifted the birth rate to the top of the political agenda for the first time since the Nazi era, and the two ruling parties are trying to outdo each other with pro-family measures.

"Germans are at risk of dying out if the trend continues," said Harald Michel, managing director of the Institute for Applied Demography. He fears the German population could shrink from 75 million to 50 million by 2050 and further after that.

"The birth rates have been below the replacement rate for 35 years -- a lethal development," he added. "Germans could become an 'endangered people.' It's hypothetical now but we may have to think about 'the last German' at some point. The problem is compounded each generation. Children not born 30 years ago obviously aren't there to have children now."

Low birth rates plague other nations like Italy, Russia and Japan where the Yomiuri daily said last month that the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime fell to a record low in 2005.

But demographers say Germany is worse off because the problem has been ignored for so long. In other leading industrial nations like the United States, Britain and France, birth rates are much closer to the replacement rate.

"Why did we show so little interest the last 40 years as we went from a republic rich with children to one with a children shortage?" ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder asked last year.

Now, interest has revived. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government -- formed late last year -- recently agreed to give new mothers generous one-year wage replacement subsidies. Plans to eliminate fees for kindergarten are also being floated.

"It's the first time since 1945 that a German government has come out of the closet about population policy," wrote the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "Family policy is suddenly chic."

"It's an extremely complex issue," said Walter. "It's a delicate topic and it's going to remain sensitive in Germany where it can't be handled as it might in a normal country."

Although it was 60 years ago, Nazi methods to encourage women to have children to bolster Hitler's future armies weigh on the collective consciousness.

The Nazis gave women a "Mutterkreuz," or "mother's cross of honor," and a certificate signed by Hitler thanking them "in the name of the German people."

A bronze "Mutterkreuz" went to women with four to five children, silver for six to seven and gold for eight or more.

"That history is still playing a role in Germany," said Michel. "Population policy was long a taboo topic."

Michel said he did not believe the sudden talk of greater state support for child care or a host of other state plans to boost the birth rate will change very much.

"We're on a downward trend; it can't be stopped," he said. "We should come to terms with a shrinking German population."

That guy has just the attitude Germany will need ... to kill itself.

I'm sure we can find a lot of strapping young American men who will be willing to go over and show the German men how to fix the problem.