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How to increase the German population

The New York Times published a story that illustrates the trickiness of managing population growth or, in the case of Germany, decline.

Germany's birthrate is well below replacement rate. Still, they are wealthy and, unlike the United States, for example, willing to spend money to help families with day care and enact policies to encourage couples to have children (like legislated family leave). It is not working:
So far, though, even while spending $265 billion a year on family subsidies, Germany has proved only how hard it can be. That is in part because the solution lies in remaking values, customs and attitudes in a country that has a troubled history with accepting immigrants and where working women with children are still tagged with the label “raven mothers,” implying neglectfulness.
If Germany is to avoid a major labor shortage, experts say, it will have to find ways to keep older workers in their jobs, after decades of pushing them toward early retirement, and it will have to attract immigrants and make them feel welcome enough to make a life here. It will also need to get more women into the work force while at the same time encouraging them to have more children, a difficult change for a country that has long glorified stay-at-home mothers.
Now, a cultural conservative might say that the cultural change that needs to take place in Germany is that women and men should accept traditional gender roles so that more women would choose to stay out of the paid workforce and devote themselves to having larger families.

The article implicitly rejects that possibility, likely on gender equity grounds: Women should have the same career choices as men. Another reason may be the math of getting to a larger workforce: A two-gender workforce doubles the size of the labor pool.

Note that what the article does not question, or only obliquely, is whether men should bear equal responsibility for raising children. When women are in the paid workforce but bear a larger responsibility for raising a couple's children, the 'work vs. family' dilemma is more acute, and may factor into a woman's calculus regarding how many children to have, or whether to have children at all.

So while the author of the article notes some important cultural changes that need to take place, it misses one.


Article in The New York Times (August 13, 2013): Germany Fights Population Drop


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