My father-in-law in America recently said (in September 2011), when the subject turned to my husband and myself remaining in Europe for a longer period of time (rather than temporarily): “They need to come home. Germany would love to have them [forever] since their people are not making babies and their population is stagnating…but we want them back too!” This of course comes after knowing that my husbands parents actually lived as expats in England for seven years in the 1970’s, as my father-in-law was assigned their for work (not military related). In fact, the middle three of their children were born there, including my husband. This simple fact I do think about and appreciate regularly, and the European Union’s Schengen Agreement as it has allowed my husband and I great flexibility in where we would like to live and work. This last point has become especially poignant since the American Economy tanked in 2008 and has since been scrapping the bottom.
According to the website, If It Were My Home, which compares the United States to other countries around the world using CIA Factbook data, if Germany were my home, in the long run I would live 1.17 years longer, have 11.83% change of being employed, spend 48.43% less on health care, make 26.51% less money, have 40.64% less babies but have more free time, and use less oil and electricity. Never mind that Germany is roughly the same size as North and South Dakota combined or that the US has 231,760,209 more people estimated living in it than in Germany as of July 2011. The concept of this website is great, comparing places with America that some people might not ever see with their own eyes, places that are understood only through international (usually bad) news or stereotypes and generalizations. I like to introduce this website to my students to help begin a conversation, much like the paper on values, and ask the students themselves what they think this means. How does it show America? How does it show Germany or another country comparatively?
An article published in 2005 by ELTERN (Parents) Magazine, Germans presented the idea that having children in Germany isn’t sexy and that at the time of print, there was one child being born to four adults in the country. I have heard that immigrants are still having babies though, which is probably the same ‘problem’ that some people feel America is having and thus why some people are freaking out that Caucasians will be the minority in the US. soon enough, especially since more babies are born to mothers of color in 2011. Ultimately three-fourths of the 40,000 people surveyed by ELTERN indicated that they would be happier (and so would Germany) if the country were more child-friendly – can someone say dichotomy. The respondents claimed that while they can easily find support for their family in their personal circle of friends and family, it is a challenging thing to expect from the public and government. Many of the parents surveyed said they observed rather hostile behavior when out with their children at restaurants and other places and have even said it is more challenging to find a place to live with a family in tow. (“Having Children Isn’t Sexy In Germany“)
Actually, according to Katya Tichomirowa, a specialist in family policy was quoted in an interview in May 19th, 2010 with the Guardian UK and then republished in the Berliner Zeitung, said “Nowhere in Europe is the tax system geared so much in favor of the family model of single-breadwinning father and stay-at-home wife as it is [in Germany] … the state should be supporting the career development of both parents, enabling both to take part in child care.” She argues that Germany’s low birthrate is due in fact to the country’s lack of viewing each person in the couple as an equal as evident by the tax benefits given in favor of a single-breadwinner male earner of the pair. Furthermore, the Guardian cites that complicating this issue is the push during the Nazi era for children as it was a show of Nazi patriotism. Germans collectively still have issues with the idea of patriotism thanks to this part of their history, not liking to generally show their German patriotism as it, in their mind, too often links them directly with Nazism which is something they want to distance themselves from, especially the younger generations. This is slowly changing, partly thanks to the FIFA Football World Cup and the 2010 win of Eurovision.
This idea was also addressed in the September 25th, 2012 article published in The Local, an English speaking internet newspaper for Germany (and other countries). The article titled, Women ‘still stuck at home with the kids’ said the following:
“About 70 percent of the women surveyed for the Family Ministry report, said they took care of all the household chores, compared to just 12 percent of men, the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper reported on Tuesday.
More than a third of mothers complained that their partners spent too little time at home. A similar number said they were the ones responsible for taking the children to day care, school and extracurricular activities.
Just 14 percent of the fathers polled in the study said they were the ones busy with chauffeuring the kids around.
More than half of non-working mothers would like to return to the work force, though not necessarily full time. Many men, by contrast, were keen to work less, with about 50 percent of respondents saying it would help to spend fewer hours on the job. (Women ‘still stuck at home with the kids‘).
While families are paid by the government, called kindergeld, a monthly stipend while their children remain in school until the students are roughly 25 or 26. This allowance can be anywhere between 184 to 215 € a month per child until the child is twenty-five or has finished school. This is absolutely unheard of in the United States. The idea that the government would pay you to have children is just…”SOCIALIST!” and would simply create a nation of “Welfare Queens”. Don’t get me started on German health care versus American, unless you want your (or my head to spin)!
On a European scale, Germany has the lowest birthrate, and on a global scale it is almost as bad. Of twenty-seven countries with populations in excess of 40 million, Germany ranks second from bottom in terms of children under 15 as a percentage of the overall population with Japan at the bottom with 13%.