Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Can You Buy Fertility?

The New Statesman has an article about how various European countries are doing in raising their fertility rates to something closer to stability than total implosion by offering more generous tax breaks, child care, maternity leave, and other benefits designed to make childbearing more attractive. France especially has apparently gone into this in a big way.

The question is, of course, will this encourage significantly more people to have two or more children, or will is the uptick in births that the French are currentlying seeing just the result of the new policies causing couples who had always meant to have a child "some day" but hadn't yet to go ahead and try it now. Only time will tell.

It seems to me that sustained higher fertility rates would require a more fundamental change than economics: people would need to start thinking about life in a different way. After all, the average French or German family may not be as well off as the average American family, but they're certain more well off than the average Mexican or Philipino family -- yet those countries are not experiencing the same heights of childlessness that much of Europe is.

It seems to me likely that it's not simply that not enough Europeans can afford to have children, but rather that many of them simply don't want any.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

A German-American friend of mine visits her relatives in Germany frequently. She says they're amazed that Americans so often have three or more children, with none of the government "rewards" and often significant hardship (from a European perspective).

She speculates that the many incentives and subsidies provided by the state just increase the European perception that children are an incredibly expensive, difficult, life-draining luxury.

Literacy-chic said...

Germany also offers "old maid" money to women who aren't married by 30 or approaching 30. So I knew someone who collected her "old maid" money from the German government and got married in the U.S. the following year! (I think she should have had to give the money back...) I think my point is, it's funny what European governments will subsidize. It would be harder to find a way to cheat the government out of baby money, I think. Maybe if they just didn't pay the old maid money, women would get married sooner! ;) (But that's just Germany!) I do agree that it's a matter of perception, and of course we have the same problem in this country to an unhealthy degree.

Do you know if the incentives are only offered to "pure bred" Europeans? Or do immigrants and colonials count as well? I guess if it's offered to citizens only, citizenship requirements will take care of the rest... I'm being cynical, assuming that they want certain segments of the population to reproduce.

Also, your title caught my attention, but the fertility isn't really the question. Perhaps a more pertinent question is, how is motherhood in Europe like prostitution?

Fr Martin Fox said...

The paternalism inherent in the European mindset is so galling to me: we poor, helpless beings, we can't get along in life unless Government (all genuflect!) intervenes, constantly, to give us a pat on the head, a little reward for when we obey and -- this always follows -- a smack on the knuckles when we don't.

knit_tgz said...

What about Europeans who would LOVE to have a big family (like me) but find themselves single (and not even a boyfriend in sight) at 30 (like me)? I sometimes feel really tempted, because it goes through my mind that, were I not a believer, I would maybe be a mother by now. Probably a single mother, but still a mother. (and yes, I know I should not think this, but sometimes hope almost disappears...)

(Besides, not all European countries have those subsidies. Over here we do not have them, and still our fertility rate is one of the lowest.)

CMinor said...

Re literacy's question:

I can't say about all the incentives, but I think that in Germany, at least, the "kindergeld" monthly stipend is available to all children born on German soil. Our youngest daughter was born there, and I know we had to fill out kindergeld-related paperwork to register her birth (we didn't apply for the stipend.) An Air Force couple we knew of which the wife had German citizenship received kindergeld for their child although they were living on a U.S. installation and under U.S. employ at the time. They wouldn't have been subject to German taxes.

I do know that in Germany at least, the privileges related to citizenship (and citizenship itself) are difficult to obtain for immigrants, and even, in some cases, for their German-born children.

Literacy-chic said...

Interesting about the kindergeld!

And to knit_tgz: you're still young at 30! (I'm 30--I should know!) ;)