Germany: Family diversity with low actual and desired fertility
Germany is a low-fertility country with a rapidly ageing population, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. There are several reasons for this trend. Germany is among the countries with the highest rates of childlessness in the world, and childlessness has become widely accepted. This is illustrated by changes in living arrangements. A broad range of living arrangements has been added to the basic model of marriage with children; namely, single living, non-marital cohabitation, lone parenthood, patchwork families and living apart together. A culture of individualism has spread in Germany which forms the basis for widespread decisions against family formation. The desired number of children has become low and family policy is considered to be a failure in terms of its influence on fertility. German family policy has had a traditional orientation centred on monetary support to families and on the promotion of the male breadwinner model. Women have been largely forced to choose between family and work, and leave the labour market when a child is born. The still prevailing concept of family policy does not help to reduce the pressure to choose between work and family life, and thus makes it easier to decide not to have children, especially for highly educated women. A change in family policy is needed which will enable couples to choose between the breadwinner-housewife and the reconciliation model. Gradually, this change is starting to take place.