A recent poll has revealed that Germany is the world leader in childless women, a statistic the country is not proud of. 30% of German women have chosen to remain childless, a fact which has prompted some radical proposals for a population boost and exposed some underlying tension in women of child-bearing age.
Emma Pearse of Women’s eNews cites two major categories for mothers in her country: rabenmutter and hausmutterchen. Translating roughly to “uncaring mother” and “subordinate housewife,” these terms affect how women feel about their career and family choices. A woman is only an “uncaring mother” when she has a job, however a woman without a job who stays home with her children “implies being a little stupid” (Kirstin Klopp-Koch, Germany in Angst Over Low Birthrate). What’s a girl to do? It seems that more and more women are deciding to complete their education and find jobs rather than start families. In fact, the percentage of highly educated German women who choose not to have children is a whopping 40%. Professor Norbert Schneider of Mainz University has said that the “classic family picture is still very much alive in Germany. Women are expected to look after the children while men go out and work” (The Guardian). While that may be true, it seems that a huge number of women are going against convention and becoming self-sufficient.
Ursula von der Leyen is not one of them. An ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel and a mother of seven, von der Leyen has proposed progressive child-care laws that she thinks would persuade women and “deeply uncertain men” (The Guardian) to have families. Her ground-breaking idea? Two month’s paternity leave in return for state funded child support. She wants men to shake off their traditionalised views and step up when it comes to being fathers, and says of the sexist views held by many Germans, “I’m astonished that women still have to justify themselves when they want to work. No father has to do this.”
The Christian Democrat Party (currently leading Germany’s coalition government) has made child care reforms a priority in retaliation to remarks that inadequate daycare, a short school day (ending at 1:00pm) and uninvolved fathers with classical beliefs will cause the German population to dwindle to nothing by 2020.
Family practise business consultant Erler says, “We are a nation that is shrinking. Perhaps some people will be happy about this, but it is true that the German people will become extinct if we don’t deal with this problem of how a woman can have a child and continue working.”
The Guardian; Luke Harding, Germany agonises over 30% childless women. 27/01/06
Women’s eNews; Emma Pearse, Germany in Angst Over Low Birth Rate – http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2253 – 01/11/05