Germany as an example of the significance of labour and preferences regarding fertility

Wiebke Rösler, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Stefan Stuth
Hans Bertram, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Berlin

German fertility trends are a good source of discussion, since the fertility of German women is lower than that of most other European countries. The low birth rate of German women born in 1960 is the result of a high childlessness of around 26 Percent on the one hand and a comparable low number of women who decide to have two or more children. Within the German debate demographers and sociologists focus on childlessness as the main reason for low fertility. By contrast we will show that the German fertility is low primarily because of the low number of women deciding to have two or more children. In order to discuss the question why German fertility is low we are going to consider the significance of labour and female preferences. As we see it, the importance of preferences is still widely ignored in the German fertility discussion, although there exists international evidence pointing to changes in the interrelationship between labour and fertility. While fertility rates were likely to be highest where women's participation in the labour force was low, this is no longer the case. Castles shows that fertility is now associated with high female employment opportunities. In Germany most women prefer the adaptive lifestyle, they want to combine work with a family. Using data from the German micro-census, the official census of one percent of the total population, that is large enough to provide evidence concerning labour influence by single occupation, we can show that fertility is higher under labour conditions, which allow women to combine work with a family. This is true not only for jobs in the teaching and social sector, but also for more traditional jobs such as agriculturist. Especially for men in “modern jobs” such as computing we tend to find a “modern celibacy”.

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Presented in Session 44: Fertility intentions and preferences