Another straw in the wind on Europe's demographic suicide, from Reuters:
Ursula von der Leyen, a medical doctor and the mother of seven, wants Germans to have more babies.
Since taking the family affairs portfolio in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet, she has been making proposals that have put the family high on Germany's political agenda.
Her calls for free child care and extensive tax breaks for families with small children have put the spotlight on Germany's low birthrate.
The Federal Statistics Office said yesterday that Germany's population fell for a third straight year in 2005, adding impetus to the new minister's determination to halt the decline by encouraging families to have more children.
The data show the number of Germans has fallen by 3.2 million in the past 33 years, a decline masked until recently by the flow of immigrants...
Determined to overhaul Germany's child-care system and end the frosty attitude toward families, Mrs. von der Leyen sparked a debate by urging states and communities to slash or even eliminate preschool-care charges that far exceed university fees.
Other European nations are prescribing similar incentives.
More than 600,000 Italian newborns will receive a letter from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the next week welcoming them into the world as Italian citizens and telling their parents how to receive a 1,000 euro "baby bonus" from the state. Like Germany, Italy's birthrate has plummeted.
Political opponents accuse Mr. Berlusconi of campaign trickery in the run-up to the April 9 elections, using the letter to evade campaign laws limiting his time on television.
"Best wishes for your arrival; do you know that the budget has put aside 1,000 euros for you?" Mr. Berlusconi writes in the letter sent to babies born in 2005.
He signs off: "Big Kiss, Silvio Berlusconi."...
Today, German women find it hard to raise children and pursue a career at the same time. A law scrapped only in the 1970s even allowed a husband to have his wife fired from her job by saying she was neglecting her family. (How sophisticated! - ed.)
Mothers who swap diapers for careers are still disparaged as "raven mothers" -- leaving their children alone in a cold nest. Studies show one-third of German women think working mothers can't have a warm, stable relationship with their children...
(What to do? Beg the government!)
"Free child care might be a nice idea," said Stephan Articus, head of the association of German municipalities. "But we simply don't have the [money] needed."
NoonShadow has put the spotlight on the phenomenon of Europe's quietus before.
It is not only that the population is shrinking, but that with so few children, the population is becoming older and older.
Minister von der Leyen's moves come too late to make a difference.