Births in Germany: A dead cat bounce or real recovery?

I couldn’t believe it. The German Federal Statistical Office just issued a shocking press release:

Pressrelease #280 from 15 June 2021
WIESBADEN – According to provisional results of the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), 65,903 children were born in March 2021. The last time that more than 65,000 births were recorded in March was in 1998. Compared with March 2020, the number of births this year rose by roughly 5,900 or 10%.

Amazing – a twenty-year high! Germany had a whopping ten percent surge in births in the nine months after Covid lockdowns ended in the summer of 2020.

Not only that, a half dozen other European countries recorded an increase in births nine months after the first Covid lockdowns were lifted. Romania had a 15% increase; Estonia and Latvia, 13%; and Hungary and Finland, 10%.

It also appears that the pandemic birth decline in several other European countries, notably France, Spain and Belgium, is at least temporarily arrested.

Now before folks get excited about this latest good news, just remember that it comes after an extended period of not so good tidings. In 2020, German births were down 0.6%, a modest lockdown decline compared with other countries. Fortunately for Deutschlanders, their country wasn’t hit that hard by the pandemic.

Elsewhere, however, the pandemic was killing Europeans in more ways than one, as births declined everywhere during the lockdowns.  Notably, France had a 13% decline in births from January 2020 to January 2021. Italy, where births have long outnumbered deaths, found its December 2020 birth rate down 22% from December 2019.

So the latest stats from Destatis are good news indeed. Not only for Germany, but for the Eurozone at large.  That’s because Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the largest population (except for European Russia). It is also the backbone of the EU.

Although smaller European countries continually carp about how Germany throws its weight around, dining out on the Eurozone while other members just scrape by, Europe is nevertheless dependent on Germany. That being the case, more Germans are needed to keep the Eurozone ship afloat.

The press has made a big deal out of this birth surge. The Times of London proclaimed: “German birth rate booms after Covid lockdown.” That’s great clickbait, but Germans shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch.

Demographic studies over time reveal that birth rates fall nine months after natural disasters and epidemics, and they tend to recover afterwards. This happened a century ago after the Spanish Flu epidemic. This birth bounce-back effect is called “recuperative fertility,” where families that have experienced personal loss tend to beget more children, which compensate for the loss. Could that be a signal from Mother Nature?

But the situation in Germany is complicated. First, there is immigration. In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed approximately 1.2 million so-called “Syrian Refugees.” Many were neither Syrian nor refugees. Germany already had huge numbers of immigrants, most of them Muslim. Muslim cultures have higher fertility than Westerners. Destatis says that in 2016, the year after Ms. Merkel opened the floodgates, the birth rate for migrant women was 2.3, as compared to the overall German average of 1.6.

Importing a Muslim culture alongside the culturally Christian German population has spawned a culture clash, prompting many ordinary Germans to voice concerns about “Islamization.” This in turn has given rise to a lucrative diversity industry, intended to help everyone just get along.

Another issue Germany has might be called reductio ad Hitlerum, that is, World War II guilt. Though few of today’s Germans were alive during Adolf Hitler’s time (you’d have to be at least 81), a huge guilt complex hangs over the society.

The Third Reich was avidly pro-natalist. The current German government doesn’t want to be anything at all like the Third Reich, so they don’t beat the drum about how wonderful it is to be German and how more German babies are needed, as that’s what the Nazis did. Reductio ad Hitlerum means that if Hitler liked something, it is by definition undesireable. Hitler liked children. You like children. Hmm…  

To give Ms. Merkel her due, she supports increased parental benefits. But unlike Hungary and other Eastern European states, where nationalism is the rallying cry for pro-fertility measures, Germany takes a more humble approach, steadfastly refraining from nationalist-oriented natalist appeals. Sadly, every year since the 1970s, more people have died than were born in Germany. Only through longevity and immigration has the population increased, and that is certainly a double-edged sword.  

Any increase in European births is good news, as every country in Europe has below-replacement-level fertility. But if the number of native, traditional Europeans continues to decline, with cheap labor imported to fill the gap, soon enough their societies will be European only by incident of geography.

And as societies age, the vigor enjoyed by more youthful populations slowly drains away. Yes, the early 2021 birth numbers are encouraging, but they could be just a “dead cat bounce,” a post-pandemic uptick, meaning that an actual recovery is not underway. So don’t get exited – not yet anyway.


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