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UN International Day of Families 2012

Day of Families Observed at a Forum in Vienna

Vienna, Austria - UPF-Austria celebrated the International Day of Families with a forum on the theme of Ensuring Work Family Balance at the UPF headquarters on May 15. Dr. Walter Baar, from the Institute for Trends Research, spoke on "Demographic Trends and Work-Family Balances - Challenges in Europe."

Dr. Walter Baar is a professor of contemporary history and European development. Since 2006 his main field of research has been the analysis of social systems and the demographic development in Europe, as well as changes in its family- and value-systems.

In his talk Dr. Baar explained the demographic situation in Europe: Only in Ireland, France, Great Britain, and some of the Scandinavian countries is the average birthrate almost 2 children per woman. He mentioned the USA as the only western country with a birthrate over 2 per woman.

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Worldwide, there is a population growth - even though in many regions a decline in population is registered. UN experts project 7.9 billion people by 2025 and 9.2 billion by 2050. If the number of births per woman (fertility rate), as assumed in the long-term forecast, levels off to 1.85 after 2050, a worldwide population decline will be the result.

The world average fertility rate until the mid-1960s was consistently around 5 children per woman. It then began to decline, currently down to 2.7. It went down first in the industrialized countries, then in the developing and emerging countries. Here, the most industrialized countries already exceeded the "magic threshold" of 2.1 children per woman in the 1970s. With such a fertility rate each generation replaces itself and the population remains stable.

This replacement level of 2.1 children per woman is higher than the initially expected two children of two people, a woman and her partner, because not all newborns in turn reach an age in which they have children themselves. In thel developing and emerging markets today there are 2.8 children per woman born, ess than half as many children as in the 1960s, when women still had an average of 6 children (UN, 2006).  Currently, the 1.6 children in industrialized countries are well below this replacement level. The U.S. is the only major Western country with a fertility rate higher than two children per woman.

The result is that the population in most of the European countries has been shrinking. Presently a country such as Austria can fill the gap with migrants from Eastern Europe and Turkey, but the population in Eastern Europe is shrinking too, and Turkey soon will be able to offer better working conditions to its citizens because of the high growth rate of its economy. Thus, there is no need to be scared of too many foreigners. Vienna has always been a city of migrants because of its central position in a multicultural empire.

At the same time, the number of women having no children is rising, and the number of families with more than two children is falling. Especially in Austria, the welfare system doesn’t support the so-called “middle-class families.” As a result, fewer and fewer couples have two or more children.

Dr. Baar explained that France's family policy is regarded internationally as a model. The success can be seen in its birth rate, which remains high in contrast to many other European countries. Since French women of childbearing age have an average of just over two children, the population has grown slowly and steadily to 65 million, ten million more than 30 years ago.

A successful family policy has two causes:

First the financial betterment due benefits in tax law: each child increases the tax reducing divisor by 0.5 points, and the third increases it by a full point.

Second the compatibility of career and children: public day care centers offer child care at no cost to the parents. For nearly 50% of children under the age of three, day care centers are provided. However, only 10% of children under three are in day care; in fact, the majority remain with their parents (63%).

Dr. Baar also pointed out that religious people in all countries tend to have more children because their value system is not dominated by materialistic priorities. In conclusion, he emphasized the need to work on a change in the value system: Government and society have to realize that giving birth to children and raising them is the most effective contribution for a society to sustain itself - sustainable development and flourishing families go hand in hand.

Reported by Mag. Elisabeth Cook and Peter Haider

To read more about UPF observances of the International Day of Families 2012, click here.



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