I. The primacy of the family over the state

Persistently polls in Germany show that three quarters of the Germans desire a „fortunate family life“ and that the majority thinks that you need a family to be happy. But the answer to the question what a familiy signifies seems to be more difficult than in former times.

"In principle...... by the term family you understand a group of persons where a couple lives together with his children. This pure parents-children-community („nuclear family“) is presenting a particular social group which is caracterized by a biological-social double nature and a totality of social relationships not existing to this extent in other social groups." (1. Familienbericht des Bundesministeriums für Familie und Jugend (1. Family report of the ministry of family and youth), 1968, S. 7)

In contrast, the "Siebte Familienbericht" („Seventh family report“), published in 2006 by the federal ministry of family, senior citizens, women and youth, accentuates the “pluralization of life courses and forms”. Nevertheless, this report also states: „Children can develop the best if they grow up in a family where the parents give them the possibility to develop close and trustful relationships and, at the same time, give them the chance to discover step by step the world of the family, the friends, the neighbourhood and the community, corresponding to their own development. In that respect the parents present the most important resource of the child´s development”. (p. 159).

The Grundgesetz (Constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany follows the insights of the Christian social science concerning the natural priority of the family over the society and the state: article 6: “(1) Marriage and family are especially protected by the state order. (2) Care and education of the children are the natural right of the parents and a duty fundamentally and first of all being in their responsibility….”

But the family doesn´t only have priority concerning the children over other important social institutions but itself is forming society: „ A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the centre of attention as an end and never as a means”, it is said in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The experience shows that on the one hand, the family gives stability to the society and on the other hand, it gives a home and safety to the person. Reversely the instability of the family has a destabilizing effect on the single person as same as on the complete society.

II. Instability and problems of the families

The families have become more and more instable during the last years and decades, also because of political, economic, financial and legal basic conditions. In the Western countries of Germany, 81 % of the 12,5 million minors are still living in a family with mother and father, 14 % are growing up with single parents, 5 % in non-marital relationships. In the Eastern countries, only 62 % of the 2,2 million minors are growing up in a family, 22 % with single parents and 16 % in non-marital relationships. At the same time a fifth of all children in the old and a third of all children in the new Lands do not spend their childhood with both natural parents. The „Siebte Familienbericht“ says: „A divorce of the parents implies changements and stressors for the children and is counted to the most burden events in the life of children.” (S. 119).

Important dimensions of the growing childlessness and increasing instability of the families are the tax law and the finances. The former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, Prof. Dr. Paul Kirchhof, describes „deficits in the just taxation of families“: „In many decisions the Federal Constitutional Court has worked step by step towards the result that the tax law considers the subsistence requirement of marriage and family in an adequate manner. The tax legislator does not protect the function of the income to ensure the subsistence which the working person above all earns to finance by it the subsistence requirement of himself and of his family”. (Paul Kirchhof: "Der sanfte Verlust der Freiheit" (The gentle lost of liberty), Carl Hanser Verlag, München-Wien 2004, S.27).

III. The demographic crisis

According to the demographic scientist Prof. Dr. Herwig Birg, Germany holds „three demographic world records: Firstly, it`s the country where the decrease in population began the first as a consequence of a low birth rate, in the old countries in 1972, in the new countries in 1969. Secondly: Although in the German population, the birth rate comes to 1,2 births per woman like in Spain, Italy and other countries, in the immigrated population about 1,9 and on average… 1,3 to 1,4; but the reason of the low level is a particular: the singularly high percentage in the world of women (and men) of an age group who lives without children during their whole life – about a third. Thirdly: The lacking births are - more intensely than in other industrial countries - replaced with immigrations". (Herwig Birg: "Die ausgefallene Generation" (The cancelled generation), S.33).

From 1956 to 1975, the birth rate decreased from 2,3 children per woman to about 1,35 where it is stagnating. In 1965 still 1,33 million children were born in Germany whereas in 2005 it were only 690.000. 30 % of the Germans born in 1965, on the peak of the baby-boom, remain childless during their whole life. In the age group of 1935 only 9 % were in that situation.

At the same time, the poverty of children increased in a society lacking children: in 1965, every 75th child at the age of under seven got income support, in 2004 it was every seventh child. At the same period, the working percentage of mothers increased by 60 %. 

In a Green paper, „Confronting the demographic change“, the EU-Commission stated on the 16th of March 2005: “The Union’s population is set to grow just slightly up until 2025, thanks to immigration, before starting to drop: 458 million in 2005, 469,5 million in 2025 (+ 2%), then 468.7 million in 2030." The consequences of this demographic development are at first a growing disproportion between the working persons and the retired persons, and as a consequence decreasing tax revenues and economic power with parallely increasing costs for pensions, care and health.

IV. Literature (in excerpts):

    • Johannes Paul II., „Familiaris consortio“ (Apostolisches Schreiben über die Aufgaben der christlichen Familie in der Welt von heute), Rom am 22.11.1981.
    • Herwig Birg, „Die demographische Zeitenwende. Der Bevölkerungsrückgang in Deutschland und Europa“, München 2001. (The demographic epoch change. The decrease in population of Germany and Europe.)
    • Herwig Birg, „Die ausgefallene Generation. Was die Demographie über unsere Zukunft sagt“, München 2005. (The cancelled generation. What demography says about our future.)
    • Frank Schirrmacher, „Minimum. Vom Vergehen und Neuentstehen unserer Gemeinschaft“, München 2006. („Minimum. The dying and new creation of our community.)
    • Stephan Baier, „Kinderlos. Europa in der demographischen Falle“, Aachen 2004. (Childless. Europe in the demographic trap.)
    • Rainer Beckmann/ Mechthild Löhr/ Stephan Baier (Hg.), „Kinder: Wunsch und Wirklichkeit“, Krefeld 2006. (Children. Desire and reality.)