(Thema: Ensuring Work-Family Balance)


(UPF-Austria, Vienna, May 15, 2012) On the occasion of the International Day of Families we invited Dr. Walter Baar, an expert on family issues and demographic trends. His topic was:


Demographic Trends and Work-Family Balance – Challenges in Europe


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


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


Worldwide there is a population growth - even if in many regions a decline in population is registered. The UN medium projection expects 7.9 billion people for 2025 and 9.2 billion in 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 constantly at around 5 children per woman. It then began to decline, currently down to a value of 2.7 children. It went down first in the industry 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 the developing and emerging markets today there are 2.8 children per woman born. - Less 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 is shrinking constantly. Presently a country lake Austria can fill its gaps 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. That’s why there is no need of being scared of too many foreigners. Especially 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 rises and the number of families with more than two children diminishes. Especially in Austria the welfare system doesn’t support the so called “Middle Class Families”. As a result less and less 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. As a French woman of childbearing age has an average of just over two children, the population grew slowly and steadily to 65 million, ten million more than 30 years ago.


The successful family policy has two causes:

First the financial betterment due to the family splitting in tax law: Each child increases the tax reducing divisor by 0.5 points, the third even a full point.

Second the compatibility of career and children: Nurseries are intended to relieve the parents from the age of kindergarden - attendance is free. For nearly 50% under the age of three kindergarden places are provided. However, only 10% of the under-threes are also kept in cribs, 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 that we have 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.


(Mag. Elisabeth Cook and Peter Haider) Tel. 0650 25 88846, www.weltfriede.at



The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution in 1993 (A/RES/47/237) and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

In its resolution, the General Assembly also noted that the family-related provisions of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits of the 1990s and their follow-up processes continue to provide policy guidance on ways to strengthen family-centred components of policies and programmes as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development.

The International Day of Families has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, that day provides an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families. Activities include workshops and conferences, radio and television programmes, newspaper articles and cultural programmes highlighting relevant themes

 To read the UN's background note on the theme, click here.

 Internationaler Familientag der 2011