In a suitable follow-up to the previous article, the report below from Schweiz am Sonntag takes a look at the recent increase in the Swiss birthrate. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
Baby Boom in the Cities
by Yannick Nock and Fabienne Riklin
October 22, 2016
Women are having more children again. With good childcare, Switzerland could soon approach a Scandinavian situation. But men will have to re-think.
“Dying happens all the time,” runs an old folk saying. Unfortunately, children being born doesn’t. For decades, Switzerland has been struggling with a declining birthrate. Shortage of children endangers the old-age pension fund, economic growth, self-sufficiency. Now the trend seems to have changed. Last year more boys and girls were born than for 23 years. This is from the newest figures of the Federal Bureau of Statistics. 86,559 babies make a record.
Switzerland reached the nadir at the beginning of the 2000s. 1.38 births per woman was the lowest average since 1860 — the beginning of record-keeping. Since then, the birthrate has consistently improved, to the present record of 1.54.
Contributing to the baby boom have been — remarkably — troubles outside the country: financial crises, wars, terrorism. The crisis years have left their marks. “In an uncertain, fast-paced world, the family is a sort of island,” says François Höpflinger, a retired family sociologist of the University of Zurich, in identifying one of the causes. “Traditional values are on the ascendant.” Individualization, he says, has passed its apogee. “Being single has gone from being a guiding principle to being a form of misery,” he says. While motherhood, conversely, has experienced a renaissance. The increase is not due primarily to mothers having more children, but to fewer women remaining childless. The number of small families is rising.
“Expecting” in the Cities
The differences between the cantons is notable in this renaissance. Women from the twin Appenzell cantons produce distinctly more children (1.77) than those of Zurich (1.55) or Basel (1,37). That has to do, in the first place, with the traditional role-sharing in rural areas, where mothers often stay home after the birth. Secondly — especially for small family businesses — progeny are seen as the future of the firm. They are expected to take over the business one day.
Up to Two Years of Parental Leave
But urban areas are also increasing. “There is a small baby boom in the cities,” says Höpflinger. An obvious factor is demography. It is presently the daughters of the baby-boomers who are of childbearing age. There are just more women between 26 and 36 years of age. Additionally young couples today often choose to live in the city, even after they have a baby. Previously, many of them moved to the suburbs. Finally, other countries are contributing to the boom in the cities. Foreigners live more frequently in the cities, and as a rule, have more children than the Swiss. The Kosovars and Norwegians lead with an average 2.7 children.
“The Scandinavians, in particular, have taken to heart that children and profession should be reconciled — for mother and father,” says Höpflinger. In these countries, family leave is comparatively long, at up to two years. “Even if they emigrate to Switzerland, they preserve their culture of compatibility,” he says.
Höpflinger predicts that the trend to more babies will be maintained. “In family policy, we are moving in the direction of Norway, Finland and Sweden.” Accordingly, Switzerland too could reach a birthrate of 1.8 children in coming years.
The greatest potential for raising the birthrate in Switzerland is in childcare. “In this respect, Switzerland is still a developing country, compared to the progressive, northern European countries,” indicated Swiss pediatrician and author Remo Largo. The Scandinavian countries devote an average of 4% of their gross domestic product to the family. Switzerland a mere 1.6%. The result is that daycare places are expensive.
Parents here must shell out about one third of their income for a daycare spot. In European terms, that is a peak price. In most Swiss cities, a daycare place costs 150 francs per day. The result is that a part-time job for a well-educated female computer scientist or teacher only seldom pays for itself.
Men Do Too Little
But there are also other aspects than the financial that influence the desire for more children and can lead to a higher birthrate. The division of labor in the family plays a decisive role. The bulk of childcare is still heavily on the mother. “In countries with low birthrates, men usually contribute little to childcare,” says the German professor of political economics Matthias Doepke. That is especially true for Germany and Switzerland. Mothers here invest twice as much time in housework as fathers.
That explains the discrepancy between wish and reality. The two-child family is still seen by male and female Swiss as ideal. But reality — still — decrees 1.5 children per woman. According to the federation, the birthrate will continue to rise in years to come.