Report: no need for a harmonised EU family policy

Faced with the demographic challenges of declining birth rates and ageing populations, a new research report concludes that a European “one size fits all” approach to family policy will not work.

A new report financed through the EU’s 6th framework research programme indicates that worries about the future and the costs of raising children are the main reason behind the declining birth rates in European countries. Most families would like to have two children but the average number of births in 2003 was only between 1.2 and 1.4.

The Commission’s presented the results of the Population Policy Acceptance Study (PPAS) on 17 February. In its press release, it draws attention to the attitude differences between individual countries measured by the study and says it shows that “a ‘one size fits all’ approach to familiy policy will not work.”

The study also looked at issues such as gender roles, attitudes towards women at work, and the place of the elderly. According to the results of the study, the elderly are viewed as having a value to society and younger generations express their willingness to help the elderly when needed.

The European Union is facing several demographic challenges:

  • declining birth rates;
  • increases in life expectancy (ageing population);
  • rising divorce rates, putting the concept of the "nuclear family" into question.

All these trends put a heavy strain on the European Social Models as the labour force declines and pension systems come under threat. Politicians try to react by opening debates and taking measures on labour reform, migration (to attract new workers), reforming pension schemes and adapting family policies to the new realities. 

  • The Commission is expected to present a communication on demography in March 2006.

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