Being part of the children born right before the fall of communism in Romania meant that I was part of the last peak in terms of births in our country. After 1989 the corresponding figures have greatly decreased, particularly in the 1990s, and only recently have they slightly recovered.
While growing up, my friends (born in the same year, give or take one year) either were only children or they had one other sibling. Those who had two siblings were very rare, especially if these were born after 1989. I am an only child and, coincidentally or not, most of my friends throughout my life are also only children. To have a brother or a sister or more was to my mind something very special. Looking around me even now at the new generation, the situation has not changed much; on the contrary, this seems to have become the only way for urban families.
For this reason, when I moved to Germany I was struck by the fact that almost all of my colleagues, with one or two exceptions, and people I met had siblings, not to mention that the figure was 2+ in quite a few instances. Maybe this isn’t the best way to describe my reaction, but I sort of felt left out in this regard for the first time in my life.
Looking out all around me here in Berlin, one sees children everywhere, probably due to the increasing mobility in common transportation. What I like most is that there are many parents who even travel along with their children on bicycles, which is much more visible than driving them around in a car. This gave me a constant feeling that the birth rate in Germany must be 2-3 times higher than in Romania. However, the latest statistics within the EU disprove my assumption, though they prove the point that the birth rates are lower than in Germany: 1,38 in Romania, compared to 1,6 in Germany. According to statistics, this figure is still not sufficient to outbalance the rate of the aging population, one of Germany’s main social fears and a reason to increase the age of retirement.
Beyond the plain numbers, these figures also reflect the economic situation in a country. The low rates from Romania in the 1990s speak volumes about what was happening during the transition years and although the figures are growing now, this is almost annulled by the number of parents who leave their children temporarily in order to go work abroad or who leave the country altogether. Besides the precarious state of the economy in Romania, in comparison to Germany, the support families receive from the state is almost inexistent. I am not saying that everyone is Germany is rich. Not at all. But if you are born in a poor family here, you certainly have more opportunities while growing up than if you are born poor in Romania. And this makes all the difference. This is may also explain the greater percentage of people who have siblings, among many other things.