Fertility in Austria, Germany and Switzerland:
Is there a Common Pattern?

  • Tomáš Sobotka Vienna Institute of Demography, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften und Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital
Keywords: Fertility, Family, Childlessness, Austria, Germany, Switzerland


This article reviews major similarities and differences in period and cohort fertility in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. These three countries share a long history of low fertility and currently belong to countries with the lowest cohort fertility rates globally. The study highlights persistent differences in fertility and family patterns between Eastern and Western Germany, which are often rooted in pre-unification contrasts and can be partly linked to continuing differences in institutional set-up and norms on organised childcare, living arrangements and maternal employment. The remarkable stability in period fertility over the last 30 years (with the exception of Eastern Germany) is illustrated with various indicators and discussed on the backdrop of recent reversals in European fertility trends. This stability in fertility levels contrasts with the long-term shift in childbearing towards less stable living arrangements (especially in Eastern Germany), including a high share of single mothers. The study also discusses a relatively small but persistent negative impact of the ongoing shift towards a late timing of childbearing on period fertility in the region. It highlights the educational gradient in fertility, which can be largely attributed to elevated childlessness rates among women with a higher educational degree. Migrant women have on average higher fertility rates than “native-born” women, but their net positive impact on aggregate fertility rates has diminished over time and has become negligible in Germany. A concluding discussion suggests that Austria, Germany and Switzerland share a common pattern of low fertility that sets these countries apart from other regions in Europe.
How to Cite
Sobotka, T. 2012. Fertility in Austria, Germany and Switzerland:Is there a Common Pattern?. Comparative Population Studies. 36, 2-3 (Aug. 2012). DOI:https://doi.org/10.12765/CPoS-2011-11.