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Der Spiegel reports on decline in births
Or how the Federal Statistics Agency offers guesses and pure speculation to explain unprecedented decline in births
Yesterday I came across some reporting on the decline in German births from der Spiegel, an influential German weekly news magazine often to be found in doctor’s waiting rooms and on the coffee tables of the middle-class. So a good place to guage what the MSM and its followers are thinking/propagating/believing about current events. The title in the URL also caught my eye and roughly translates as “Less children born in 2022 - pandemic main reason”.
The reporting draws primarily from a press release from December 2nd: “Changing Population: Results of the 15th Coordinated Population Projection” (only available in German here ). However, it also features some actual reporting and a few interesting quotes from Destatis press officer Olga Pötzsch (all following translations and emphasis mine).
According to Olga Pötzsch, spokesperson from Destatis there are three factors which could explain the decline. The first is that Covid vaccinations were prioritised in the beginning - young, healthy people were therefore not able to get vaccinated. “And for a very long time, there was no explicit recommendation from the Standing Vaccine Commission (STIKO)”, said Pötzsch. STIKO only gave this recommendation in September 2021. “And one can imagine [orig: vermuten] that couples wishing to have a child wanted to defer those plans, wanted to maybe first get vaccinated.
That’s a whole lot of maybes from a federal agency responsible for STATISTICS!
Firstly, as I have adressed in previous posts, there had in fact been substantial vaccination of the child bearing cohort before prioritisations/restrictions were lifted. Typical for the German pandemic response, such official announcements are made after actual events have already overtaken any central planning.
By my calculations approx ~33% of the ~25 million 18-42 age group had received one dose before prioritisations were lifted on June 7th. And because this age group subsequently reached an estimated maximum vaccination rate of ~83% (reference for combined 18-59 cohort) we can determine that at least 40% of the vaccinees in that age group were already vaccinated before prioritisations were lifted. I cannot believe the agency is still spouting this trope of the younger cohorts hadn’t been vaccinated.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no empirical evidence offered for the speculation that young couples (who had risk profiles orders of magnitude less than the prioritised groups) wanted so badly to get vaccinated that they actually deferred their baby plans by nine months and counting - recall, the birth figures have remained depressed throughout 2022 (data released up to September). Destatis is suggesting that couples have been so cautious that they waited 4~5 months after their initial doses until they could receive their booster doses - how did they even know boosters were coming? - and have then decided to wait additional months after their boosters. Note, implicit in this claim is the idea that young couples were so wary of the safety profile of the vaccines with regard to pregnancy/conception that they went above and beyond the official guidance which at the time merely advised against vaccination in the first trimester with some advising against conceiving in the immediate aftermath of vaccination.
Then consider that lockdowns in Q2-Q4 actually led to a slight increase in live births in 2021. And that in the first quarter of 2021 couples had no problems whatsoever conceiving (Q4 births are in the normal range) despite high incidences of infections, despite lockdowns, despite economic uncertainty for the many businesses affected by those lockdowns and restrictions. In contrast, Q2 and April heralded an increasing loosening of all such pandemic restrictions, winter’s end, decreasing incidences of infections, and new vaccines promising to end the pandemic; but births declined unprecedentedly by 10% nine months later in January 2022.
Destatis thinks a percentage of couples with baby plans (presumably up to 10%?) put their baby plans on ice for about a year in order to avail themselves of the newfangled vaccine products. My own informal enquiries suggest although many couples with baby plans may have been cautious around the new vax, that such people generally were inclined to get pregnant and forego/defer vaccination rather than get vaccinated and forego defer pregnancy.
What I find most inexcusable is the evidence-free basis of Destatis’ claim and no reference to any efforts to actually find out. No surveys of young women/men in stable relationships; no surveys of young mothers; no surveys of gynacologists; no surveys of couples who did have had children this year to ask about how the pandemic affected their baby plans; nothing! Nothing but guesswork and speculation on questionable grounds. For one thing, the relevant time period has to be considered.
A second reason is the strain on younger families with children during the pandemic. “And there we also see a decline [sic: presumably referring to 2022 births], especially in births of second and successive births,” said Pötsch. “That means that families were under a great deal of strain and the decision on having an additional child was likely [orig: wahrscheinlich] now more difficult.”
I have extreme difficulty following this nonsensical reasoning. My previous posts have addressed the breakdown of births. Writing about 2021: “While there is growth across all categories, growth in firstborns is clearly outstripped by couples extending their families.” In other words families were under so much stress in the uncertaintly of the first pandemic year that they decided to expand their families disproportionately more than couples decided to start families - the complete oppposite of the Destatis spokeperson’s reasoning with regard to the second pandemic year.
The disproportionate decline in second and successive births in 2022 is merely reflective of some couples having broufht forward their baby plans to extend their families in 2021 and an offsetting decline in those births the following year in 2022 - this was to be expected! Note, the increase in second and further births of 2021 does not come close to accounting for the 41k (as of September) “missing births”of 2022 when compared to pre-pandemic 2017-2020 average)
The bumper year in births 2021 also plays a role. Just after after the 2020 lockdowns were lifted more pregnancies were observed, which led to an increase in births in March and April 2021, said the expert. That was an atypical development. “The children born then in the comparatively high birth year of 2021 are now missing from the births of 2022," stated the press release.
This is utterly pathetic. To repeat, 2021 was only a bumper baby year because it saw the highest births since 1997, but actaully only saw a relatively small increase from 2020. The magnitude of the increase observed for all of 2021 was ~22k = 2.9% - this pales in comparison to the magnitude of the declines in monthly births observed so far this year as of September births data ~50k compared to 2021 (41k when compared to prepandemic average for 2017-2020).
That’s it, those three quoted paragraphs are what the experts at the Federal Statistics Agency have to say about the unprecedented and persisitent decline in live births in Germany 2022. The article then goes on to report on the ‘experts’ forecasts for future German births. Get this, they imagine three scenarios: (1) Births remain depressed; (2) births recover to pre-pandemic levels; (3) births increase again to above pre-pandemic levels. *Sigh*, they got paid for these projections!
The hulking elephant in the room - the vaccination programme - remains unexamined by the Der Spiegel journalist. However, as I covered in my last post, it is explicitly mentioned and addressed in this working paper from the German Federal Institute for Population Research entitled Fertility declines near the end of the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence of the 2022 birth declines in Germany and Sweden. From the conclusion:
There is no association of the fertility trends with changes in unemployment, infection rates, or COVID-19 deaths. However, there is a strong association between the onset of vaccination programmes and the fertility decline nine months after of this onset. The fertility decline in the first months of 2022 in Germany and Sweden is remarkable. Common explanations of fertility change during the pandemic do not apply in its aftermath. The association between the onset of mass vaccinations and subsequent fertility decline indicates that people adjusted their behaviour to get vaccinated before becoming pregnant, as societies were opening up with post-pandemic life conditions.
Note, they also ultimately attribute the decline to deferred baby plans - but again, without any empirical evidence to support this supposition (welcome to science in 2022 ;)
Well, it could be indicative of that. Or, something else…
CORRECTIONS: Please note some of my graphs had failed to refresh with the December update on 2022 live births. I have updated and corrected my previous post with the latest data.
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