Much has been written about Europe’s debt and financial crises. This, however, is not the only challenge the continent faces: Some European countries are rapidly aging.
All over the continent, potential parents have shown reluctance to have more babies. Hence, governments and advocacy groups are becoming increasingly creative about getting their citizens to make babies.
Here are five rather unusual ideas that are supposed to achieve this goal:
1. In Denmark, schoolchildren are taught in class that they should have more babies
The Scandinavian country comes out on top of many international rankings, but in terms of fertility rates it lags far behind. According to the association Sex and Society, which produces the country’s sex education guides, unwillingness to raise children is only part of the problem. “We see a lot of people who don’t succeed in having children,” the association’s secretary general, Bjarne Christensen, told Bloomberg last year in an interview in which she called the problem “epidemic.”
Whereas sex education has so far focused on using contraceptives and preventing diseases, teachers forgot to mention some crucial biological aspects. “Suddenly we just thought, maybe we should actually also tell them about how to get pregnant,” national director of Sex and Society, Marianne Lomholt, told The New York Times.
Between 12 and 20 percent of all Danes are unable to have children — predominantly because they are already too old at the time they make the decision.
The reaction of Denmark’s education ministry has followed the advice of Sex and Society: Teachers do not only talk about the dangers of sex and pregnancies anymore, but also about its benefits.
In one recent class, a couple of dozen Danish 13- and 14-year-olds gathered in a circle to talk about sex.
One student surveyed her red nails while a classmate checked his cellphone. When the discussion turned to masturbation, a girl pointed across the room toward a boy who was already chortling, and then she started to cover her own giggles by cupping a hand over her mouth.
“It’s OK to laugh,” said the instructor, 29-year-old Andreas Beck Kronborg, who looked young enough to be an older brother. “We’re going to talk about stuff that’s embarrassing.”
2. TV ads promote sex as acts of patriotism
“Do it for Denmark” is the name of the ad campaign of Danish travel company Spies. In a video ad that was released last year, the company emphasized that 10 percent of all Danes were conceived abroad.
“Can sex save Denmark’s future? 46 percent of Danes have more sex on holiday,” a voice-over explained. Hence, taking a vacation won’t just relax you — it can also be seen as an act of patriotism. To promote the idea, the company offered so-called “ovulation discounts” to Danish couples.
In case Danes were successful in conceiving a child while being on a vacation organized by the company, they were eligible to win three years of free diapers and a trip abroad — with their child, of course.
3. In Sweden, either moms or dads are paid nearly their full salary for more than one year — for staying at home
If you have a child in Sweden, you won’t be back working for quite some time. For a total of 480 days, either the father or the mother of newborn children are legally entitled to receive 80 percent of their previous salaries.
Swedes also shouldn’t worry too much about the time after their generous parental leave is over: Subsidized gym memberships and free massages are common at lots of the country’s workspaces, and should help them get back on track quickly.
4. French children can do nearly everything for free or for a discounted price
Although American tourists frequently complain about prices in France, raising a child in France is the opposite experience. Children can use public transport for free or are heavily discounted. The same applies to museums, cinemas, theaters and virtually any other cultural institution.
Like other European countries, such as Germany, France also pays families with children and teenagers who are younger than 20 a monthly allowance. Throughout their teenage years, the French receive governmental benefits for student housing and other expenses if their family income does not exceed a certain threshold.
5. This dating site is only for Danes who want to have children
Finally, let’s return to Denmark, which seems to be particularly creative in its recent child-friendly efforts. In 2013, French actor Emmanuel Limal launched a Danish dating platform uniquely dedicated to singles interested in having children soon.
“I couldn’t seem to meet anyone willing to prioritize starting a family and struggled with when to mention wanting kids any time I met someone new. It’s the ultimate dating taboo,” Limal told the British Guardian newspaper in 2013.
As Denmark and some other European countries are stepping up their efforts to change that, Limal’s dating platform might soon see the number of potential customers increase.