Germany's World Cup baby boom fails to happen

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BERLIN, Nov 14 (Reuters) Expectations of a baby boom in Germany inspired by the 2006 soccer World Cup have proved to be little more than wishful thinking.

Statistics for the first half of 2007 show neither increased child support payments nor the euphoria sparked by the World Cup were enough to reverse a 10-year trend of a falling birthrate.

Eight hundred fewer babies were born across Germany this year than in the first six months of 2006. The total of 313,100 births represents a 0.3 per cent decrease over the previous year.

''It's unrealistic to think that because there were more parties and people forgot their birth control it would make a statistical difference,'' said Nicola Huelskamp, consultant for the German Economic Institute in Cologne.

German hospitals had predicted there would be a surge in births early this year, nine months after last summer's parties and goodwill generated by the month-long World Cup when the host country reached the semi-final.

A law to increase child support payments for many families came into effect on January 1 and was also expected to provide a boost.

Births are not keeping pace with deaths in Germany which has a population of about 82 million. In the first six months of this year, 95,600 more people died than children were born.

The number of births has shrunk every year since 1997 and reached a low of around 673,000 last year, the smallest number since Germany's reunification in 1990.

Because of Germany's historically low birth rate -- an average of 1.4 babies were born per woman over the last 30 years -- total births will continue to decline because there are fewer women of childbearing age, demographers said.

''Something like this doesn't change in two or three months,'' Huelskamp said.

REUTERS GL KP0854

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