The Madrid-based Institute for Family Policies has issued a report to the European Parliament warning about “the deterioration of the family panorama.” Citing demographic, sociological and economic evidence from a team of experts, the IFP is calling on E.U. delegations to make the family a policy priority and promote the traditional family as an institution, recognize the fundamental right of parents to educate their children and to adopt policies that support the development and well-being of the family.

Entitled “The Evolution of the Family in Europe 2007,” the IFP has presented the document with its alarming indicators regarding population, birthrates, marriage and divorce rates to members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee, journalists and members of civil society.

According to the report, a child is aborted every 25 seconds, a rate that far exceeds any other external cause of death in Europe including traffic accidents, AIDS and suicide. The number of marriages has declined by 22.3 per cent since 1980. Divorce rates are skyrocketing, with one occurring every 30 seconds. One out of every three babies now born in the E.U. is born out of wedlock. The report also underscores the changing face of Europe, with a modest population growth rate attributable almost exclusively to immigration, an increasingly aging population and a dwindling number of people under the age of 14.

According to the report, of every 13 euros that Europe sets aside for social expenditures, only one euro is set aside for the family.  Social spending on old age and health account for 42 per cent and 29 per cent of total social program spending respectively and expenditures in these areas continues to increase. By comparison, government expenditures on family and children account for only 7.8 per cent.

Urging the European Parliament to adopt a “genuinely family-oriented approach,” the IFP has proposed a set of social, economic and cultural measures to promote the family. These include: the creation of offices that would be charged with promoting the family as a policy priority; the launch of media campaigns that promote the family and place value on childhood and maternity; and an increase of family benefits, such as tax breaks, maternity and paternity leave and assistance for families caring for elderly relatives at home.

IFP president Lola Velarde said: “The outlook for the family has worsened in a worrying fashion. The social, economic and demographic crises of recent decades have emphasized the role of the family unit as a highly effective cushion against problems such as unemployment, illness, housing, drug addiction and social exclusion. Nowadays, the family is seen as a principal support element within society. It is essential that the different institutions and organizations support them, as well as the member states, the local authorities and even public services and businesses.”

This article originally appeared June 8 as C-Fam’s “Friday Fax.”