There are fears the global economic crisis could halt the rising birth rate in Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has already boosted parental benefits in a bid to fend off a looming demographic crisis.The government has released figures showing a small rise in births during 2008 but the pace had slowed from 2007, the first rise seen in a decade. Family minister Ursula Von Der Leyen, herself a mother of seven, said the financial gloom need not lead to a drop in birth rates, and argued better education for young children and getting more mothers back to work could boost the economy by up to 0.5 percent. Germany’s birth rate is one of the lowest in the EU. Officials are worried about the strain on its pension, health and welfare systems if the already ageing population shrinks further. Some studies claim to show the population could dip from 82 million to below 70 million by 2050.