Germany is regarded as one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to helping women raise families. The government invests about $260 billion each year into 156 separate family-friendly benefits, including healthcare, generous parental leave, subsidized daycare and tax breaks.

Yet on a continent with low birthrates, Germany has the lowest of all, with just 1.39 children per woman.

Why the paradox? Some analysts say the way many of the benefits are set up actually hurts women who want to have both a career and family, despite a growing shortage of skilled labor that has employers looking for ways to get women to return to work.

A recent study by the Institute for Higher Education Information Systems in Hanover found that 10 years after graduating from college, women with children earn far less than their childless female colleagues. Also, government figures show about half of Germany’s female workers are part-time, compared to the one-third, European average.