Demographic trends are determined by four factors: the current population, births, deaths and net migration, i.e. the difference between immigration and emigration.

At present, there are some 82 million people living in Germany. The population is expected to grow to about 84 million over the next few years and only to drop slightly again in around 2030. The main cause of the imminent increase is high net immigration – although of the 2 million immigrants registered in the year 2015 only slightly over half were refugees.

Yet while Germany’s population is not shrinking, it is ageing, and this despite an influx of predominantly young people. In 2035 about 25 per cent of those living in Germany will be older than 67, as opposed to some 20 per cent today. With or without refugees the long-term care insurance, the labour market and the pay-as-you-go-financed pension scheme are bound to come under increasing pressure.

Learn moreShow less

In recent years, Germany has been welcoming a growing number of children into the world. The birth rate has risen to an average of 1.5 births per woman. At the same time, more mothers with small children have been going to work. These successes would scarcely have been possible without a redirection of family policy.

2007 proved to be a turning point in Germany’s family policy. That year saw not only the introduction of a parental benefit, which improved families’ finances and encouraged mothers to resume their careers early, but also the decision to expand childcare for up-to-three-year-olds, without which it is often impossible for mothers to take up gainful employment. Facilities for young families have been significantly improved in other areas, too. For example, many kindergartens and primary schools are now open all day.

In many areas, however, childcare facilities remain inadequate despite the introduction of new services. Thus, despite the legal right to childcare, there is still a considerable shortage of day-care centre places for under-three-year-olds. At the same time, quality assurance needs to be improved. Particularly in view of the large number of refugee families, there is a need to ensure that all children learn German well enough in kindergarten to be able to follow lessons without difficulty when they reach school. In addition to good child care, families also need financial support. At least in this field, with its child benefit and non-contributory health insurance for children, Germany already compares well with other countries.

Learn moreShow less

Germany is dependent on immigrants for rejuvenating its ageing population. How much they can contribute to maintaining the skilled workforce that German companies need and stabilizing public budgets will depend on how well they are integrated into the labour market.

There have been two major flows of immigration to Germany in recent years. The first is the arrival of workers from other EU member states as a result of the right to free movement within the Union. The many well-educated people this has brought into the country have been in a position quickly to gain a foothold in the German labour market. The second influx consisted of refugees from Syria and other countries in the years 2015 and 2016. Germany is still in the process of integrating these new-arrivals into the labour market. A major challenge is that many refugees have few skills or qualifications. It will take some years for them to become part of the skilled workforce that German companies need.

Given that the number of potential migrants from the European Union is likely to fall as the societies of other member states also age, Germany should make it easier for skilled workers from non-EU countries to settle here. There is a particular need for an updated immigration law to establish clear conditions for immigration from third countries. This should include allowing access to those without a specific job offer whose qualifications nonetheless mean that they have good prospects of finding work. In addition, it should be made simpler for the education and training that immigrants received in their home country to be recognized here so that the qualifications they bring with them retain their value.

Learn moreShow less

Rising life expectancy and a low birth rate mean that the society is ageing and shrinking. Demographic change is hitting Germany harder than most other industrialised countries.

Today there is one German over 60 years old for every youth under 20. In 2050 there are expected to be two senior citizens for every youth. Realistic forecasts suggest that by then the population will have sunk by 10m to 72m. Raising the birth rate and an increase in immigration would slow this development, but it cannot be stopped altogether.

The shrinking and ageing of the population is especially pronounced in rural areas. This makes it more difficult to achieve the nationwide equality of living standards prescribed by the constitution. Changes in demography are causing problems on the labour market and in the social security system, too. While the number of workers paying social insurance contributions steadily declines, the ranks of the pensioners and long-term nursing cases continue to swell.

It is the task of our political leaders to do everything possible to exploit the potential for additional workforce participation. Improved day care facilities would allow mothers an early return to work. Shortening secondary and tertiary education would enable young people to start their careers earlier. Finally, there is no getting round the fact that older employees will have to be kept at work longer.

Learn moreShow less