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.