Germany has a different position on migrants than the UK because it desperately needs people, any people, to plug the huge hole left by its demographic crisis. According to the Daily Telegraph, an EU Commission spokesperson said the “German move (to welcome migrants) is a welcome act of solidarity”. I suspect Ms Merkel’s stance is not so much humanitarian as deeply practical. Taking a million or more immigrants is a great idea if your country is projected to see its population fall by about 3 million in the next 25 years with crippling economic and social consequences.
The table below (from Eurostat) shows what you need to know about the European response to the migration crisis. The UK (and that’s mostly England) is expected to see its population rise by 9 million in the next 25 years. Germany’s will fall by 3 million over the same period. By 2060, the UK’s population is expected to be 15 million higher than now while Germany’s will be 10 million lower. At that point, the UK would be by far Europe’s most populous country. For the record, the area of England is less than 40 percent that of Germany. Does the UK need more immigrants? Virtually all the commentary in Britain ignores these figures – even the normally reliable and evidence-based Will Hutton seemed to ignore them in his Guardian plea for action from the UK government. Coverage of the different response from different countries (For example, The Washington Post compared tabloid headlines) ignores the issue.
Britain is relatively full and getting fuller. Germany on the other hand really needs people. Lots of them and as fast as possible. Its problem is not new but it is now beginning to bite. The German Statistics Office was clear in a release of data in April: ” ….. a decline in Germany’s population is inevitable ….. and ….. the working-age population will shrink tremendously.” German women are neither producing children nor going to work in greater numbers. This brings huge costs.
The NYTimes said in 2013: “If Germany is to avoid a major labor shortage, experts say, it will have to find ways to keep older workers in their jobs and it will have to attract immigrants and make them feel welcome enough to make a life here. …… There is little doubt about the urgency of the crisis ……”
The Commentator said in June: “Germany’s birth rate is now the lowest on the planet, threatening a collapse in the workforce by 2020. Angela Merkel has said that Germany will lose a net six million workers over the next 15 years. …….. The report claims that some small towns in Saxony and Brandenburg might eventually have to close up shop and become ghost-towns, such is the German population shrinkage. Crucially ……. by 2030 the worker/retired dependency ratio will be 1:1, an unsustainable ratio that could make the public pensions system insolvent.”
Massive immigration into Germany looks like the perfect solution. It is certainly a short-term fix and better than nothing. Yet it might, according to one academic report, hold the population level stable but will not resolve the age dependency ratio issue and will lead to a huge increase in first and second generation non-native population which will not be problem-free.
Against the flows coming into the UK already and the fluctuations of millions in population projected for the coming decades, the call by Yvette Cooper for Britain to take 10,000 migrants is sweet and appealing to many but nothing more than gesture politics.