Germany’s declining population and migrants

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.

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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.

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7 thoughts on “Germany’s declining population and migrants

  1. Hi Simon, a really interesting article. Do the estimates provide any information on the factors driving the large growth in the UK population between 2015 and 2060?

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    1. The methodology used by the ONS is here:
      http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/method-quality/specific/population-and-migration/population-projections/methodology—national-population-projections/index.html
      The diversion between UK and Germany is more the extreme problem of Germany than anything odd about UK. UK has had fewer peaks and troughs in population and fertility in the last century and more steady migrant flow (and migrants are quite fertile it seems) in recent years.

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  2. I am German and this is an uniformed article written with a primitive approach to economics – the usual story that population size is what matters in an economy.

    Since the German Supreme Court ruled that asylum claimers have a right to benefits equal to what unemployed people get the Germna asylum claimer numbers have skyrocketed. Just in the last six months, half of the asylum claimers have been from the Balkans. I have seen the numbers. For next year, employment minister Nahles, a socialist, has said that she expects 500,000 new Hartz IV claimers – just the number for next year.

    A significant part of those people doesn’t come to work, they come to claim benefits. And even those who do wnat to work usually speak no German, little English and sometimes are illiterates – 30% of African immigrants.

    Even if we exclude the money required for employing more government workers and building whole new city quarters – and the social challenges – this is about financial loss. One half will increase benefit payments tremendously, the other half will cost a lot of money until they can be used for any serious job – at a time when millions of Europeans are unemployed. Highly quialified Germans will emigrate to countries where taxes are lower, while taxes in Germany will rise.

    “Massive immigration into Germany looks like the perfect solution.”
    No it creates the problems now, while positive effects are decades away, when more and more jobs are done by robots and computers. If a German company needs a cheap working force, they move their factores to other countries – Romania, China, whatever.

    “he report claims that some small towns in Saxony and Brandenburg might eventually have to close up shop and become ghost-towns”
    Hey I bet that’s where the immigrants want to live.

    “Germany’s birth rate is now the lowest on the planet”
    This is another piece of nonsense, take, for example, a look on Monaco. Yes it is a city state, it is small, you can’t compare it to a larger country, but it’s still a country and that’s why you can’t write it that way. And no, a study isn’t proof, I can pay for a study that the world was created in six days and will get it.
    I understand that you a poorly informed, you don’t quote German media, just liberal and leftist newspapers who push for immigration in their own countries.

    Let me just tell you one last thing. This whole issue will destroy the EU, at least it will change Germany in a way that you won’t like. I don’t know whether it takes a few years or decades until the nightmare starts, but you will be ashamed for defending such a political suicide with half-baked and darwinist arguments, reducing geniune refugees to economic factors, and nations to companies. If “Arbeit macht frei” is the only thing you have in mind when a Syrian girl cries than I just say that God will hopefully have mercy with your poor soul.
    I do hope and pray that the EU collapses before Germany gets a Nazi government. I think it’s the better outcome.

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    1. Thank you! I do appreciate that there are many Germans who do not want immigrants (in contrast to the government line) and many in the UK who do want immigrants (again in contrast to the government line), but I was looking at the official positions which are polls apart.
      I can’t agree that my effort “is an uniformed (sic) article written with a primitive approach to economics” but acknowledge that population profile and the nature of change is more important than size per se. I do agree that in all probability “this whole issue will destroy the EU”.

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  3. On the basis that the UK probably won’t still exist in 2040, let alone 2060, are there separate population projection figures available for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

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    1. Thanks for that. I think that by 2040, ‘the UK’ as we have known it will be England & Wales only, but that is just my personal opinion.

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