Demographic development is hanging over society and businesses like the sword of Damocles and if we don’t do something soon then... well, what then? And is it really looming over us?
This was one of many questions discussed by approximately 800 participants and 120 speakers at the 8th Demographic Congress in Berlin. The slogan for 2017: “The downfall of civilisation has been cancelled”.
We have all heard it many times before: Germany’s population is shrinking, people are getting older and older, and the skills shortage is a huge problem in all fields. All rubbish says the economist and migration researcher Prof Dr Thomas Straubhaar, who kicked off the 8th Demographic Congress on 31 August with provocative statements. His ideas are taken from his recent book entitled “Wider die Mythen des demographischen Wandels” (Contrary to the myth of demographic change) in which he contradicts well-known theories about demographic change and postulates his own:
The general opinion in the ensuing discussion is that this is principally true, but that everyday life tells another story.
Another topic of discussion was “retirement at 70”. An idea that has been put off indeterminately because, as Reiner Hoffman, president of the DGB (German Trade Union Confederation), puts it, a nurse is quite simply “spent” at 60, and a construction worker as early as 57. Politicians like Bert Rürup (SPD) do not stand behind a political decision for retirement at 70.en.
And there’s still the issue of an increasing number of people in need of care, a number that will double by 2050 according to the German Federal Statistical Office. We now have 17,000 people over 100 living in Germany and this figure is rising. Thanks to the increase in life expectancy. But who, we ask, will take care of all of these people? Technical assistance systems and nursing competence centres are mentioned. And restructuring is necessary to improve nursing in the municipalities, says Andreas Storm, president of the health insurance company DAK.
The municipalities should take care of the problem – but how? Many don’t have the money, says Dr Irene Vorholz from the Deutscher Landkreistag, the German County Association. And yet it is important to improve nursing structures on the municipal level, warns Prof Dr Andreas Kruse, president of the Siebte Altenberichtskommission (Seventh Committee for the Report on Ageing). Not an easy task for shrinking districts The SPD politician Theophil Gallo believes that the only solution is to join forces – and create a better network of municipalities.
The central result of the 2017 Demographic Congress: municipalities need more support because neighbourly assistance can no longer be taken for granted. Only about 0.5 % of the people in Germany volunteer in geriatric care. And the second conclusion: further education is decisive for the economy. Not only because of technological developments but also precisely because of the demographic development. The baby boomers are retiring. That makes training refugees with a right of residence even more important.
Congress president Ulf Fink summarises: “We have seen how demographic change is not carved in stone, but no matter how you look at it, it is a challenge. (…) and (we have seen) that there is an enormous potential in our country.”