Demographic Change



In a nutshell

Many thousands of refugees flocked to EU member states in 2015 and 2016, especially to Germany. As has been widely and controversially discussed. The much more serious and longer-term problem of demographic change has been adeptly sidestepped, however. Although it may sound unpopular to some: immigration is vital for Germany, as there is no other way to offset demographic change. This is because the population is constantly ageing and neither the labour market, municipal infrastructure investments, nor the German pension system are currently adequately prepared.

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Europe's century-long task

The increasingly ageing population is already high on the political agenda and will pose a major challenge for the next generation. If things remain as they are, today's children will have to pay much higher pension contributions than their parents and grandparents – and receive considerably less money in return when they are old. Although demographic change is considered when adjusting pensions, this is not sufficient to prevent the scenario just described. There are certainly alternatives, however, to the existing system. For instance, pension levels at retirement age could be fixed at current levels, or even slightly higher, and the pensions of those who have already retired only be increased in line with inflation. Living standards would therefore be maintained. On the other hand, people's work-life balance must be improved, so that couples are not afraid to have children. Almost 10 years ago, the IWH determined that women only continue to work part time after having children, particularly in western Germany.

Germany's towns are also paying too little attention to demographic change and thus the future. They primarily make investments based on the current financial situation and too little on how the population will develop in future. If towns continue to do this, some will be chronically under-funded and others over-funded in 20 years' time.

Another problem is the shortage of skilled workers. In order to make it attractive for well-trained specialists to move to Germany from overseas, a targeted immigration policy is required. The projects launched to date, such as Blue Card, have not been as successful as hoped. So Germany currently remains isolated from the international pool of highly-qualified workers. A points-based system could be a promising alternative.

At the same time, Germany is facing the huge humanitarian dilemma of refugees; the enormous wave of migration since 2015 is placing considerable demands on Europe. The asylum system in Europe still has major shortcomings. A coherent European asylum policy is currently more important than ever, but the refugees have been very unevenly distributed within Europe. The IWH mooted a strategy for their equitable distribution back in 2015, which takes into account both the allocation of people and the costs.

In addition, the state must sustainably manage the integration of newcomers into our culture and labour market. This also includes improving social mobility within our society, in order to provide immigrants with good training opportunities. "Germany has been asleep for the last ten years. We have not seriously considered how we will handle our population development in 15 years' time," says Reint Gropp, President of the IWH in an interview with Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

Despite the intake of 1.2m refugees over the past two years, Germany’s population suffers a serious decline. Especially in Eastern Germany total population shrinks. According to the OECD, about half of asylum-seekers who started off in eastern Germany in the past moved to places such as Hamburg once they secured their permit.

Whether and how this country can make economic use of the opportunities presented by immigration is currently still under discussion. Integration is a fundamental part of this debate. Due to the complexity of the issue, an interdisciplinary, scientific approach, such as that of the ‘Crises of a globalised world’ Research Group, is essential, in order to understand the reciprocal mechanisms and dynamics. For example, analyses by the IWH show that measures to cope with immigration during late 2015 triggered additional economic impetus. National and regional governments increased their budgets, while spending on housing, food, medical care and general support for refugees fuelled demand and production, especially in the construction and hospitality sectors, as well as in professional services. According to calculations by the Joint Economic Forecast Project Group, migration-related expenditure across Germany contributed 0.1 percent to the growth in gross domestic product in 2015.

Today, one in 113 people in the world is considered to be a refugee – 65 million in total. In order to resolve the complex ‘asylum’ problem, politicians need to be much better organised and ideally develop collective actions. This is the only way to achieve a solution that is as efficient as possible – and above all humanitarian.

Demographic change is profoundly affecting various social spheres, yet is still underestimated by politicians and citizens. Pensions, future investments, migration – all these things are having a direct, immediate impact on people in Germany. Which is precisely why timely, sustainable solutions are required that do not simply pay lip service to sustainability.

Publications on "Demographic Change"


Predicting the Rise of EU Right-Wing Populism in Response to Unbalanced Immigration

Marko Jusup Dejan Kovač Boris Podobnik H. Eugene Stanley

in: Complexity, August 2017


Among the central tenets of globalization is the free migration of labor. Although much has been written about the benefits of globalization, little is known about its limitations and how antiglobalist sentiment can be strongly affected by high levels of immigration. Analyzing poll data from a group of EU countries affected by the recent migrant crisis, we find that over the last three years the percentage of right-wing (RW) populist voters in a given country depends on the prevalence of immigrants in this country’s population and the total immigration inflow into the entire EU. The latter is likely due to the perception that the EU functions as a supranational state in which a lack of inner borders means that “someone else’s problem” can easily become “my problem.” We find that the increase in the percentage of RW voters substantially surpasses the percentage of immigration inflow, implying that if this process continues, ongoing democratic processes will cause RW populism to prevail and globalization to rapidly decrease. We locate tipping points between the fraction of immigrants and the rise of RW populism, and we model our empirical findings using a complex network framework in which the success of globalization rests on a balance between immigration and immigrant integration.

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Geburtenwende in Deutschland – was ist dran und was sind die Ursachen?

Martin Klein Rahel Künkele Tobias Weirowski

in: Wirtschaftsdienst, No. 9, 2016


Deutschland weist im europäischen Vergleich seit langem besonders geringe Geburtenraten und einen hohen Altersdurchschnitt der Bevölkerung auf. Nun zeichnet sich aber eine Wende in der Geburtenentwicklung ab, die von den Großstädten ausgeht und sich von dort sukzessive ausbreitet. Der zeitliche Schwerpunkt dieser Geburtenwende liegt in den Jahren 2009 bis 2011, zeitgleich mit der Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrise dieser Jahre und in unmittelbarer Folge zu der 2007/2008 vollzogenen familienpolitischen Wende.

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Stabilisierung der gesetzlichen Rentenversicherung durch Erhöhung des Renteneintrittsalters

Oliver Holtemöller Felix Pohle Götz Zeddies

in: IWH Online, No. 3, 2016


Die deutsche Bevölkerung schrumpft. Im Jahr 2015 lebten 81,6 Millionen Menschen in Deutschland. Nach der 13. koordinierten Bevölkerungsvorausberechnung werden es im Jahr 2030 noch 81,1 Millionen Personen sein, wenn man die aktuellen Geburten- und Sterberaten fortschreibt und einen jährlichen Wanderungssaldo von 200 000 Personen unterstellt. Im Jahr 2060 wird die Bevölkerung unter diesen Annahmen auf 73,3 Millionen Personen zurückgegangen sein.

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Was Änderungen beim Rentenniveau die Beitragszahler kosten

Oliver Holtemöller Felix Pohle Götz Zeddies

in: IWH Online, No. 2, 2016


„Das Niveau der gesetzlichen Rente darf nicht weiter sinken, sondern muss auf dem jetzigen Niveau stabilisiert werden“, lautet eine aktuelle Forderung des Bundeswirtschaftsministers, Sigmar Gabriel. Was würde dieser Vorschlag die Beitragszahler kosten? Die gesetzliche Rentenversicherung basiert auf dem Prinzip, dass die laufenden Renten aus den laufenden Beiträgen der Beschäftigten bezahlt werden. Ein solches System ist stabil, solange sich das Verhältnis von Beitragszahlern und Rentenempfängern nicht dramatisch verschlechtert. Aber genau das ist absehbar, wenn die aktuellen Geburten- und Sterberaten fortgeschrieben werden. Während im Jahr 2016 ein Beschäftigter für 0,53 Rentner aufkommt, wird ein Beschäftigter im Jahr 2030 die Leistungen für 0,68 Rentner und im Jahr 2050 für 0,83 Rentner aufbringen müssen.

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Demographie und Einwanderung

Reint E. Gropp

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 4, 2015


Die demographischen Effekte sind in Ostdeutschland viel drastischer als in Westdeutschland und viel gravierender auf dem Land als in der Stadt. Die Bevölkerung in Ostdeutschland schrumpft schneller als im Westen, und sie wird immer älter. Manchen Regionen droht die Entvölkerung. Nach Prognosen des Statistischen Bundesamts ist im Jahr 2030 jeder dritte Ostdeutsche 65 Jahre und älter. Der Umgang mit diesem Problem, gerade im Osten, wird in meinen Augen die größte Herausforderung der nächsten Jahrzehnte sein.

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