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Demography PDF Print E-mail
Since there are extensive overlaps between demographic change and intergenerational justice the FRFG has developed a research section on the topic of demography since the year 2000.

Since the research section was established, the FRFG is conducting studies and is publishing the results in books (e.g. Demographic Change and Intergenerational Justice, published in cooperation with the Bertelsmann Foundation) and policy papers. The FRFG is also encouraging young scientists to work on the topic by awarding the Demography Prize totaling 10,000 Euros every second year.

The main issues the FRFG is focusing on in the scope of this research section are Using the Opportunities within Demographic Change, Encouraging Birth Policy and Immigration Policy.

Using the Opportunities within Demographic Change

Europe reached an historic turning point in 1998: with 728 million people, the population stopped growing - for the first time in centuries. All analyses agree that in the next decades Europe will be the only continent where there will be “more free space” each year. This transformation is being judged very variedly. Some give hopeful projections of full employment and envision a future where children no longer have to learn in crowded classrooms, where lack of car parks and chronically congested roads are a thing of the past and queuing has come to an end. These people also hope for an effect in kind on the rapidly growing developing nations. Others however worry that Germany will not be able to sustain its infrastructure and will sink into poverty. Collapsing social security systems, national debt getting out of control and a strong decrease in human capital are what they fear. Economists have so far largely disregarded the shrinking processes, which is why there is still need for research. There is evidence, though, that the predicted demographic change will in economic terms have rather negative consequences for future generations in Germany. There should be burdening effects especially regarding the social security systems and per-capita-debt. On the other hand, the beneficial ecological effects of the population’s shrinking cannot be denied (though this does not apply to the population’s aging in the same manner). Even if burdens on nature correlate more with the number of households than with overall population and do not necessarily follow the rule of three, demographic change can offer positive potentials especially concerning issues such as biodiversity and soil sealing.

However, the demographic change has already begun. This means that in the near and intermediate future, strategies will be needed that can make possible the positive potential of the transformation and, at the same time, neutralize its negative effects as far as possible.

Good methods of adaptation to the shrinking of the population would be local supply infrastructure (such as plant sewage plants) and services that are mobile, temporary and based on a division of labor (such as ‘Ruftaxis’: cabs in city areas that substitute regular busses) or the use of vacant buildings as showrooms. Because shrinking also needs goals.

Encouraging Birth Policy

As demographers stress, the shrinking of the population of the developed countries can to a certain degree not be reversed because of the so-called ‘population momentum’ (a sluggishness effect). A further shrinking after 2050 would only be avoidable if measures were taken at an early stage. Herwig Birg has calculated that even if the birth rate rose incrementally to the replacement level by 2030, it would take until 2080 to halt the shrinking of the population and recover the birth balance. What is more, even if 150,000 younger people immigrated per year, the length of the time until the end of the shrinking would not change substantially; the birth balance would still remain negative until 2068. In any case these calculations raise the awareness that the population momentum is, also regarding a shrinking of the population, comparable to a sluggish tanker ship which has to be stopped in time. It is only natural that four families with one child each have all in all more descendants than one family with three children. If the target is a population size of 70 million, pronatalistic measures have to be introduced before that goal is reached, not afterward. Because then it is in a manner of speaking already 30 years past twelve o’clock.
Hence, research should focus on ways to raise the birth rate to the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman again. This advocacy for an active birth policy does not contradict the first part of the strategy for the demographic sustainability of Germany, i.e. using the potentials of the population’s shrinking. The negative consequences of population pressure on nature do not necessarily result in the wish for self-erasement, but rather a plea for a stabilization of the population’s size at an ecologically sustainable level. If the current fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman continues, Germany’s Population Division’s long-term prognosis of a 2300’s Germany with only about three million inhabitants (which is the number of inhabitants of today’s Berlin) may come true. For the majority of people, this scenario is not entirely inviting. Therefore it is essential to identify the reasons for the low birth rate and discuss strategies of reversal. A distinction has to be made between strategies that help to realize one’s desire to have children and those that are supposed to call forth the desire to have children. The desired number of children per woman currently lies at 1.7, i.e. below the replacement level.
2.300 Immigration Policy
Since 1972, more people die than are born each year in Germany. In the last 30 years only immigration has prevented a shrinking of the population, and it is also being seen as a suitable instrument to stall the demographic change for the next decades. Therefore it is important to develop concepts for a sustainable immigration policy. A reasonable immigration policy should also keep an eye on the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves.

Immigration Policy

Since 1972, more people die than are born each year in Germany. In the last 30 years only immigration has prevented a shrinking of the population, and it is also being seen as a suitable instrument to stall the demographic change for the next decades. Therefore it is important to develop concepts for a sustainable immigration policy. A reasonable immigration policy should also keep an eye on the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves.