Economy

The German Dream Is Alive And Well

Economic stagnation, a polarized society, politicians losing the plot – German citizens’ opinion of their country seems to be going downhill, and we're warned that many are planning to emigrate. However, the facts paint a very different picture.

A man in black walks through baggage claim

The arrival terminal at Frankfurt Airport

Imago via ZUMA
Thomas Straubhaar

-OpEd-

BERLIN — In Germany, debates over the state of the nation are heating up. Yet again. Those who see their homeland as an attractive country, who praise its society and government or admire its strong economy find themselves criticized, vilified and straight-out attacked on social media and in real life.

A growing section of the population believes that Germany’s politicians can do nothing right, that society is polarized and deeply divided, that we are on the precipice of years worth of stagnation and inflation. Predictions of an economic decline, perhaps even a collapse, are everywhere.


More and more, we are told, are thinking of moving abroad, or at least investing their money elsewhere. Many claim that they made the decision to leave Germany a long time ago, but are waiting for the pandemic to end so they can follow through on it.

Repatriation on the rise

However, the facts paint a more positive picture. For most of the global population, Germany still seems like heaven on earth. Like a magnet, it draws people from across the world who want to live here. In 2019, 1.56 million people moved to Germany, and even in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, that figure stood at 1.19 million.

Hordes of foreign capitalists are trusting the country with their money.

It’s also worth noting that, however loudly Germans talk about wanting to emigrate, the true number leaving their country remains low: On average, over the past decade, less than 0.3% of all Germans have emigrated every year.

When you factor in the Germans living abroad who decided to return to their home country, the net number of Germans emigrating in the 2010s was only around half a million. That is 0.65% of the population. It's hardly a mass exodus from a failing country.

Olaf Scholz and Angela Merkel do a fish bump

Passage of power from Merkel to Scholz

Clemens Bilan/DDP via ZUMA

Political stability, social harmony

The worry that Germany is no longer attractive to investors is also unfounded; in fact, it is quite the opposite. Not only German citizens, but also hordes of foreign capitalists are trusting the country with their money, and they are even prepared to pay for the privilege and accept negative interest rates.

Alternatives are thin on the ground. Where else should investors put their money, if not in a stable economy with strong institutions and a more or less reliable currency? And how far can German savers or investors really trust foreign politics, which they don’t understand as well as their own and over which they can have no real influence? Can they really trust promises from other countries in the long term?

Germany has a strong reputation for political stability, a fair justice system and a generally harmonious society. When Angela Merkel recently stepped down after a 16-year stint as Chancellor, the handover of power was completely seamless, without any tension, corruption, opposition or violence. It was a smooth transition, which most countries in the world would envy.

Centrists in command

It’s also true that the newly elected German parliament broadly represents the political center, with more extreme parties gaining fewer seats than elsewhere in Europe, the U.S. and on other continents.

Of course there are some glaring flaws in German society, and much can be improved. But Germans who emigrate or move their savings abroad will soon realize that the situation elsewhere is often much worse than at home.

There are endless TV series about Germans struggling to make it in Switzerland – the land of dreams for many. That is why alternative thinkers, conspiracy theorists and prophets of doom shouldn’t be allowed to set the tone of national debates. They make their voices heard by being loud and shrill, sometimes aggressive and spiteful. But that will never turn their fake reality into fact.

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Mariam Nabattu, a religious studies teacher, must work at two schools in central Uganda to make ends meet.

Patricia Lindrio/GPJ Uganda
Edna Namara and Patricia Lindrio

KAMPALA — Allen Asimwe has dedicated more than two decades to teaching geography at a large public high school in southwestern Uganda. Her retirement age, as a public servant entitled to benefits, is just six years away.

She doubts she will wait that long.

“I am determined, I want to quit,” she says, calculating that she could earn more by shifting full time to the salon she opened six years ago to supplement her income. “Given the frustration, I cannot continue in class anymore.”

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