Sources

Germany Has A Big Old Demographic Problem

Germany is expected to lose more than 13 million inhabitants by 2060. Even when immigrants and higher birth rates are factored into the equation, Germany is growing too old too quickly. Only drastic political solutions, such as moving the retirement age u

Old man in Wuppertal, Germany
Old man in Wuppertal, Germany
Tobias Kaiser

BERLIN — If Germany does not take serious action, such as raising the retirement age, its current demographic course would devastate the country. That is the message from Federal Bureau of Statistics chief Roderich Egeler, as he recently released new population projections for the year 2060.

Many fewer people will be living in Germany then than do today, Egeler's data suggests. Specifically, researchers believe that the country's current population of 81 million people will grow slightly in the next five to seven years but will then drastically decline, leaving only 68 million to 73 million people living in Germany in 2060.

Exactly how much the population will decline in this time frame also depends on the rates of birth and immigration. More on that later, but what is certain is that German society's aging won't be significantly reduced by immigration or government family policy measures. Whereas only one in five people living in Germany is over 65 now, by 2060 every third person will be over 65.

Obviously, this will deeply affect the job market. The number of people between the active working ages of 20 and 64 is expected to diminish drastically — falling by 23% to 30%, depending on the rate of immigration. That would represent a considerable weight on the social welfare system. As of now, 100 people of active working age are needed for the government to support 34 retirees, whereas in 2060 the same number will need to support 60, nearly twice as many.

This development seems inevitable at the moment, and the latest numbers from the Federal Bureau of Statistics only confirm the prognosis. Though additional immigration from countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the southern European countries in financial crisis has halted the population decrease for the time being, it can't stop the aging of German society.

Old German couple in a park in Leipzig — Photo: florianric

Once the process of an aging demographic has been set in motion, it's very difficult to reverse population change. Any efforts to mitigate it can only be achieved over very long periods of time.

Each new generation

The annual birth rate has been steady at 1.4 children per woman for the last four decades. Every successive generation will have fewer children than their parents, which has led to the birth rate beginning its decline since the 1970s. "Germany is already experiencing a demographic change," Egeler says.

To illustrate the drastic changes that would have to happen to halt this process, the statisticians have created a number of different scenarios. According to their calculations, the country would require net migration of approximately 450,000 to 500,000 every year to keep the population at a constant level.

While this seems realistic for the next two years, it's not sustainable. The net immigration in 2013 totaled 429,000 people, and statisticians are assuming that Germany is going to gain half a million more immigrants in 2014 and 2015, respectively. But this number is expected to decline again next year.

In reality, even a steady stream of immigrants wouldn't change the age-related demographics of Germany much, as most immigrants are from southern and eastern Europe where birth rates are even lower than in Germany. To keep gainful employment numbers at the current level, immigration alone is insufficient.

That's why statisticians believe that retirement age would have to be raised to 74 years of age to achieve some semblance of balancing the welfare state with a sufficient number of workers. And even this wouldn't solve the problem entirely. The ratio between people who are gainfully employed and retirees would still be worse than it is today because of the growing numbers of elderly people in Germany.

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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