Daily Management Review

Are migrants a solution for population problems in Germany?


Germany is trying to cope with the influx of migrants. However, the vanguard of discontented is seemingly overlooking one simple thing: migrants give the country what it needs, namely, children.

In 2015, the birth rate in Germany rose to 1.5 children per woman, which is the peak of 33 years.

Service of State Statistics say that this growth is primarily obliged to foreign origin of mothers, who give birth to every fifth baby. Mothers of German origin have 1.4 children for women on average. For those of foreign origin, the figure exceeds 1.9.

The baby boom is encouraging news for Germany, since the country is suffering from an extremely low birth rate. Many developed countries, including Germany, are observing decline in fertility among millennials. This trend clearly promises lower number of children that can later be added to the labor force of the country, said Stijn Hoorens, a demographer at the Rand Corp in Brussels. Migrants arriving in the country are in childbearing age, and their families, as a rule, are much more than families of local residents.

In the US, a recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that women of foreign origin give 23% of births, while migrants make up only 14% of the population.

"If there were no migrant women, annual number of births in the United States would have dropped sharply since 1970", - says the study.

Germany ranks first in the number of migrants in Europe, 3 million of whom are of Turkish origin.

Demographers say that every woman of childbearing age should beget 2 babies in order to prevent depopulation. A recent influx of refugees can help with this, since most of them come from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria, where average family size is higher than in Europe.

However, the boom is not going to last long. As a rule, second generation of migrant workers aspires to childbearing habits of the host countries. The birth rate among women of Mexican origin in the United States fell by more than 26% over the past decade, according to Pew. This decrease has recently been offset by immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, who tend to have more children. This raises a question of what effect anti-migrant position of president-elect Donald Trump will have on the birth rate.

Reiner Klingholz, Head of the Berlin Institute for Population, argues that Germany should not rely solely on migrants in an attempt to prevent population decline. It is equally important to carry out a competent family policy, provide necessary maternity care and financial assistance with training. In fact, the German government has already started implementation of these measures.

Question of population growth in Germany is emerging in the media regularly. In August, for example, Reuters wrote that "influx of migrants increased the population growth rate to a record of 1992." This material, however, was rather about proportion of the working population. Media primarily associates this topic with migrants. Discussions about aging population in developed countries and, consequently, influx of migrants have been circulating long before the migration outburst in Europe. The refugees’ crisis newly opened theme of aging and compensation of this process. Supporters used this argument in favor of a policy of openness to refugees, and others tried to debunk the myth of possibility of such compensation. 

This, says the author, was an argument in favor of the government's migration transparency. A special need for such arguments appeared due to upcoming federal election to be held in 2017. This statement immediately received counterargument. Those who confronted the theory said influx of so many people, who hardly know the German language and does not have necessary qualifications, would not not solve the problem of aging, but only burden social security.

Back in January 2016, Guardian wrote that "influx of refugees helps stop depopulation of Germany." Then, the population went back into growth due to an energetic reception of migrants for four consecutive years. Migrants are eventually offsetting vacuum of labor caused by the fertility decline. The upward trend, according to the author, will persist in the short term.

However, long-term forecasts are still predicting a strong decline in the population (up to 73.1 million people) by 2060. Such predictions, however, cannot take into account a number of factors, which make them imprecise.

A little later, there was a publication on Deutsche Welle. The author explained that the demographic problem in Germany primarily lays in a system of social stability, which, in turn, depends on young employees. For some time, there was a hope that reduction in tax revenue from indigenous population can be offset by proceeds from the immigrants.

However, statistics suggest that this compensation can be except for a very short period of time. In fact, the demographic differences between the young and elderly in Germany are so great that even the current unprecedented levels of immigration may not be able to close it.

source: bloomberg.com, reuters.com, dw.de, guardian.co.uk