demographics germany

Demographics and Politics



sick (2) don’t care have had enough
research generation interests (2)
wish measure (2) pay attention
obsessed deteriorate take into account
dwindle minority delegate
involve right (3) represent
cohort shrink birth rate
pose (2) plummet support
trend burden arrangement
reverse alternative get through
attempt criticize traction
sum require insurance
fund expose maneuverable
lack rower demonstrate
engage struggle exception
prospect take care





Wolfgang Grundinger has had enough: he’s sick of seeing that many people in Germany don’t care about the interests of young people.

A researcher of generations, he takes us to a gymnasium, a high school, in Berlin.

Wolfgang Grundinger, Generational Researcher: “At this school you see what savings measures may look like if no one pays attention to the young. There are construction fences. The building is deteriorating.

An aging society obsessed with the present may invest too little in the future because children and young don’t have a voice because they can’t vote because their interests and wishes aren’t taken into account because they are a dwindling minority.”

Germany already has 20 million pensioners today. Twenty million voters who give their votes to the party that seems to represent their interests.

Young people are becoming a minority.

Florian Bernschneider knows what that means. He’s the youngest delegate in the German parliament, the Bundestag.

A member of the Free Democratic Party, he fights for young people’s rights.

Florian Bernschneider (FDP): “Young people have to express their opinions more loudly. I’m the youth policy spokesman for my parliamentary party, and most of the mail in my mailbox are from people over 50.

Younger people have to get more involved in politics, or else how can we represent them?”

And the cohort of young Germans continues to shrink.

The number of children born in Germany has been falling for many years. Almost 1.4 million Germans were born in 1964, more than in any other year.

But the birth rate has plummeted since then: in 2010, only half that number were born.

By 2050, it could be fewer than half-a-million.

A dwindling young generation poses serious problems for Germany.

In the 1950s, five working people covered the financial burden of one pensioner; in the early 1990s, it was four. In 2006, three workers supported one pensioner.

If the trend continues, the future could find two — or even just one — person working for each pensioner.

Person on the Street 1: “I don’t expect to receive a state pension.”
Person on the Street 2: “At some point there will be no money left for our pensions. We have to make our own arrangements for old age.”
Person on the Street 3: “Things don’t look good for us.”

Herwig Birg was an adviser to the government. In the 1970s, he was already warning the government that Germany faced a huge problem.

But no one listened to him.

Herwig Birg, Demographer: “After doing nothing for 40 years, all we can do now is try hold our heads up and get through it.

There’s no alternative.”

Florian Bernschneider also criticizes his older colleagues for doing too little. Today’s attempts to reverse the trend is gaining too little traction.

Florian Bernschneider (FDP): “We spent huge sums of money for family policy measures. I agree with those who say the results are disappointing.

We have to rethink this and find a way to improve family policy measures. If the aim is to increase the birthrate, I see no chance of success.”

A constantly aging population requires increased funding for pensions. But also for health insurance and nursing care.

And less remains for the young.

Herwig Birg, Demographer: “Think of Germany as a rowboat. The number of rowers is dwindling every decade, while the number of older passengers who don’t row is growing.

The boat gets slower, and less maneuverable, and is exposed to the weather.

That’s the situation.

We lack rowers.”

And the young rowers are beginning to realize it.

In 2009, students all over Germany took to the streets to demonstrate for more money for education.

In 2012, thousands gathered in Frankfurt’s financial district to protest social injustice.

But young Germans who fight for their rights are an exception.

Florian Bernschneider (FDP): “I’d like to see young people engaged in the process of their political interests.

Wolfgang Grundinger, Generational Researcher: “We have to be loud, colorful. We have to be radical. We have to go to the streets and into the parties and struggle for our rights.”

Wolfgang Grundinger is hoping for a youth revolt; not against older people, but for better prospects for the future.

Because only well-educated, young people will be able to take care of an ever increasing population of their elders.

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1. According to the report, does the government (do politicians) care about young people? What example do they give?

2. Young people do not have (much) political power. True or false? Why don’t young people have much political power?

3. Who is Florian Bernschneider (the parliamentary delegate)? What does he think? What does he believe?

4. Describe the demographics of Germany over the years.

5. People (on the street) are pessimistic. Is this correct or wrong? Why are they pessimistic?

6. What is the rowboat analogy?

7. Have there been protests and demonstrations? Who demonstrated? Why did they demonstrate?

8. What would Wolfgang, the young parliamentarian delegate like to see?

A. Describe the demographics of your country.

B. Are there or will there be social, economic and political problems? Why are or will there be problems?

C. What are the solutions?


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