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2018年05月07日13:52 来源:小站整理
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Depopulation in Germany

Fading echoes

Germany is running out of people, starting in the east





WERE it not for the graffiti on abandoned buildings, Bitterfeld-Wolfen, two towns north of Leipzig joined as one in 2007, would seem devoid of young people. Pharmacies, physiotherapy surgeries and shops selling garden gnomes line the sleepy streets. In its heyday the place had a booming chemical industry. Today “the air is much cleaner and we can finally hang out laundry,” says an elderly local out on a morning stroll. “But many jobs were lost and so few children are left.” He points out a building that was once a school; today it is one of many care homes.


Despite an influx of 1.2m refugees over the past two years, Germany’s population faces near-irreversible decline. According to predictions from the UN in 2015, two in five Germans will be over 60 by 2050 and Europe’s oldest country will have shrunk to 75m from 82m. Since the 1970s, more Germans have been dying than are born. Fewer births and longer lives are a problem for most rich countries. But the consequences are more acute for Germany, where birth rates are lower than in Britain and France.


If Germany is a warning for others, its eastern part is a warning for its west. If it were still a country, East Germany would be the oldest in the world. Nearly 30 years after unification the region still suffers the aftershock from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when millions—mostly young, mostly women—fled for the west. Those who remained had record-low birth rates. “Kids not born in the ’90s, also didn’t have kids in the 2010s. It’s the echo of the echo,” says Frank Swiaczny from the Federal Institute for Population Research, a think-tank in Wiesbaden. The east’s population will shrink from 12.5m in 2016 to 8.7m by 2060, according to government statistics. Saxony-Anhalt, the state to which Bitterfeld-Wolfen belongs, is ahead of the curve.

如果说德国对其他国家有所警示,那么德国东部则向其西部敲响了警钟。如果东德今天仍是个国家,它将是世界老龄化最严重的国家。1989年柏林墙倒塌后,数百万人逃往西德,多数是年轻人和女人。那些留下来的人的出生率达到历史最低点。统一近30年后,该地区仍未从柏林墙倒塌的余波中恢复过来。弗兰克·斯威亚兹尼(Frank Swiaczny)供职于威斯巴登(Wiesbaden)一家名为联邦人口研究所(Federal Institute for Population Research)的智库。他说,“上世纪90年代出生锐减的一代人,到2010年代同样少生孩子。这是个恶性循环。”根据政府的统计数字,到2060年,东德的人口将从2016年的1250万缩减到870万。比特费尔德-沃尔芬所在的萨克森-安哈尔特州(Saxony-Anhalt)目前引领这条下降曲线。

Berlin used to pay little attention to the area. But regional decline has already had a political effect. In a state election in March 2016, a populist party, the AfD, came first in Bitterfeld and second in Wolfen. Such places will matter in a federal election in September, which is expected to be tight. Bitterfeld-Wolfen has seen its population plummet from 75,000 in 1989 to 40,500 today. Even after administrators tore down blocks of flats, and cut floors off others, skeletal remains of buildings still await the wrecking ball. Nearly one building in five is empty. A grand Stalinist-era construction, once the town’s cultural palace, now stands deserted. Two-thirds of kindergartens and over half the schools have closed since 1990. The number of pupils finishing secondary school has fallen by half. Employers struggle to fill vacancies.


Apprentices—especially in service industries—are hard to find. The one booming industry, care, is desperate for more geriatricians, nurses and trainees. To help fill the gap, the local Euro-Schulen, a training institute, has turned to Vietnam. Having studied German in Hanoi, 16 young apprentices started in April, with 20 more expected soon. Nearby Dessau is setting up a similar arrangement with China.


Germany has long relied on migrants to make up for low fertility rates. Unusually high migration in recent years has more than offset the shrinkage of the native-born population. But the EU countries that have traditionally provided the migrants, such as Poland, are also ageing. Migrant flows will slow; competition for labour will increase. And Olga Pötzsch, from the Federal Statistical Office, argues that Germany will need far more migrants to stop population decline, which is predicted to accelerate from 2020.

德国一直都靠移民来弥补生育率低下。像近年这样大批涌入的移民在抵消本土出生人口缩水之后通常还会有富余,但过去一直提供移民的欧盟国家本身也在老龄化,例如波兰。移民的流动将放缓,争夺劳动力的竞争将会加剧。德国联邦统计局的奥尔加·波茨什(Olga Pötzsch)表示,德国人口预计会在2020年后加速减少,要遏制人口下跌,所需的移民数量要远超现在的数字。

Uwe Schulze, a senior local official, says that refugees are not filling the labour shortage. Of the 2,600-odd asylum-seekers who arrived in the area in 2015 and 2016, fewer than a third are now registered as “capable of working” and only 40 are fully employed. From his wood-panelled office in a neoclassical building that once housed one of Europe’s largest colour-film makers, Armin Schenk, Bitterfeld-Wolfen’s mayor, says the problems are mostly to do with language, qualifications and uncertainty about asylum. Asked whether Afghans and Syrians could join the same programme as the Vietnamese, Liane Michaelis, from Euro-Schulen, forcefully shakes her head, citing educational, religious and ethical barriers for care jobs. She adds that “those who do have the right papers leave quickly”. According to the OECD, about half of asylum-seekers who started off in eastern Germany in the past moved to places such as Hamburg once they secured their permit.

当地一位高级官员乌维·舒尔策(Uwe Schulze)说,难民并不足以弥补劳动力的短缺。2015年至2016年间来到该地区寻求庇护的2600多人中,如今只有不到三分之一的人登记为“有工作能力”,只有40个人找到了全职工作。比特费尔德-沃尔芬市长阿尔明·申克(Armin Schenk)在他那间木板墙面的办公室(这幢新古典主义风格的建筑曾是欧洲数一数二的彩色胶片生产商的办公室)里表示,问题主要有语言障碍、工作资质欠缺以及不确定难民们是否能获得庇护。当被问及阿富汗和叙利亚人是否也可以加入像越南人那种项目,欧洲学校的利亚妮·米歇埃丽丝(Liane Michaelis)用力地摇了摇头。她指出,教育、宗教以及道德伦理方面的隔阂令他们难以从事护理工作。此外,“那些确实有许可的人又都会很快离开。”经合组织(OECD)表示,之前,先在德国东部落脚的避难者一旦拿到了居留许可,便会搬到汉堡等地。

With the odds seemingly stacked against it, Bitterfeld-Wolfen is at least trying. On a whirlwind tour of the town, Mr Schenk shows how the old coal mine was turned into a lake with a new marina and a promenade. He repeats the town’s mantra: “It’s all about offering good-quality life and leisure.” A brochure shows pictures of smiling children, yachts and tennis. Bitterfeld-Wolfen, it reads, is “one of the youngest cities in Germany”. But even if such marketing did stem departures (and in 2015, for the first time, inward migration slightly exceeded the outflow) the town is still shrinking; more than twice as many die each year as are born.


Across many parts of rural Europe mayors struggle with similar problems, wondering when to turn their school into a care home. By 2050 Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain—which, unlike Germany, have all suffered net brain-drains—will be older than Germany by median age and will have shrunk substantially, according to the UN. Ageing and emigration are likely further to dampen growth in central and southern European countries, says the IMF. It calculates that by 2030 GDP per person in several countries may be 3-4% lower than it would have been without emigration.


Where Bitterfeld-Wolfen goes…


In Germany, however, the consequences are particularly acute. With a strong economy and a tight labour market, some employers already struggle to fill vacancies. BCG, a consultancy, predicts that by 2030 the country will be short of between 5m and 7m workers. The triple shock of a smaller workforce, increased social spending and the likely dampening effect of an older workforce on innovation and productivity will drag down future growth, predicts Oliver Holtemöller of the Leipzig Institute for economic Research. These effects are stronger in the east, he adds. Productivity is 20% lower than in the west; the ageing population and continuing migration to the west will make economic convergence even less likely.

不过,这些问题的后果在德国尤为严重。由于经济强盛,劳动力市场供不应求,一些雇主已经很难找到人来填补岗位空缺。波士顿咨询公司(BCG)预测,到2030年,德国的劳动力市场将出现500到700万人的缺口。莱比锡经济研究院的奥利弗·霍尔特莫勒(Oliver Holtemöller)预言,劳动力规模减小、社会支出增加,以及劳动力老龄化抑制创新和生产率这三重冲击未来会拖累经济的增长。他还指出,这些影响在东德要更为深重。东德的生产率比西德低20%;人口日益老化以及持续向西部迁移会让东西部经济平衡更加难以实现。




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