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Security – Trust – Solidarity

3rd Berlin Demography Forum from 9-11 April 2014 in Berlin

Demographic change cannot be halted, but it can be shaped, as was shown by the contributions and discussions at the 3rd Berlin Demography Forum. Representatives from politics, industry and Academia from 18 nations discussed the question of why demography is one of the greatest challenges in society today, and what amongst other things it means if the share of the elderly in the population grows more and more. It may be helpful to take a look at other countries, as Michael Diekmann (Chief Executive Officer of Allianz SE) emphasised in his opening speech. He stressed the necessity to study experiences and activities and to find a way to make a success story out of demographic change.
The Director of the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB), Prof. Norbert F. Schneider, showed the developments that have taken place in Germany in the framework of the discussion on the question: “Where are we in Germany? A stocktake”. Within the “Young Expert Panel”, Ralina Panova from the BiB and other young researchers discussed the consequences of demographic change from the perspective of the young generation with the former President of the Bundestag, Prof. Rita Süssmuth.

The Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Manuela Schwesig, started her keynote speech by stating that the focus in the discussion should not only primarily be placed on the fact that society was ageing, but that it was now also necessary to pay more attention to the young generation. It was ultimately their future that was at stake. The problem was not that we were getting older, but that too few children were being born in Germany. Demographic change particularly affected young people, according to Ms Schwesig. She presented the results of a new survey carried out by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs on the topic “Demographic change – future expectations of young adults”, which proved that demographic change was already a topic for discussion for most young people aged between 20 and 34. A majority was said to presume both increasing burdens with regard to pension provision and longer working lives for themselves, as well as that the generations had a responsibility for one another.

Federal Family Minister Manuela Schwesig Berlin Demography Forum 2014Federal Family Minister Manuela Schwesig Source: Berliner Demografie Forum

Demography is the greatest domestic policy challenge of the coming decade: Federal Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig stressed in her speech the significance of demographic change, which would affect all spheres of life, all policy areas and all groups within society. It was of such immense significance that comprehensive, profound political answers had to be found. A “partnership between the generations” was needed in order to overcome the consequences.

Demographic Change as a Global Challenge

In the subsequent academic panel, international experts discussed from different perspectives the fact that demographic change constitutes a global challenge since each country in the world will have to face demographic change in future. Change will progress at different speeds in the various regions, as Prof. Francesco C. Billari (University of Oxford) showed. He described the need for more data to better understand change, and hence to deal with it.
This was said to apply above all to the ageing of the population, the speed of which differed widely in different parts of the world, leading to different challenges for the societies concerned, according to the analysis of Prof. Ursula M. Staudinger (Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Columbia). In her view, it is possible to also maintain growth and productivity in ageing societies if at the same time investments were to be made in health care and the existing potential of the elderly were to be used. This was also said to include a willingness to remain in lifelong learning.
Prof. Gian Carlo Blangiardo (Universitá degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, Vatican) appealed for a combination of ethical and economic aspects when it comes to dealing with demographic change. Three factors played a role in this regard in Italy: Migration had to be accepted in society; a higher birth rate was needed, and health care for the elderly had to be improved.
In Turkey, by contrast, fertility and mortality events played a larger role for demography than did migration, as Prof. A. Banu Ergöcmen (Hacettepe University, Ankara) stressed. The main factors in the development here were said to be the same as in many countries: Later and fewer marriages, a drop in fertility, and structural change in generative conduct, were causing the population in Turkey to shrink. Currently, 25% of the population was aged under 25. Prognoses however showed that the number of 5- to 15-year-olds was stable, but that the share of the elderly would increase considerably.
The Director of the International Longevity Center, Brazil, Alexandre Kalache, made it clear that the age pyramid is also shifting in Brazil. The share of over 60-year-olds in the population had increased tenfold in recent decades, and average life expectancy had grown considerably: from 43 in 1950 to its present level of 75. Ageing primarily called for investment in health care in Brazil.
The significance of social security against the background of a rapidly-ageing society was also the focus of a presentation by Dr. Byong-ho Tchoe (President of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, South Korea). Life was hard for the elderly and the poor in South Korea given the weak social security systems, particularly since the retirement age was over 70.

The Demographic Situation in Germany: A Stocktake

Having taken a look at the situation in various countries in Europe and Asia, what is the situation in Germany? Prof. Renate Köcher of the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach started by showing, on the basis of a survey of future expectations among young adults, that the respondent 20- to 34-year-olds had a realistic assessment of the situation in the pensions system. More than 60% presumed that they needed to make greater provision of their own for their retirement, and that the burden would increase as a result of higher taxes and charges. A further major aspect for the respondents was better reconciliation of work and family.
Prof. Norbert F. Schneider (Director of the BiB, Wiesbaden) stated that demographic change in Germany was primarily characterised by advancing ageing, as well as by a regional differentiation in population development. This meant that the quantitative ratio between people of working age and those who were retired would change. All in all, developments in Germany in recent years were said to show that the perception of demographic change had altered, said Professor Schneider. The challenges and opportunities presented by the process were now being considered, and no longer only the risks. In view of the regionally-differentiated development, however, new solutions would also have to be found. This was said to apply for instance to shrinking regions in Eastern Germany, but not only there.

Prof. Dr. Norbert F. Schneider, Director of the BiB Berlin Demography Forum 2014Prof. Dr. Norbert F. Schneider Source: Berliner Demografie Forum

A changed outlook on demographic change:
Professor Norbert F. Schneider particularly pointed to the challenges and opportunities offered by the process, given that demographic development had primarily been regarded in the past from negative points of view.




Seizing the opportunity offered by demographic change in Germany: What does the future in Germany hold? The current and future demographic situation was discussed (from the left) by: Prof. Norbert F. Schneider (Director of the BiB), Prof. Renate Köcher (Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach), chaired by Prof. Martin Seeleib-Kaiser (University of Oxford) and Prof. Tilman Mayer (University of Bonn).

Prof. Tilman Mayer (University of Bonn, President of the German Society for Demography – DGD) went on to compare developments in fertility in Germany and France, and found that Germany could learn from what was being done in France with regard to increasing its fertility rate. France was much more successful in this area than Germany, stressed Professor Mayer. Furthermore, he said that immigration offered an opportunity to increase the population size. Policy measures such as the Demographic Strategy which the Federal Government had adopted had to be further expanded since they were currently still too much driven by the needs of the labour market. This was not however expected to be sufficient to influence the future consequences of demographic change.

Ethical questions of change

The Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia, Dr. Dr. h.c. Markus Dröge, and Prof. Andreas Suchanek of the Wittenberg Centre for Global Ethics showed what ethical questions are connected with the topic. For instance, the Churches were also involved in the challenges of demographic change. The topics of security, trust and solidarity played a significant role in this context. It was said to be important to take joint responsibility, particularly with regard to the relationship between the generations. Dr. Dröge drew positive conclusions from the current approach to demographic change since we now have the opportunity to make a difference. Professor Suchanek considered it to be important for us to ask ourselves how we approach the challenges. It was said to be important here to understand what was happening and how change could be shaped.

The Conclusions of the Policy-Makers: Gregor Gysi on the Topic of Demography

The political group chairman of the party “Die Linke”, Dr. Gregor Gysi, was willing to make a brief statement with regard to the political conclusions on the topic. He stressed that demographic change was not a new phenomenon, but had existed as long as there had been people: “There has always been a shift in the age limits, and this has also existed in the past 100 years without having continuously moved the retirement age”, said Gysi. He said that what was new in this development was the reduction in infant mortality and the increase in life expectancy, to which pensions policy had to react with a variety of measures. The reason why there were so few children in Germany was firstly because of a poor network of kindergartens and secondly the increase in precarious employment for young people, which did not permit family formation. Companies would have to make changes here, the politician stressed. Then there was a society that was not child friendly: “We also have to want children”, appealed Gysi. In view of the high poverty rate among children, the educational structure in Germany has to be further improved because it is always better to invest in education than in juvenile prisons.

The International Perspective: Demographic Trends in Individual Countries

The discussion on the last day focussed on the question of how other countries cope with the impact of demographic change. Prof. Anne Gauthier of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NiDi) introduced the discussion on this topic with the question of how the role of the family would develop. Despite divergent answers to this question, a majority in the discussion was convinced that the family as we know it today would change to become a “multicomplex construction”.
Mike McGavick (CEO of XL Insurance Group) pointed out the different developments in ageing in all countries and societies, particularly when it comes to the healthcare of older people. There was also a need to change the thinking with regard to old-age pensions: 89% of people in Japan had recognised that pensions for older people constituted both a necessity and a challenge. This had not yet been realised in other countries. A change had to take place here.
This also applied to US society, as M. Michelle Burns of the Stanford Longevity Center explained. The USA was lagging behind the EU with regard to security in old age. The need to work longer was obvious. It was therefore necessary to change existing business models in industry accordingly.
Demographic change was in a transitional situation in Turkey, explained Nur Ger of the Board of the Turkish Industry Association TÜSIAD, Istanbul. Population growth was slowing, and with it the number of working-age people. The prognoses suggested that Turkey would need to implement a new model with regard to employment, pensions and the retirement age in 2040 at the latest. In order to be able to master the challenges of demographic change, great efforts would also be needed in the political arena in order to ensure greater gender equality, as well as to improve the social security systems.
Brazil was faced by the problem that only a small number of young people reached higher education, explained Prof. José Marcos Pinto da Cunha (Population Studies Center (Nepo), Brazil). What was more, Brazil too had an ageing society, necessitating change and adjustment in the social systems. Above all the topic of welfare for the elderly would prove to be important here.
A changed migration conduct is observed in China, particularly among the younger generation, as Dan-He, General Director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, China, stated. Whilst migrant workers had previously tended to return to their home regions, they were now increasingly settling in the urban regions permanently. This development was certainly politically desirable, as it was intended to improve the standard of living of the rural population. China would have to overcome the consequences of the urbanisation development in the years to come. This was currently the greatest demographic challenge. In view of the population problems, China was however said to also need to change its policy with regard to migrant families.
Dr. Jörg Bentmann (Federal Ministry of the Interior) showed how Germany is preparing for demographic change. He explained the Demographic Strategy which the Federal Government has adopted, which had been drawn up by working parties from a variety of topical areas, and stressed that the consequences of change could only be successful in a dialogue with citizens and the social partners. What is more, it could also be helpful to look at the activities and strategies in other countries.

 Dr. Jörg Bentmann from the Federal Ministry of the Interior Dr. Jörg BentmannMinDir Dr. Jörg Bentmann Source: Berliner Demografie Forum

Demographic strategy adapting to demographic change in Germany:
Assistant Secretary Dr. Jörg Bentmann (Federal Ministry of the Interior) explained the Federal Government’s strategy on demography, which particularly also needed to be developed in a dialogue with the social partners and citizens. The Demographic Portal of Germany and its Federal States was also established for this purpose in 2012.


Ageing is actually advancing much faster in some countries, as an international demography study by Allianz shows using seven countries as an example (International Pension Papers 2/2014: Security – Trust – Solidarity. Perception of retirement: a cross-country comparison.)

These include Turkey and Malaysia, where policy-makers and industry have even less time to act than in Germany, as Michael Dieckmann (Chief Executive Officer, Allianz SE) stressed in his speech.

Generations in the debate: In the “Young Expert Panel”, young researchers discussed the challenges of demographic change with the former President of the Bundestag, Prof. Rita Süssmuth.
From left to right: Ellen von den Driesch (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin), Ali Bargu (Jacobs University Bremen), Ralina Panova (BiB Wiesbaden), Martina Lizarazo (University of Bonn), Faruk Tuncer (Mercator Center for Leadership & Advocacy) and Prof. Süssmuth.

Ralina Panova from the BiB appealed for an accelerated expansion of childcare facilities to enable women to go back to work sooner, and hence to enable families to plan their futures better. At the same time, children from social groups which are far removed from the education system and who have a migration background should be promoted earlier, which would help them to become integrated more quickly. In the discussion, Professor Süssmuth especially addressed the topic of the work-life balance with regard to the role of women. She also took a look at the change in migration policy.

Presentation of the Demographic Portal Demographic PortalPresentation of the Demographic Portal Source: BiB

Shaping demographic change in a dialogue
The Demographic Portal of Germany and its Federal States, which was launched in 2012, was also represented at the Forum. Dr. Stephan Kühntopf from the BiB (on the right in the photograph) informed interested attendees about the work and the goals of the Internet service, which above all brings together the fields of action of the Demographic Strategy and adds facts and practical knowledge to it.


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