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Demographic Change and Policy Implications

European Population Conference 2016, held in Mainz, Germany, August 31st - September 3rd, 2016

This picture shows the opening ceremony of the EPC.Source: BiB

With over 500 talks in 123 sessions, the EPC presented an enormous variety of topics that can hardly be documented in their entirety. We therefore focus on selected topics that are receiving a great deal of attention, not only in demographic research. These include the fields of fertility and family, migration, mortality and ageing, and policy implications of the demographic transition. Our goal is to provide an overview of important topics and, ultimately, to convey, at least in these fields, a (brief) impression of the variety of research subjects. (The citation of authors of the respective presentations always includes all those involved and not just the speakers.)

Fertility and Family

At the beginning of the 21st century, there are considerable international differences in fertility levels of countries. Germany in particular is among the countries worldwide with an enduring lowest-low fertility rate. More and more people are deciding to remain childlessness or to have only one or two children. This is true not only for Germany, but also for other European countries with low fertility levels. By contrast, there are high-fertility countries such as France that exhibit distinctly higher fertility levels. How to explain these trends and what possible political counter-measures exist was a main theme in many sessions on fertility and family. It also became clear that in addition to personal attitudes, exogenous factors such as the economic situation or spatial mobility also impact the decision to have children.

The right partner makes the difference: Childlessness in Europe

The decline in fertility of recent decades in many European countries was caused in particular by two factors: a steep rise in childlessness as well as a decline in the numbers of large families with three and more children. In their study, Maria-Letizia Tanturri, Annalisa Donno, (both from Università di Padova), Cristina Faludi (Babes-Bolyai University), Anneli Miettinen, Anna Rotkirch, (both from Väestöliitto) as well as Ivett Szalma (Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences) ascertain that in the past 10 years most European countries have experienced a notable rise in childlessness. This is accompanied by a change in attitudes; in many countries childlessness is now accepted and considered a life option. The paper focuses its attention on the factors determining childlessness at the micro level from a gender and life-course perspective in countries such as Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Switzerland.

The findings show that most of all, relationship status plays a significant role in the decision to have children. In the countries studied, there is a strong significant correlation between marriage and having children – everywhere and at any age. Although cohabitation generally reduces the risk of childlessness compared to being single, the effect is far lesser than specifically among married persons. It can therefore be deduced that parenthood continues to be closely linked to traditional marriage. Educational level and social status are by no means as relevant as factors for childlessness as the researchers anticipated. Instead other determinants, such as poor health, have far stronger effects. Although the data do not allow for any generalized statements about the countries observed, it becomes clear that the lack of a suitable partner increases the probability for future childlessness in these countries.

This result is confirmed in the study by Annalisa Donno, Maria-Letizia Tanturri and Pietro Mozzi (all from Università di Padova). They examine the influence of the structural transition of the population (with factors such as the rise in cohabitating couples or the increased educational level among women) on the increase in childlessness in Austria, Spain, Romania, Hungary as well as Italy, the country with the highest level of childlessness in southern Europe. The results reveal a stronger influence of marital status than educational levels on childlessness. Hence, single women with high and intermediate educational levels have a very high risk of remaining childless, whereby in this case education has a less relevant influence for the probability of remaining childless. The extent varies, however, between the countries studied and the birth cohorts. Also, the correlation is declining between low and high educational level and childlessness among married women in all countries considered (with the exception of Romania).

The correlation between childlessness and educational level in Germany

Martin Bujard (BiB) researched the situation of childlessness for Germany in his paper. He stressed that Germany has one of the world’s highest percentages of permanent childlessness. It also has a very negative educational gradient; childlessness is high mainly among West German female university graduates between the ages of 35 and 44 years. There are a variety of causes for this, including high opportunity costs, widespread career orientation among women, changed values and delayed first childbirth as well as disadvantages in gender equality. Current analyses by Bujard, however, indicate that this trend has halted and a turnaround has occurred. His analyses of current data from the 2002-2014 micro censuses show a recovery in the age-specific first birth figures in the group of 35 to 44-year-old female university graduates. Possible reasons for this development include the family and social policy reforms carried out in Germany in recent years as well as changed attitudes in society, for instance about life without children. But progress in reproductive medicine also plays a role.

By contrast, there is now a rise in childlessness among women with lower and intermediate educational levels. “A life without children now appears to be spreading among the lower educational groups,” Bujard established. However, this is not the case among women with migration backgrounds, who exhibit a lower percentage of childlessness in all cohorts considered between 1938 and 1970. Only 6 to 9 % of female immigrants with low educational levels are permanently childless. Among German women with lower education, by contrast, childlessness has risen to 25 %. Mr Bujard’s analyses show that in this group, the development is similar to that of the highly educated women and far stronger than that of women with intermediate education. Therefore, the once strong correlation between education and childlessness in the German population has been eliminated.

The decline of large families in Germany

Besides the rise in childlessness, there is a second factor responsible for the constant low fertility level in Germany: the decline in families with three or more children. Of women born in 1972, for example, only 16.2 % have three and more children. Academic research has hardly paid any attention to this fact until now according to Robert Naderi and Linda Lux (both from BiB) in their paper. In addition, little is known about the circumstances and situations of parents who decide not to have more than two children. Therefore, the question of what personal and socio-demographic circumstances can lead to women in Germany again wanting to have three and more children comes into focus. Previous research approaches mainly address the migration background, the form of the family of origin as well as partner and family biographies. The age of mothers at the time of birth and the sexes of the first two children play a specific role. All of these approaches are, however, unable to create causalities, but provide only descriptions. Naderi and Lux therefore pursue a life-course approach, which focuses on personal life circumstances and their influence on willingness to have three and more children.

In a multivariate analysis on the basis of data from the German Sozio-oekonomischen Panel (SOEP), it becomes clear that the age of the second child is highly significant. The chances of having a third child are higher when the second child is still young. If, for example, the child is older than six, the chances drop compared with mothers of a four or five-year-old child. The educational level of the mothers also has an impact. Women with intermediate and high educational levels have a lesser probability of having a third child. The time interval between the first and second child also plays a role: the greater the interval, the lesser the chance of having a third child.

A country comparison of personal attitudes, social norms and the decision to have a third child

In this context, Ralina Panova (BiB) asked about the roles of personal attitudes and social norms in the decision to have three and more children in West Germany, France and Bulgaria. To what extent do cultural attitudes and social norms influence the birth of a third child with regard to the family and how does this correlation differ in West Germany, France and Bulgaria? Does this approach offer a contribution to explaining international differences in the decline of large families? Ralina Panova explored these questions in her presentation. On the basis of data from the first and second wave of the Generations and Gender Survey, she analysed the influence of personal attitudes about the costs and benefits of children and subjectively perceived social norms on the transition to the third child in almost 3,000 respondents between the ages of 20 and 45.

It revealed that cultural attitudes and norms in all three regions are important explanatory factors, whereby some correlations are gender specific. While subjectively perceived social pressure and psychological benefits of children are positively associated with the transition to the third child, there are differences with regard to the effect of the costs and benefits of children, according to Ms Panova. She emphasised that the results of the study make it possible to recognise national differences in the relationship between cultural attitudes and norms on the one hand and fertility behaviour on the other.

What influence do external factors have on fertility levels? The economic crisis of 2007/2008 and its consequences for fertility

To what extent is fertility influenced by external economic factors such as the 2007/2008 economic crisis? This question was examined at the conference for a variety of country constellations. Anastasia Kostaki (Athens University of Economics and Business), Byron Kotzamanis (University of Thessaly) and Pavlos Baltas (Université de Bordeaux) looked at the case of Greece. Based on the assumption that economic crises often lead to a temporary decline in the level of periodic fertility that are only visible years later, they stress that the vulnerability of fertility behaviours to economic crises in states with developed family policies and a robust social welfare state is rather lesser. Therefore, from their perspective Greece has to be counted among states with a less developed and inefficient welfare system, in particular at the time the crisis broke out. What consequences does this have for fertility development? Following the analysis of decisive parameters such as diverse manifestations of the total fertility rate, the researchers offer a rather pessimistic view of the Greek fertility situation. For instance, the rise in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) that began in early 2000 halted or dropped distinctly during the crisis years.

However, other factors were also responsible for this. The crisis coincided with the trend here and in other European countries of an increase in the age of women at their first child that began in the mid-1980s. This development finally peaked in 2014 with an exceedingly high average age at first birth (over 30). Moreover, the crisis led to a rapid rise in unemployment particularly in the age group of 20 to 35-year-old women. Since, additionally, people preferably have children inside marriage in Greece and the first marriage rates also dropped, we cannot anticipate a strong future rise in the TFR.

Spain and Italy: Commonalities and differences in fertility

Elspeth Graham, Albert Sabater and Francesca Fiori (all from University of St. Andrews) looked at the situation in Spain and Italy. Similar to Greece, the 2008 economic recession was accompanied in Spain and Italy by a noticeable decline in periodic fertility rates. Even before the crisis, the two countries had been among the lowest-low fertility countries in Europe since the late 1990s. The economic downswing led to a very strong decline in the TFR in particular in Spain to 1.27 children per woman in 2013. Major differences have existed since 2008 in the fertility trends in Italy and Spain.

A macro-level analysis of the fertility trends in the two countries reveals considerable differences for the contribution of individual age groups and population groups to national fertility trends. These differences also vary widely with regard to their geographic distribution in the two countries. What the countries do have in common is that older women contributed significantly less than younger women to the decline in births since 2008. In addition, in Italy non-Italian women contributed more to the decline than Italian-born women. Spain is the exact opposite: the native-born women contributed mostly to the decline rather than foreign women.

Hence, the analyses for the two countries reveal one major difference. The decline in fertility in Italy cannot be explained by changes to the population composition (age or immigration status) but it can in Spain where the influence of the various fertility behaviours on the fertility levels of native-born people and those with migration backgrounds plays an important role.

Does a recession promote childlessness?

Italy was also the focus of the paper by Anna Giraldo and Stefano Mazzuco (both from Università di Padova). They also researched the consequences of the economic crisis since 2007 on the development of reproductive behaviours. Their analyses confirm a delay in first births among women in their late thirties and early forties during the economic crisis compared to women of the same age before the recession. This tendency changed from 2010 as multivariate analyses indicate that the percentage of this age group without children drops, but to a very low degree.

In addition, there are major regional differences with regard to the distribution of childlessness. The analyses prove that permanent childlessness among women over 40 years increased mainly in the central and southern regions during the crisis, while in northern Italy the delay of first births gradually ebbed. A slight increase in childlessness was observed only among women between the ages of 37 and 39 in this region. Also, the educational level has an effect on childlessness. During the recession, the probability of remaining childless for women with very low or very high educational levels dropped. Among women with intermediate educational levels, by contrast, the probability of permanent childlessness increased.

In addition to personal financial situations, the less strong influence of traditional forms of motherhood play a role here compared to women with a low educational level. The cause for this behaviour among the low educational level group is the influence of traditional motherhood norms, while among the very well educated their own positive economic situation allows them to become parents.

Norway: The decline in the TFR during the financial crisis

A possible correlation between the economic crisis and reproductive behaviour was indicated not only by the conference input from southern Europe. Lars Dommermuth and Trude Lappegård (both from Statistics Norway) showed that the demographic consequences were also felt in the north of Europe in countries like Norway. There has been a constant decline in the TFR in this country since 2010. In 2009, the TFR was 1.98 children per woman, which shrank to 1.73 by 2015. As in other countries, a delay in first births was recognisable after 2009 among women of all educational levels. This delay occurred not only among younger women (20-34 years), but also among older women (30 years and older). There was an additional longer lasting decline in third births among women of all educational levels. Therefore, this example also shows that reproductive behaviour (not only, but also) reacts to external factors.

Spatial mobility and family development

A factor for family development that should not be neglected is the issue of job-related spatial mobility. More and more employees have become mobile for vocational reasons, whether as long-distance commuters or overnighters. Thomas Skora (BiB) researched the consequences of this for family planning. He assumed there is a reciprocal effect between mobility and fertility; that fertility can influence mobility behaviours and vice versa. His analyses on the basis of data from the German family panel, pairfam, indicate negative effects on the decision to have a first child among mobile people with frequent job-related, overnight stays away from home in particular among the women – but to a weaker degree also among the men. The strength of the negative effects differs markedly between the sexes. For example, there was greater willingness to become parents among men working full-time who spent more than five nights away during the past three months for work reasons than those who did not stay away from home.

Among the women, age is a major factor: among 25 to 27-year-old women working full-time who are mobile under the same circumstances there is lesser probability for first parenthood than an analogous non-mobile group. By contrast, there were positive effects on the willingness to have a first child among the group of 28 to 31-year-old mobile women. Thus, in the life courses of younger cohorts, intense mobility experiences are increasingly accompanied by a delay in parenthood.

The findings therefore provide indications of distinct correlations between changed mobility and changed behaviours in family development. When interpreting these results, please note that they cannot offer conclusive proof of a causal effect of changes in mobility behaviours with regard to family development.

Job-related spatial mobility as a challenge for families and well-being

On the basis of evaluations of the 2007 EU study conducted in six European countries on Job Mobilities and Family Lives in Europe, Heiko Rüger and Norbert F. Schneider (both from BiB) also confirm that a mobile life can have considerable effects on families and subjective well-being. The study showed that job-related spatial mobility and family development are highly correlated, whereby the family development processes also influence the choice of the form of mobility and the extent of mobility. It showed that the relationship between the mobility behaviour and parenthood is moderated in particular by one’s sex. A strong negative correlation between mobility and parenthood could be identified only among employed women. Therefore, one conclusion is that gender significantly determines the relationship between mobility and fertility.

The results of the study also confirm the assumption that the balance between work, long commuter routes and private life is strenuous mostly for women and parents who are additionally burdened with time-intensive tasks such as caring for children or older relatives. These two groups suffer to a greater extent from adverse effects on their well-being and exhibit far greater perceived stress.

In spite of progress in the infrastructure of local public transit and childcare, in order to ensure better compatibility of family and work among highly mobile employees and to reduce health burdens employers should also contribute to reducing the burden, for example through flexible working hours or use of a home office. In addition, grappling with this subject should also be a greater element of the standard practice in health management in companies.

The cultural dimension: Family-related leitbilder and knowledge gained through them

The photo shows Sabine Diabaté holding a speech at the EPC 2016. Sabine DiabatéSabine Diabaté talks about the "Familienleitbild" approach. Source: BiB

The papers presented above already offer initial insights into the many forms of fertility and family in Europe. Change and continuity often exist alongside one another and we must seek explanatory approaches for the diversity of changes. Based on the assumption that there are cultural, normative notions that greatly influence familial and reproductive behaviour and are acquired and passed on through socialisation, the BiB’s “leitbild” concept is intended as a complementary supplement to existing economic models for action (e.g. rational choice).

In their paper, Katrin Schiefer, Sabine Diabaté, Detlev Lück and Kerstin Ruckdeschel (all from BiB) presented the basic features of the concept and point out that the previous use of the word leitbild in family sociology is characterised by lacking a definition or explanation of what is meant by leitbild. This deficiency is eliminated by the chosen approach, which clearly defines what leitbilder are in the context of reproductive and familial behaviour and how they ultimately steer it. The results show that leitbilder are a key to understanding why change is slow or does not occur at all in some families.

Leitbilder of fatherhood in Germany

The photo shows Detlev Lück holding a speech at the EPC 2016. Detlev LückDetlev Lück talks about the cultural factors of advocacy on fathers’ leave in Germany Source: BiB

This is true, for example, for attitudes towards fatherhood in Germany, as Sabine Diabaté, Detlev Lück and Katrin Schiefer (all from BiB) illustrated in their paper. The results of the study indicate that although most men want to have children of their own, they also continue to want to be successful in their work and earn an income with which they can feed their families. In addition, there is a lasting strong social leitbild of the father as the breadwinner of the family and many men believe they are measured by it.

Therefore, the leitbilder contradict one another, so that we can speak only of a hesitant change in fatherhood. At the same time, the approach provides important indications for explaining, for example, father’s positive attitudes towards parental leave. Fathers would like to be involved in childcare and feel guilty if they are unable to do so. Nonetheless, this desire is second on their list of priorities after commitment to their careers.

A comparison of fertility in France and Germany: Do family-related leitbilder make the difference?

While Germany is one of the countries in Europe with an extremely low fertility level, France is at the other end of the scale. The country has exhibited a constantly high fertility level for a long time.

In the search for the causes for this robust trend, based on the BiB study on family-related leitbilder in Germany and the French Elipps study, Kerstin Ruckdeschel (BiB) and Anne Salles (Université de Paris IV, Sorbonne), Laurent Toulemon (Institut National d‘Études Démographiques, Inéd), Arnaud Régnier-Loilier (Institut National d‘Études Démographiques, Inéd) and Sabine Diabaté (BiB) came to the conclusion that divergent family-related leitbilder also play a role in this. For example, in France childlessness is viewed as something outside the social norm. This puts couples who are not certain whether they want children under pressure. Thus, parenthood is considered a matter of course and something to be desired. In France there is a strong and established culture of having children, whereby the number of children and desired family form is seen as a personal choice from the social perspective.

The situation in Germany differs quite distinctly from this. Here, there are more diverse and stronger leitbilder with regard to family forms than in France. Childlessness is considered a personal decision in Germany, which is becoming more and more acceptable as a fact. In addition, single parents are less marginalised in France and the decision to have a child is far easier to make than in Germany. Besides other cultural attitudes towards family, in particular an optimal infrastructure of childcare there also eases family formation. All in all, France exhibits far fewer structural and cultural barriers to having children than Germany.

Policy Implications of the Demographic Transition

The motto of the conference, “Demographic Transition and Policy Implications,” is associated with the realisation that the demographic topics addressed, such as developments in fertility, immigration or an ageing society, are closely linked at the political level. It is here above all that the question must be tackled as to how this transition can be managed in policy terms for the further development of society. Large numbers of topics were related to this question, especially from an international perspective. These included, for instance, papers on Japan, Russia, or Hungary and Poland as representatives of Eastern European countries. We selected individual presentations in order to provide an overview of those topics that primarily address the question of how the challenges of the demographic transition can be understood in political terms taking fertility into consideration. Is this something that policy-makers can actually do? There are naturally major differences here between the countries, above all in societal and cultural terms, but there are certainly also commonalities, such as the manifestations of the transition, including ageing or the low fertility level.

Can policies influence fertility? The situation in Japan

Ryuzaburo Sato and Motomi Beppu (both from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan) examined the methods applied by the Japanese government to raise the fertility level. In 2014, the government announced its goal of establishing the TFR, which had fallen dramatically in the previous years, at 2.1 children per woman in the long term; a short-term increase to 1.8 was aimed at for 2015. The researchers consider this to have brought the country into a new active era of population policy after the previous years in which policy-makers’ actions on population policy had tended to be somewhat reserved.

The paper hence poses the question of how realistic it is to expect these ambitious goals to be implemented. May a Japanese government in a democratic society prescribe direct population policy targets? What are the causes of the low birth rate in the country, and how can they be influenced? The government reacted to a large number of causes in recent years by taking action in family policy, promoting the reconciliation of work and family, introducing childcare leave and implementing improvements on the labour market. Despite all this, no change was observed. It might be that the impact of the measures taken is not efficient and direct in terms of people’s willingness to have children. What is more, the low marriage rates in Japan have done much to explain the drop in fertility over the past 40 years. It is still rare in this country to have children outside of marriage. This is why schemes aimed at improving the reconciliation of work and family only have an effect within a limited context. The researchers stressed that policy-makers should conclude from this that there is a need to increase incentives for people to marry. Japan is viewed historically and culturally as a typical example of a relatively weak culture of couples, which in turn forms the background for the fertility situation. What is more, relations within partnerships and reproduction patterns have changed. All in all, it is considered unlikely that the TFR goals will be attained in the future, given the limits of pronatalist policy.

Does more money equal more births? The impact of family-policy measures on fertility in Russia

The situation in Russia differs from that in Japan in that the TFR increased from 1.42 to 1.75 children per woman between 2007 and 2014. Svetlana Biryukova, Oxana Sinyavskaya and Irina Nurimanova (all from the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg) explored the possible causes of this development in terms of second and multiple births. On the basis of data from the Russian Generations and Gender Survey, they analysed the extent to which the reform of family policy in 2007 impacted fertility behaviour in Russia. The measures included subsidising kindergarten fees, increasing the birth bonus and a parental allowance that was paid for 1.5 years. Furthermore, a mechanism known as “maternity capital” was introduced. This is a one-off payment equal to 10,000 US-Dollars for the birth or adoption of a second child that is adjusted to the rate of inflation every year.

The results show that a statistically significant increase in the number of second and further births can be demonstrated from September 2007 up to the summer of 2011, compared with the period between the summer of 2004 and September 2007, controlling for all demographic and socioeconomic factors. This is interpreted as a cumulative effect of the reforms that were enacted in family policy since 2007. The data nonetheless do not permit conclusions to be drawn on the fertility development of the cohorts affected by the reform of 2007, since they are still of childbearing age. Limitations within the model do not therefore permit any conclusions to be drawn about the degree to which the reforms contributed towards the rising TFR and to second and further births. The analysis appears to indicate that partnership status and age play stronger roles when it comes to explaining fertility development.

Policy measures and their impact on the number of second births in Hungary

Even though the TFR rose in Hungary to 1.41 children per woman between 2010 and 2014, the country remains one of the European countries with the lowest fertility levels. There have however been attempts in the political arena in recent years to counter this with many different political measures. Livia Olah (Stockholm University), Lívia Murinkó and Zsolt Spéder (both from the Hungarian Demographic Research Institute) explored the link between the effects of family policy on developments in fertility with second children for the period from 1989 to 2012/2013. In their calculation model, interest was primarily focused on three measures: A cost-cutting programme that was carried out in the mid-1990s known as the “Bokros Package” (after Hungarian Finance Minister Lajos Bokros, who served in 1995 and 1996), which fundamentally transformed family policy by enacting major cuts in family-policy benefits, then fiscal relief for families for a limited period, and thirdly financial subsidies for families.

The results show that the number of second births was lower during the phase covered by the package of cuts in the 1990s than had previously been the case. However, the addition of the tax relief cushioned the negative impact to a certain degree. The reduced willingness to have a second child was halted by the relief. The family subsidies had a slight but positive impact on parents’ willingness to have a second child in the overall period observed. All in all, the results suggest that the birth rates of second children have been shaped by competing political measures over the past 20 years. Some of these went some way towards mitigating the general decline in fertility, while others brought it to a standstill.

The connection between fertility decisions, migration and standard of living, taking Poland as an example

Joanna Marczak, Wendy Sigle and Ernestina E. Coast (all from the London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE) stress in their paper how difficult it is to demonstrate the connection between family policy measures and fertility. For instance, despite comprehensive family policy measures that were introduced to promote the birth of children in the lowest-fertility countries of Central and Eastern Europe, some of which were newly introduced, no increase in fertility whatsoever was observed. In fact, for instance in Poland, the TFR persisted at a level of roughly 1.3 children per woman between 2000 and 2014. Many new schemes such as parental leave, improved childcare and higher financial transfers for families have had no effect in terms of increasing the very low fertility rate.

The study shows some of the potential causes. It turns our gaze from a comparative perspective towards the fertility situation of the local population in Poland and at the same time to Polish migrants in the United Kingdom, which is regarded as the main destination country for young, childless Poles in particular. In the latter case, births by women from Poland increased between 2005 and 2014, their TFR being higher than in Poland, at 1.8. It was shown on the basis of interviews with mothers and fathers in Cracow and London that they compared family-policy measures, the standard of living as well as the political context in the two countries when deciding whether to have a child. Particularly the high costs of parenthood, the lower standard of living and the lower incomes in Poland in comparison to Western European countries were considered major obstacles to parenthood.

By contrast, the Polish respondents who immigrated to England considered the option of migration as an opportunity to achieve existing desired fertility, even if this entailed negative effects in terms of the parents’ own career prospects. However, the comparison with the standard of living in other EU countries, leading to migration in order to have the desired number of children in the destination country, also has consequences for the country of origin, in this case Poland. The realisation that expectant parents make comparisons between the social and economic situations in European countries and then opt to migrate might help explain why migrants from low-fertility countries ultimately contribute towards high fertility rates in the destination countries, even though they frequently have to accept a lower social status subsequent to migration. Although the study concentrates on Poland, it is presumed that this could provide an incentive for researching and interpreting the fertility behaviour of increasingly interwoven societies.

International Migration

The topics in the field of International Migration ranged from researching the causes of migration movements in the world to internal migration and the consequences of immigration for the labour market. In view of the abundance of topics, we can only illustrate a small section of the aspects of current research approaches here. Our focus, against the background of the European refugee debate, is on topics that relate more or less directly to it. In addition to analyses of the political causes of migration movements in the world, with regard to Germany the correlation between immigration and the labour market was of primary significance.

Political factors as the drivers of international migration: Why do people flee their homelands?

In the current immigration debate, it is emphasised again and again that the causes for people’s flight should be combated in the countries of origin in order to prevent people from migrating. Against this background, Martin Guzi (Masaryk University), Alicia Adsera, Carles Boix (both from Princeton University) and Mariola Pytlikova (CERGE-EI Prague and VSB Technical University of Ostrava) examined the influence of political factors on migration flows. They focused their attention on indicators such as the stability of political regimes, political pressures and ethnic and armed conflicts as well as the different types of wars (for example, wars for independence, civil wars or ethnic wars).

Based on country data from various sources on migratory movements, the analyses show that the primary trigger of departures is political instability in the home countries. Ethnic wars, in particular, lead to increased emigration flows in this context.

How can we explain the increase in asylum-seeking refugees from Africa to Europe since 2013?

This applies not only to countries of the Middle East, but in particular also to Africa. Between 2011 and 2015, for example, the influx of asylum seekers from Africa to the EU doubled. In his paper, Hannes Weber (University of Tübingen) dealt with the question of where the causes of this increase lie. Is the rise of violent conflicts in African countries alone responsible or are there other factors? Evaluations of bilateral migratory movements of asylum seekers between African and European countries show that the armed conflicts have not been able to explain the increase in asylum seekers from Africa to Europe since 2013.

Also other factors in the calculation model used, for example the size of the diaspora in the target country, income, unemployment, the size of the population or the formal asylum policy, provide no explanations. We must therefore expect that informal factors play a decisive role. These include, for example, the implementation of the Dublin rules, deportation practices, the increased number of sea rescue missions, public discourse on the events and, last but not least, increased attention to the situation in the social media.

Migration in Germany and the labour market

When immigration is debated in Germany, the situation on the labour market is usually brought to the fore. In view of an ageing and shrinking labour force, it is argued that the feared demographic gap between qualified workers can be compensated by immigration. This question was also the topic of the presentation by Johann Fuchs, Alexander Kubis, (both from Institute for Employment Research, IAB) and Lutz Schneider (University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Coburg). On the basis of several scenarios, they examine the effects of migration on the German labour market. Their scenarios prove that with increasing employment rates, an influx of over 500,000 migrants per year would be necessary to maintain the current labour force level. It should be noted, however, that increased immigration to Germany in the last five years was determined mainly by migrants from other EU countries. For example, in 2014, 60% of immigrants came from another EU country. But this development will not remain the same in the long run.

Various estimation models have shown that the migration potential to Germany from the other EU countries will drop sharply in the medium to long term. As compensation, coping with the demographic transition would then have to be controlled by immigration from non-EU countries. However, over the past 25 years there have been extreme fluctuations and constant ups and downs in the immigration figures. In one probable scenario, more than 490,000 immigrants from non-EU countries would be needed. In the year 2013, the net inflow to Germany from outside the EU was far below these figures at only 140,000. In the long term, the migration situation will not solve the challenges of an ageing and shrinking labour force potential, but will only diminish it.

Ethnic differences of migrants on the German labour market

In addition, not only the number of immigrants plays a role, but also the question of how diverse and heterogeneous skills and ethnic differences can be combined on the labour market. At the moment, there are only incomplete findings on the prerequisites of newcomers to enter the German labour market, as Lenore Sauer (BiB), Matthias Eisenmenger (Federal Statistical Office, Germany), Andreas Ette (BiB) and Steffen Klink (Federal Statistical Office, Germany) ascertained in their presentation. Moreover, a new picture of migration has emerged recently, which differs significantly from the previous immigration situation and in which the migrants are highly diversified and heterogeneous groups with different socio-economic backgrounds and modified migration motivations compared to previous years.

The results of calculations on the basis of data from the 2011 German Census show a large range, if not a polarisation, in effectiveness among migrants for the German labour market. Compared to the German population, access to the labour market is more difficult for most. As far as the countries of origin are concerned, they can by no means be regarded as a homogeneous group since there are great differences between the many immigrant groups. Some of these differences can only be explained by different levels of human capital. Here, however, a clear difference between ethnic groups of origin has an effect. For example, there are migrant groups, such as men from the Middle East, North Africa, the former Soviet Union, and men and women from Turkey who are disadvantaged both in terms of their employment opportunities and their professional prerequisites. Overall, the results for the migrant women are not as unambiguous as for the men. Thus, women with poor prerequisites for employment need not necessarily have poorer prospects for employment.

The integration of second-generation immigrants in the Italian labour market

In their paper, Michela Camilla Pellicani (Università degli Studi di Bari), Antonella Rotondo, Roberto A. Palumbo (both from Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) and Rossana Mancarella (Università degli Studi di Bari) looked at the situation in other European countries. Italy’s transformation from a former emigration country to a country of immigration over recent decades means that the country now has to deal more intensively with the entry of second-generation immigrants into the Italian labour market. This is done without corresponding empirical values and without specific political measures for inclusion. Compared to their parents, the second generation of immigrants is characterised by a higher educational level and thus greater demands on upper occupational positions. On the basis of data from the labour force survey of the Italian statistical office ISTAT, the paper examines the differences between the vocational entry patterns of the first and second generation as well as Italians of the same age group. The results are controversial, corresponding to the complexity of the issue.

For example, in the gender analysis, it is notable that females with migration backgrounds who were born in Italy show far better results in labour market integration than females of the first generation. This reinforces the theory that where people are born (origin or destination country) and therefore where they went to school are essential factors for labour market integration. However, this phenomenon cannot be attributed to men with migration backgrounds born in Italy. They exhibit significantly poorer results as a result of a lower educational level.

The case of Italy thus reveals significant differences between first and second-generation immigrants in terms of integration into the labour market. This can be attributed to simultaneous convergence in some aspects, especially in the second generation of immigrants compared with corresponding Italians.

Refugees in Austria: Insights into their skills and prerequisites

The photo shows Isabella Buber-Ennser and Zakarya Al Zalak holding a speech at the EPC 2016. Isabella Buber-Ennser and Zakarya Al ZalakIsabella Buber-Ennser and Zakarya Al Zalak present insights about the skills and prerequisites of refugees in Austria. Source: BiB

The question as to how far existing knowledge and professional abilities of refugees arriving in 2015 can be used for society and the labour market also occupied demographers from Austria. In a paper, Isabella Buber-Ennser, Judith Kohlenberger, Bernhard Rengs, Zakarya Al Zalak, Anne Goujon, Erich Striessnig, Michaela Potančoková, Richard Gisser and Maria Rita Testa, (all from Wittgenstein Centre, IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU) presented initial findings from a survey with 500 interviews among Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Kurdish speaking refugees in seven reception centres in and around Vienna. Their educational level, family context and previous occupations were investigated. The study differentiated between Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and other nationalities.

Initial results show a rather high level of education compared to the average in their home countries as well as great willingness to enter the labour market. The majority of the asylum seekers came to Austria with their families. These are mainly young families with children, especially from Syria and Iraq. In addition, the interviewed men had more liberal attitudes about gender equality issues than the men in their country of origin.

From the researchers’ point of view, the initial results of the survey show that the project can be regarded as a forerunner study for Austria, which could also be implemented in Germany.

Does transnational educational migration reduce or intensify social inequality?

As the latest research reveals, there are many reasons for migration. The paper by Stine Waibel and Heiko Rüger (both from BiB) specifically examines transnational educational migration encompassing all stays abroad by young people during their educational careers (e.g. as part of a pupil exchange programme, international volunteer service or semesters spent studying ay a foreign university). Since opportunities for transnational educational migration are perceived very selectively depending on social origin, the researchers were in particular interested in the question whether the realisation of transnational educational migration solidifies social inequalities.

With data from the representative survey “Arbeiten und Lernen im Wandel” by the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung, they examined whether educational migration had a positive effect on the attained professional status after graduation.
In fact, there is a moderately positive status effect of educational migration, but the researchers cannot prove a stabilising effect of transnational educational migration on inequalities. On the contrary, educational migration seems to contribute to balancing social inequalities. Interaction analyses show a positive effect of educational migration on professional status after the end of studies only for the lower-status groups. Future studies might clarify whether these correlations can be causally explained or whether unobserved heterogeneity determines the correlations.

Ageing and Mortality

The matter of ageing was examined from many perspectives. In addition to the economic and social consequences of the ageing population, we looked mainly at the physical and mental health of the elderly as well. Now that the image of ageing has changed in recent years and the productive aspects of this time of life are being emphasised, many presentations on the subject addressed mostly the productive and informal activities and possibilities of older people. The area of mortality and life expectancy was dominated by subjects dealing with the causes and influencing factors of ever longer life expectancy with regard to sex differences, regional and national disparities (for example East and West Germany) and the influence of educational levels. There was also a focus on the work of the mortality follow-ups by the national cohorts that has been researching at BiB since 2014.

The perception of age: At what age am I old?

Valeria Bordone (University of Southampton), Bruno Arpino (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Alessandro Rosina (Università Cattolica, Milan) provided an approach to the subject of age. On the basis of a study conducted in Italy of under-65 to 74-year-olds, they sought answers to the question of when people feel old and whether there are differences in the perception between the sexes as well as among people of different educational levels.

The results show that women in particular feel old and that they are also more strongly considered old by society than men. While men mainly consider themselves old when they retire, women associate the feeling of being old with a loss of independence, becoming widows and in particular the lack of duties. As for the actual age, for both sexes age 65 is considered the boundary after which there exists a feeling of being old.

For women, loneliness and the decline in physical health also have effects. There are also differences between educational groups: higher educated people feel old sooner than those with lower educational levels and believe that society sees them as old. This is true in particular when they have no duties to fulfil. For policy-makers, these results mean that they should create conditions for active ageing in order to prevent increasing numbers of older people from feeling elderly.

Aspirations and reality in the willingness of retirees to work

This is all the more important since the image of ageing has altered in recent years – away from being a passive phase of life with illness and lingering ailments and towards the knowledge that the existing potentials of older people – especially in times of demographic change – are important and can be used both on the job and for volunteer activities. In addition, the numbers of those who continue to work past the age of 65 are growing. In his talk, Frank Micheel (BiB) presented findings about the aspirations of older people to pursue paid or unpaid work based on the BiB project Transitions and Old Age Potentials (TOP). It showed that among those who are still working, there is great willingness to remain active during retirement. However, the second control group of people who have already entered retirement was more reticent in implementing productive (paid or unpaid) work.

The study also illustrated that for both groups, financial aims for paid work did not play the main role. The reasons for desired gainful employment after retirement differ however according to socio-economic status. The group with low socio-economic status works during retirement to avoid old-age poverty, while those with higher socio-economic status remain employed for personal reasons. Therefore the results of the study prove that the social structures of older adults is characterised by great variability.

Regional differences in mortality in the German federal states

The development of mortality rates is also significant for the process of demographic ageing. There are considerable differences both nationally and internationally, especially in Germany, as Michael Mühlichen (BiB) showed in his paper. Even 25 years after reunification, there are still regional mortality differences in Germany, in particular to the disadvantage of the eastern, but also the northern states. In the northeastern-most state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MV), life expectancy is accordingly lower than in most other German states, even compared to its western neighbouring state of Schleswig-Holstein (SH), although, as a popular location for recreation and holiday-making, it actually has favourable conditions for long life (e.g. good air quality, little industry, seaside location, many lakes and forests).

Using the decomposition method and direct standardisation based on the official cause-of-death statistics, Mühlichen reveals that the remaining differences in the formerly divided region mainly affect men and, among them, are again caused by an urban-rural divide. While the cities in MV have already matched the mortality levels of the cities in SH, the rural regions of MV still exhibit a significantly higher mortality rate than the other parts of the German Baltic region. This excess mortality is the result of a higher “avoidable mortality rate,” both as regards treatable diseases and behavioural causes of death that could be prevented by primary prevention.

The results illustrate that the attainability and quality of medical care in the sparsely populated regions of MV still require improvement and that health and educational policy measures in MV should take a closer look at men and work more against risky behaviours such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

Why do some people fall ill and others not? The German National Cohort (GNC) Health Study

At the same time, there are important findings about these risk factors at least. The interaction of individual known risk factors such as dietary habits, smoking patterns, psychosocial stress and the course of disease as well as less well-known risk factors such as genetic exposure to chronic inflammatory processes and the associated frequency of cancer and cardiovascular disorders are less well known. Therefore, there is a need for a long-term study such as the GNC/NAKO Health Study and the subproject mortality follow-up, which has been located at the BiB since 2015. The head of the subproject, Ulrich Mueller (BiB), presented the study in his talk and also looked at the benefits of the collected data for demographic research.

The aim of the study is to investigate the causes of the emergence of widespread diseases in an international comparison and in relation to the specific circumstances in Germany far more thoroughly than was possible in the past. The main focus is on the chief widespread diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes complications. For an ageing society, research of geriatric diseases such as dementia as an important neurodegenerative disease, depression, but also musculoskeletal disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as well as new and old infections is particularly important.

The German National Cohort is the largest health study in Germany and one of the largest worldwide, emphasised Mueller. The mortality follow-up is a subproject that is decisive for the long-term benefits of the study. Here, a central office regularly checks the addresses and vital status and the cause of death of the deceased for all 200,000 participants of the study and a 400-person purely register-based comparison cohort, whose individuals are never contacted. For mortality research, the mortality follow-up offers improved possibilities since (cause-)specific mortality shows the burden of certain diseases on a population. For example, regional breakdowns already provided important insights – not just for health care. Due to the large numbers of cases and the enormous biomaterial, the GNC is also a unique tool for future discoveries on genetic as well as lifestyle and environmental risks in their practical importance for public health.

Imaging methods for early detection of diseases and mortality risks

Ronny Westerman (BiB) devoted himself to the description of current methods and possible applications of the imaging of early pathological stages. Based on this, specific diseases can be recorded and causes of fatal events and final states explained. Magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) as an examination module is an important feature of the GNC/NAKO Health Study. Using several examples of atherosclerosis, he explained the added value of imaging procedures for the early detection of cardiovascular risk factors. The functional MRT (fMRT) also allows conclusions about the loss of cognitive abilities during the ageing process.

In a further paper, he described the process of submitting applications for the use of the GNC data. He made clear that the use of data and bio-samples in particular serves scientific purposes and use for purely commercial purposes is thus excluded.

In addition, the topic “Biomarkers for Demographic Research” was discussed with numerous presentations in an EPC side meeting of the 1st European Meeting of the Biomarker Network on the day before the conference. As a result of this side meeting, the best papers will be published in the form of a special issue by Springer Nature.

A European comparison of renal replacement therapy (RRT) and life expectancy

In another paper, Ronny Westerman (BiB) and Frederik Peters and Roland Rau from the University of Rostock presented a study on the correlation between renal replacement therapy and life expectancy. Due to the increase in chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity and a simultaneous increase in life expectancy, previous studies have shown that the need for renal replacement therapy (especially dialysis) will increase in the upper age groups. Renal replacement therapy is used as a treatment option in chronic renal disease, which can very frequently be attributed to the chronic disease risks already mentioned.

For this European comparison, data from the ERA-EDTA register of the European Renal Association and data from the official statistics were used. Westerman and his co-authors were able to prove that there is a positive correlation between renal replacement therapy and life expectancy, but this diminishes as soon as disturbance variables are controlled for. This could be an indication to disprove the initial theory of a greater need for renal replacement therapy. Consequently, it is more likely that the need for renal replacement therapy will be significantly lower.

As a consequence, treatment of chronic kidney failure in advanced age should focus on improving access to dialysis, but at the same time receive individual consideration of so-called “conservative” treatment alternatives, for example with blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers or certain beta-blockers.

The “new” First Demographic Transition – a fresh look at an established model

The model of the first demographic transition remains one of the best-documented theoretical generalisations of population developments in the social sciences. In the scientific debate, however, the purely descriptive character of the approach and a lack of empirical foundation were criticised from the outset. Against this background, Bernhard Köppen (BiB) and Marc Luy (VID) presented a simple, but more robust model of the demographic transition at the EPC by combining a phase and UN stage model to thereby more clearly empirically determine the stage of a population in the demographic transition process (also immunised against statistical outliers).

The application, with data from the Wittgenstein Center and the UN, shows that since 1950 some populations have gone through the demographic transition much more quickly than others. These are the so-called “express transitioners,” where the degree of urbanisation in particular and, to a lesser extent, the educational level of women stand out as possible determinants for accelerated demographic transition.

The photo shows Marc Luy at the EPC 2016.Marc Luy Source: BiB

In addition, it becomes obvious that by now every country in the world has entered the phase of demographic transition and no population within the process would have remained on the same level. With the exception of African populations (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa) and a few countries outside Africa, the last stage of the transition has been reached. On the whole, according to the two scientists, the proposed methodological approach is simple and reliable.

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