Germany is currently experiencing a phase where a demographic dividend is still possible. Large parts of the population are in working age and contribute to the country's prosperity. They pay taxes and fill the pension and social security funds with their contributions. They work as skilled workers in companies or as nurses in hospitals and old people's homes, for example. Little by little however, the high-birth cohorts of baby boomers are switching from working life to retirement. They are leaving a gap in the labour market, which the coming generations will not be able to fill in terms of numbers alone. This poses great challenges for the society, the economy and the healthcare and social systems.
Adaptations are necessary
Germany is one of the pioneers of demographic change. It must learn to deal with the ageing of its population earlier than others do. This change cannot be avoided because prosperity, education, better healthcare systems and better living conditions have increased life expectancy and reduced birth rates in all industrialized countries. The first adaptations to this change have already taken place: More and more people are working, the retirement age is rising to 67, the level of education is higher than ever, and more immigrants are finding their way to Germany. Further efforts however will be needed to secure prosperity or maintain the efficiency of the social security systems - especially as the retirement of the baby boomers is just beginning.
Organization of an aging society
Because, above all, healthy life expectancy is prolonged, demographic change is a great gain for every individual. Whereas in the past, people over the age of 65 were considered to be past their prime, many people today are still fit and are contributing to society at retirement age. However, and at some point, they too will be dependent on assistance. While family members still provide a large part of the care services today, fewer and fewer children or children-in-law will be available in the future. This is because many of tomorrow's seniors will not have children of their own or the children will live in a distant place. The state will therefore be called upon to guarantee care to a greater extent than it was in the past. Further, caring "substitute families" in the form of inter-generational and small-scale support networks will become more important.
Dealing with demographic change
Dealing constructively with demographic change requires a sober evidence-based analysis, the acceptance of unalterable developments and realistic goals that can be achieved with the available means and opportunities. The Berlin Institute's studies provide critical analyses and background information for this purpose. In addition to statistical analyses, we use qualitative survey methods that show how stakeholders, or the local population perceive and react to quantitatively measurable developments. On this basis, the Berlin Institute develops approaches to solutions and formulates recommendations for action for policy makers, economy and civil society.