Advocating immigration at a time when there are large numbers of refugees in Germany isn’t particularly popular. But the experts at the Nuremberg Institute for Employment Research (IAB) are doing it anyway, and their latest study makes for interesting reading. It shows that without migrants, the reservoir of workers in Germany would shrink massively by 2060.
If immigrants stopped coming to Germany and if labor market participation by women and older people remained at the current level, the aging of society would result in 18 million fewer workers by 2060.
But advances in equality could slow the decline, the study suggests. If woman were integrated into working life as much as men are today, and if people retired later, it would create a potential for 2.9 million additional workers.
Even with an average of 200,000 immigrants a year, the labor force of 45.8 million in 2015 would decline to 38.9 million in 2060.
The IAB believes that immigrants can be part of the solution. But even with an average of 200,000 immigrants a year, the labor force of 45.8 million in 2015 would decline to 38.9 million in 2060. Only with a net immigration of 400,000 people per year would it be possible to keep the labor pool relatively constant.
But that level of immigration is unrealistic. Net migration may have increased recently, due to the euro crisis and sudden influx of mostly Syrian refugees, but overall the average number of immigrants coming to Germany each year between 2000 and 2015 was 245,000.
In addition, many European Union countries are struggling with their own demographics today, and immigration from those nations is already declining, according to the IAB study.
However, a shortage of skilled workers in Germany is not a foregone conclusion. The potential of less qualified workers could be exploited more effectively through a training and education offensive, the IAB says.
Frank Specht is based at Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau, where he focuses on the German labor market and trade unions. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org