by: Dick Stroud
This article in the FT should still be available. If not it will only take a minute to register for free. It is worth the effort.
German politicians have recently decided to increase pension payments after pressure from the voters, the majority who are 50-plus. Some are expressing the fear that Europe's largest economy is turning into something approaching a dictatorship of the old. And what is wrong with that?
Last month, Roman Herzog (a former German president) lost his political cool when he told an interviewer that young families faced "mass plundering" by the elderly. He sounds a bit like a grumpy old man.
Germany has one of the world's lowest fertility rates at 1.4 children per woman, Poland, Spain, South Korea and Japan are below this rate. But Germany was the first industrial nation to experience a sharp drop in births - almost 40 years ago. This means that the country is in the second round of this ageing process - it's not just that we are having too few children: now we're having too few adults of childbearing age to produce children." Germany still has the fewest children per inhabitant in the world.
Projections show that, with rising life expectancy, the proportion of Germans over 60 will increase by one-third within the next 20 years. The population will keep shrinking, as it has done since 2003, stabilising at around 70m - down from today's 80m-plus and ranking it below neighbouring France.
About this stage of reading the article I was descending into a pit of gloom with the vision of age-wars breaking out in the streets of Frankfurt and then came upon this headlined quote:
"Age brings a homogenisation of political views in a number of areas. People become dependent on social benefits; they grow averse to change, risks and experiments; they value security and predictability; become less entrepreneurial, more conservative."
Come on - how can you make such a general statement about half the population?
I then re-read the article and concluded that it started from a position of “doom and gloom” and selected the evidence to support this hypothesis. Still, it is worth a quick read.