Germany’s Handling of Immigration Will Shape the Future of Europe

Lambert here: A startling contrast…

By Guntram B. Wolff, the Director of Bruegel. Originally published at Breugel.

When religious persecution around 1700 drove the Huguenots to Prussia’s Berlin and Brandenburg, they added more than 1% to the native population and brought skills, knowledge and technology, with lasting positive effects on Germany’s productivity. 300 years later, religious persecution, war and poverty are driving hundreds of thousands to Germany again. Germany’s authorities expect up to 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015, an estimate that may be too high but would represent about 1% of Germany’s population. Immigrants other than asylum seekers would increase that number to far more than 1 million. In 2014, more than 600000 asylum seekers reached the EU. How quickly these immigrants are integrated (or not) will be decisive for Germany’s economy and Europe’s monetary union.

Immigrants are significantly younger than the domestic population. Given Germany’s major demographic challenges , this is welcome news. As Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, has pointed out, the immediate costs of handling refugees and immigrants are manageable. Long-term benefits to public finance and the sustainability of pensions can be substantial. Research has documented that foreigners currently living in Germany pay more to the state than they receive in social benefits. But the long-term benefits depend on whether and how immigrants are integrated into the German labour market.

Many immigrants bring specific skills and the ability and willingness to work. German industry has discovered this opportunity and has called for legal changes to facilitate the integration of qualified workers in the German labour market. Industry groups are calling for immigrants to be granted the right to apply for apprenticeship positions in Germany, in order to adapt and upgrade their skills. In the last few years, the integration of migrants in the German labour market has been made easier,  but significant obstacles remain, and Germany still has a reputation of being restrictive on immigration.

Opening  the German labour market quickly and comprehensively to migrants would provide a boost to the German economy. The substantial increase in the labour supply should contribute to increased German output. More workers would mean more investments, increasing growth further. Immigrants would also need housing, benefiting the construction sector. The additional investments in the economy and immigrants’ lower saving rates would boost German demand. The demand boost should also benefit Germany’s neighbours and could help bring down Germany’s current account surplus. In fact, countries with high immigration rates often run current account deficits, such as Spain in the 2000s and the United States. The effect is unlikely to be as big in Germany – but additional workers will need capital and housing.

Some fear that immigrants will dampen wage growth, and make it harder for euro area countries to regain much needed competitiveness relative to Germany. However, the empirical evidence on wage effects is inconclusive. Relatively low-skilled immigrants could even contribute to higher wages for skilled German workers. Qualified workers, such as nurses from Syria and Iraq, may however compete with German workers and potential immigrants from other euro area countries.

More immigrants entering Germany from outside the EU could make it more difficult for migrants from other euro area countries to find a job there.  From 2009 to 2014, more than half a million immigrants arrived in Germany from Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. These numbers are small given the huge unemployment rates in Southern Europe. There is thus not enough migration within the euro area to make the currency union adapt to the shocks and reduce unemployment rates sufficiently. Immigration from outside Europe won’t help bring down unemployment in Southern Europe – but it could at least contribute to adjustment in Germany, making job creation in Southern Europe easier.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has a historic chance to turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity for immigrants, for Germany and for Europe. Integrating large numbers of migrants is a huge challenge to society and to social cohesion. However if successful, it could boost Germany’s economy – and contribute to re-balancing the monetary union.

Immigration could turn around Germany’s main weakness – its precarious demographic situation – and help pay the pensions of tomorrow. Opening German borders to immigrants will change the economic and political balance in Europe for decades, as did the migration of Huguenots 300 years ago.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Chris Geary

    What happened to welcoming refugees because they are well, you know, human? Even Germany’s response is being framed as a solution to its demographic problems. It’s called Western privilege.

  2. Lexington

    Although liberal commentators are loath to acknowledge it the down side of accepting so many foreigners so quickly is that it will likely exacerbate social tensions and have potentially unfortunate political consequences. Germany experienced something of this in the 1980s when the ambiguous status of Turkish “guest workers” became a political football, and in recent years there has been a pronounced rise in anti-immigration fervor – along with opportunistic politicians willing and ready to exploit it – across the continent.

    Rather than honestly confront the thorny issues posed by the refugee crisis however most of the commentariat has opted for a simplistic “everyone wins!” narrative that flatters liberal self perceptions while avoiding the unpleasantness of recognizing that there may well be a downside and well as an upside here.

    1. ks

      Sie haben recht. The writer is also apparently oblivious of the social cost to the refugees themselves, who didn’t ask the West to destabilize their countries and bomb their relatives so that they could solve Germany’s demographic problems.

  3. Otter

    Not “Western privilege”. Neoliberalism. Which is blind to all human qualities except labor and consumption.

    1. Brian M

      The New Western Man. Only a creature of economics. Sounds amazingly like the New Soviet Man! Neoliberalism as Marxism?

  4. Colin Brace

    This development may very well be positive for the individuals involved, but one has to wonder how Iraq and Syria are to survive as viable societies without adequate numbers of nurses and other skilled workers.

    1. craazyboy

      Obviously, Germany needs to expand it’s borders to include underemployed Southern Europe AND the ME. Then all will be “balanced”, not to mention saving people the hassle of moving around all over the place to fit someone’s idea of the proper economy. The job aether fills the physical size of the container!

      But in any case, it looks like wonderful things are in store for Germany.

  5. Jesper

    When an economist says something is good for a country is it:
    a. good for the elite of the country?
    b. good for the people of the country?

    The people stuck in mini-jobs and the people stuck in unemployment might consider the benefits and costs of migration to be as unequally distributed as the economic gains and losses since the financial crisis. Let them eat GDP/growth…

  6. Haven Monahan

    How is intentionally extracting the demographic resources (youth) of a nation any different than colonial powers stripping the natural resources (diamonds, oil, rubber,etc). Especially the educated youth? Syria is a poor country and they do not need to serve as a educational farm system for rich Germany. Syria will suffer for generation by having their best and brightest practically kidnapped away from them by the Germans. And yes, these migrations were intentionally instigated.. Neo-liberal Europeans cut off food aid in the camps in Lebanon and Jordan in order to induce these migrations of cheap labor. In twenty years when Syrian is a basket case the very same two-faced cheerleaders for this migration will start denouncing this demographic theft as colonial exploitation — and they will be right. It’s kind of like all the most vocal supporters of the Iraq War still have media jobs but now get to denounce the evil West for the very stupidity in Iraq that they helped sell.

    And what about all the Muslim youth abandoned in the banlieues of Europe? Some nations still have over 50% youth unemployment and most are still above 20%? Why not take care of the poor (often Muslim and/or Black) youth Europe already has who are excluded from society? If Germany needs labor then they should aggressively recruit among the unemployed of other European countries

    Angela Merkel is nothing less than a dirty neo-liberal who is hell-bent on destroying the welfare state in Europe. As Milton Friedman always said, you can have open borders, or you can have a welfare state, but you cannot have both. Mr. Friedman was a vehement opponent of the welfare state.

    Bernie Sanders certainly gets this. He calls Open Borders a right wing Koch bros. scam to drive down wages. This is not that complicated.

    And what about efforts to cut global warming? A demographically slow-reproducing Germany is just what the doctor ordered in order to save the earth. The last thing the earth needs is importing millions of potentially high reproductive capacity 3rd worlders to destroy the planet? The era of growth for the 1st world is over. We need steady-state economies; the planet will not survive these mass cheap labor global warming-intensifying schemes into the 1st world.


    The neo-liberal globalist reaps what the neo-conservative imperialist sows:

    The destruction of poor nation-states by neoconservatives leads to migrations of cheap labor which when combined with the neo-liberal’s open borders and free trade leads to an accelerated destruction of wealthy welfare-state nations which in turn fuels a vicious cycle of increasing poverty and despair in the world.

    Conversely, the social democrat reaps what the economic nationalist sows:

    Controlled borders and managed trade are preconditions for the near-full employment and social cohesion required for a beneficial welfare state which in turn provides the nation’s economy with a plentiful supply of healthy and competent workers which fuels a virtuous cycle of health and prosperity in the nation.

    Both Europe and the US need more economic nationalists / social democrats. No wonder Trump and Sanders are so popular in America. For the first time in generations, Americans are being given a chance to vote their economic interests and they are grabbing it with gusto.

    1. NoFreeWill

      Great analysis. Not many commenters and very few journalists make the connection between the imperialist wars, aided and abetted by all NATO countries, in the Middle East and the mismanagement of the refugee situation.

  7. charles 2

    Just when German Labor was claiming back its bargaining power… So timely ! I read first this column in the FT but I didn’t expect in NC. Class warfare is only for the US ?

    Also, integration of immigrants is NOT easy, nor automatic. The US integrated quite succesfully immigrants from Ireland, Britain, Germany, Poland and Italy, but it is too early to tell if integration of Latinos is going to be as good. Integration of Blacks is a clear failure. I don’t see Europe integrating its MENA immigrants better. The track record of France in that matter is dismal.

    More importantly, in an age when a massive wave of automation is in the works, immigration may be a disastrous strategy. In 20/30 years time, I am convinced that countries which will have focused on growth of GDP/Capita instead of population growth will be the winners is the world economy, and there inhabitants much better well off. I am with Adair Turner on this, see .

    1. James Levy

      There isn’t going to be any significant GDP growth over the next 20-30 years due to resource depletion and global climate change plus the insane commitment of the USA, England, Germany, and China to their financial sectors at the expense of everything else in their economies. Japan’s economy has been hobbled by this very need to prop up finance for over 20 years now, and it’s still wrecking the place (see Abenomics). We need to work together to mitigate the worst of what’s to come. Your xenophobia doesn’t help that process at all.

    2. sadie

      Your 2nd paragraph: “integration” is THE key word. Integration was the goal of European immigrants at the turn of the last century. Less so with Latino immigrants, who came later. White Americans are “Anglos”; not always welcome in Hispanic shops, often shown outright hostility. Black Americans are despised as an underclass. (I live in a Latino neighborhood). In France, generally speaking, Muslim immigrants from North and Central Africa have not integrated well into French culture. The resentment towards whites, both here and in Europe, is supposedly rooted in colonialism. Old resentments die hard. Also there seems to be a pervasive anti-white sentiment, whites being the root of all current evils. (I’m not being sarcastic, just observant). The bottom line is that immigrants often come with a huge chip on their shoulders (mad as hell at their white hosts in the US and Europe). We whites have a lot to answer for. But there’s the English language, its literature and poetry, and Democracy (more or less) which enables us to at least strive for making amends and rectifying injustices. Not perfect, but something decent and re-affirming has been built here, which is why the rest of the world is risking their lives to get here.

      But, will they integrate or repudiate? That’s the question.

    3. Sam Kanu

      Also, integration of immigrants is NOT easy, nor automatic. The US integrated quite succesfully immigrants from Ireland, Britain, Germany, Poland and Italy, but it is too early to tell if integration of Latinos is going to be as good. Integration of Blacks is a clear failure

      “Blacks” in the USA were not immigrants – they were Africans enslaved and taken there in chains. Then kept as slaves for centuries. Then freed but kept in various forms of less formal chains, including government imposed ones while they were “free”. One example is this govt policy on housing that directly led into wealth gap suffered by black American familes today:

      What exactly are you expecting as an outcome – and why on earth would you compare their fate in parallel with people who came through Ellis Island? And then this euro-pean derived stuff about “integration”. That’s just unbelievable. If you want to talk about “integration”, then you’d best begin by examining how the European immigrants to america “integrated” with the culture of the native people’s living here – genocide is the answer, as we know.

    4. Brian M

      Integration of blacks? ROFLOL. That is an interesting way to interpret things. One rips Africans from their place of birth, enslaves them for generations, initiates a reign of terror once they have been “freed” and still 100 years later eagerly conspire to deny them rights or kill them

      Then one mewls that “they” have not integrated properly enough.

      Just wow.

      Sorry Sam. You made the basic same point.

  8. James Levy

    I thought conventional economists like the author believed in the law of supply and demand:

    Some fear that immigrants will dampen wage growth, and make it harder for euro area countries to regain much needed competitiveness relative to Germany. However, the empirical evidence on wage effects is inconclusive.

    Personally, I think that Germany helping these refugees is a great thing, and that’s the kind of Germany Europe and the world needs (the alternative Germany is not a pretty sight). But to seriously maintain that increasing the labor supply will not adversely effect the bargaining power of workers is disingenuous at best, deliberate falsehood at worst.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    It should be noted that Germany has a particularly poor record at assimilating immigrants. There are third generation ethnic Turks in Germany who will still tell you they were brought up as not to consider themselves as ‘real’ Germans. I’ve a secular Turkish friend who tells me she is horrified at the attitudes of some of her German/Turkish relatives – many have become more, not less religious and several female relatives have adopted the veil, even though their family have always been urban and secular. Its a direct response to the lack of integration and an implicit attitude that they are there to work, not become part of society. I do hope Germany learns that lesson this time out.

    1. drexciya

      Lack of integration comes from two sides, if you don’t speak the language, stick together in enclaves and don’t commit to actually integrate in society, then nothing will come from it. In my opinion this has been one of the biggest mistakes. Instead of throwing money at organizations that actually hamper integration, we should have been less kind to people that don’t want to do anything as basic as learning the language.

      Always blaming society for your problems isn’t going to help but that’s the stereotypical reaction we see from these people; it’s never their fault. With that kind of attitude you really will not get very far.

      1. Inverness

        There are second and third generation people of Turkish ancestry who speak German as native speakers. They are not often German, because of the blood laws, and are often sons and daughters of the Gastarbeiter (guest worker) program in Germany. Having darker skin in Germany and France is quite the alienating experience — racism is a potent force. I spoke German with an accent, and was treated better than Arab-looking people who spoke as native speakers, simply because I’m white and North American, and perceived as more “one of us.” This kind of casual discrimination is pretty open.

        There is an very good German-Turkish film that explores this cultural alienation that second generation Turks in Germany experience, called Gegen Die Wand (Head On). Yes, integration is a two-way street, but it is far more challenging than your post suggests. Also, recently the New Yorker published an investigative piece on the Paris suburbs by George Packer, which explains why those immigrant/non-white communities struggle so much. Just having an address in the suburbs pretty much disqualifies you from getting a decent job, and some are told to alter names that are Muslim-sounding. So yeah, integration in Europe isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

    2. Lexington

      Particularly poor in comparison to whom, exactly? Neighboring France?

      The whole point of the Gastarbeiter program was to grant work visas but NOT citizenship to foreigners to compensate for the country’s labour shortage. Similar programs were employed in the Low Countries and Scandinavia.

      The German government never promised citizenship, quite the opposite, it explicitly stated that it expected guest workers to return to their countries of origin when their work term expired. This became contentious when workers spent so many years in Germany that they began raising families with children who had never even been to their “home” countries and were largely assimilated into German society even though they technically weren’t citizens, or even eligible for citizenship.

    3. Jagger

      That was my first thoughts as well…the failure of Turks to integrate into German society but I wouldn’t blame just the Turks. I still remember seeing some little kid in a little German town cursing some brown skinned man who I assume was Turkish. His older sister, I assume, smacked the kid but still. And then, we also see the problems in France. How many generations there now?

      It is just human nature. When you bring in large masses of people of a different culture, religion and skin color, you are going to have major societal problems for generations. Can you identify by looking whether a person is a German, a Pole, a Ukrainian or a Russian? How about a Bosnia,a Serb or a Croat? Somehow they manage to figure it out and as even recent history shows, then killing each other off violently and rapidly in very large numbers. I just don’t have a lot of confidence further societal balkenization is going to end well in Europe. Capitalism and politics may find exploiting societal divisions useful but everyday people have a tough time handling it. Guaranteed, you are going to see a rapid strengthening of the hard right throughout Europe.

      No good answers except to end the turmoil in the middle east as soon as possible and allow people to return home.

      1. tegnost

        Dare I say that sometimes disenfranchised people will keep the language of their family because it makes them feel at home in their own skin. I know it’s human nature to blame the newbie but the finger of blame should be pointing elsewhere

        1. Jagger

          Not to mention it is not easy learning a new language for most people.

          The mass of people are tribal. When things get tough, they will focus their anger on anyone that isn’t a member of the tribe.

          It was only 75 years ago when WW2 started. So have we really changed that much. I have my doubts especially when viewing the last 14 years and the poor quality of leadership around the world. It is one reason I keep asking myself which is worse, a neoliberal or a neocon. Neocons are the ones that could start a WW3.

          1. Gio Bruno

            Actually, learning a new language is easier, if you’re under the age of 7 or 8. (The science is well-documented.) Most folks who take a second language course in high school or college don’t retain much, if any, of it. The young mind has more time, and the particular resources, to absorb a second language. Adults learning a second language is a monumental effort.

            All fluent multi-lingual speakers please raise your hands!

  10. Christer Kamb

    Social democrats have always been against reducing wages by a free-market. Now they seem to defend supply-side economics when it comes to refugees. Why have they not liberalised before one could ask?
    We know that real(and nominal)wages are going down for low-income groups relative to the upper middle-class groups. Yes, over-supply will also create it´s own demand, i.e a new and expanding market with very low pay. We know that widening income-gaps also creates tensions in society. During economic downturns chlashes can/will develop and if the integration-process fail it could lead to permanent or long-term(generations) diversions between cultural/economic groups.

    As an economist I found this article full of sweeping arguments. There´s a lot of “could and if´s” and one has to understand that shocks puts big pressures on an already faltered over-indebted EU-economy. That said I think in the long run, as history tells us, a steady&controlled inflow of migrants have positive economic effects on society. But integration is essential. If it fails the results would be negative longer term even if thre are positive effects on economy.

    I think people(elite) tries to find economic arguments that will fit arguments based on humanity. Like this article. Will policymakers be honest to their citizens? I hope they will but so far they have not in my country. Cost and benefits-analysis so far are questionable with many hidden variables difficult to assess.

    Germany as an example gives almost no permanent residence permit. Already the Hartz-reform is under-estimates unemployment.

  11. b

    The best one can say of this immigration wave is that it will kill Merkel in the next elections. Many Germans, especially conservatives, are furious about her stunt. The sole purpose is wage depression with the population having to bear the additional cost of integrating people who do not want to be integrated.

  12. Dan Lynch

    “Long-term benefits to public finance and the sustainability of pensions”

    Rubbish, and out of paradigm.

    As NC well knows, there is no constraint on public finance other than self-imposed constraints. As even Alan Greenspan points out, there is no issue with the sustainability of pensions since government can alway print money to pay pensions.

    The real constraints are real resources — land, clean air, clean water, food, etc.. As population increases there is more competition for those finite resources.

    The elephant in the living room is capitalism, which does seem able to function without growth. Growth is environmentally unsustainable and undesirable.

  13. JEHR

    For my part, I wish we had an Angela Merkel in Canada willing and able to bring about 50,000 Syrian refugees here. I especially think that the older people, the young families and orphan children should be in that number and they should come immediately and be settled by Christmas (as Rick Hillier has said.)

    Sorrowfully, we have a PM who is going to throw rhetoric and money at the problem–no planes, no people on the ground taking names, etc. Woe, woe, woe: where are our visionary politicians?

    1. Inverness

      Yes — Harper is not only ungenerous, but psychopathic. I do hesitate to consider Merkel as a visionary, though. There’s some realpolitik going on. Europe has to deal with far more refugees than North America, and I don’t think Merkel wants Germany, for historical reasons, to be considered as cruel to those fleeing war and persecution.

      Too bad only Germany suffers from a bad reputation. Harper’s horrific record on the environment alone should require a a public relations campaign of colossal proportions, and helping refugees could be part of that, especially since climate certainly played a role.

  14. tegnost

    I knew there was comparative advantage lurking somewhere in the EZ and here it is. The opening paragraph piqued the notion that there is a connection between this article and the one on pastoralists, that mobility is key to the our species “vigor” for lack of a better word this am. An overview shows the neoliberal program placing structure on systems in order to maximize pillage (see PPACA), however migration is critical to churn the economy along. The us has obvious advantages here, and has spent the better part of a century destabilizing latin america in order to maintain the flow, but the EZ has real problems with this, made apparent by the fact that they can destroy greece economically but only gain a few workers from one or two generations, the most gain in greece comes from the privatization schemes, but creating a flow of migrants who will say and also act to prove that the crumb you refuse looks like a loaf of bread to them and you can see we’re anything but finished with this paradigm…now if only germany could privatize greece and rent it to the refugees…then we’re talking some real dough…

    1. OIFVet

      I guess the cheap Bulgarian and Romanian labor wasn’t cheap enough. We had a lovely dinner with a British friend last night, an FT writer who shall remain nameless. He reminded me of something I had forgotten: a lot of the Eastern European cheap labor in the UK and elsewhere in Western Europe is way over-qualified. Nurses and doctors who work as home care workers, engineers who work as construction laborers, etc. So they do have expectations of better compensation down the line and in the field they trained for, so that’s obviously a problem because that doesn’t make them infinitely exploitable. So cheap MENA labor will solve that quandary. The article is rather hopeful in thinking that Syrian nurses and doctors will find employment in those professions. Hasn’t widely been the case with well qualified Eastern Europeans, I can’t see it being the case with Middle Easterners either.

      1. guest

        I fully agree with you. In fact, I have seen the exact examples you give occur years ago, with immigrants from Ukraine.

        Syrian diplomas are not recognized (there goes the physician to work as a nurse); their know-how may be irrelevant (there goes the lawyer to work as a secretary), out of place (there goes the engineer familiar with Russian hardware to work as a bricklayer), or superfluous (there goes the schoolteacher to work as a cleaner); and practically none of those immigrants speaks German.

        How much (re)-training is Germany going to invest in refugees, at a time when it is becoming stingy with its own German youth?

        I seriously doubt that Europe will really employ those people in a way commensurate with their skills; rather, it will just take advantage of them for positions in which they are, as you say, overqualified.

      2. lord koos

        It’s really no different here in the US. There are illegal Chinese immigrants with degrees in biology working in kitchens as cooks and dishwashers, Somalis with university degrees driving cabs, etc etc.

  15. tegnost

    Then I go over to links, and lo and behold the fed can destroy a large portion of global economies by raising interest rates a mere 25 basis points (I wrote it in basis points to make the bankers feel better, 1/4% seems so small h/t katniss among others)

  16. TG

    With respect, Germany does NOT have a ‘demographic crisis’. Adding in all these third-world refugees will not boost output beyond what it would have been otherwise, because without capital and developed resources, human beings have zero productive capacity. Without massive investments in new capital and developed resources, adding in more people will reduce wages – which will make Germany more ‘globally competitive’, but I don’t see how that helps the average German that does not own a major exporting business.

    Neoliberalism tells us that people can only get rich by becoming poor enough to win a wage-bidding war with Bangladesh. How’s that work, anyhow?

    In the great depression the American fertility rate fell, because people were worried about having children that they could not support. This low fertility rate did not create a ‘demographic crisis’ – it only meant that when times got better wages shot up. The fertility rate only went back up AFTER times got better. Every prosperous nation has a history of limiting the fertility rate when things get bad, and every nation with a high sustained fertility rate remains poor, always. Germany is not importing third-world refugees because Germans have a low birth rate. Germans have a low birth rate because they are importing all these third world refugees, and artificially lowering wages – without the anti-wage effects of excessive immigration, young Germans would have an easier time of it and they would have more children – just not enough to reduce wages significantly.

    It should be noted that the crisis in Syria was due to the government’s policy of banning contraceptives and igniting a population explosion, and when the skyrocketing population ran out of food things fell apart. As usual, when populations are increased too rapidly, it is not the fault of the people themselves, but of governments acting in the interests of those whose only God is the easy profit that comes from ever cheaper labor (what is traditionally known as ‘forcing’ population growth). Why can this not be discussed in public? Surely this should be of notice?

    As far as morality: there is little so disgusting as rich person pushing policies that will make them even richer at the expense of making everyone else miserably poor. Present company excepted, but all those rich europeans claiming that not allowing the third world to pour into Europe are, without exception, going to make a lot of money on the coming low wages. These wealthy hypocrites have no problem preventing poor people from trespassing on their walled estates and private country clubs. Let these rich people practice what they so ardently preach – let they and their families give up all of their luxuries and live in an unheated garage subsisting only on the meanest diet of beans and rice – and then we can grant them moral standing to preach to their less fortunate compatriots. But not before.

    1. guest

      Recently, I heard a German demographer discussing on the radio the issue in the context of the on-going refugee crisis.

      Specifically concerning Germany:

      1) Immigration in the past few years has had a profound effect on the population level: for several years, the population of Germany was decreasing; now it is increasing again. A clear trend reversal.

      2) On the other hand, that influx has had a completely negligible effect on population aging. To reverse the demographic imbalance caused by low fertility rates, through immigration only, some 3.5 million additional immigrants per year during an entire generation would be needed — which would lead to doubling the total resident population of Germany. Wholly unrealistic.

      800000 immigrants do not even amount to 1% of the current population of Germany. Their long-term demographic effect is therefore marginal.

  17. plantman

    If Germany is so eager for cheap labor, then why not hire some of the millions of young people they’ve condemned to a life of unemployment and poverty in Greece?

  18. Chauncey Gardiner

    The analogy of the French Huguenots emigrating to Prussia was interesting, and there may well be historical parallels. But it is unclear to me why these millions of people are emigrating from their native lands. Is it to live a life in peace, to avoid persecution for one’s beliefs and values, for economic opportunity?…

    Given the massive and precipitous nature of the emigration, what was the catalyst?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, us setting the Middle East on fire can’t have helped.

      Refugee: “I don’t want US-funded Syrian moderates to bomb or shoot me!”

      Migrant: “I want a job where US-funded Syrian moderates don’t bomb or shoot me!”

      The distinction seems artificial to me.

    2. financial matters

      I think Christian Parenti’s concept of ‘catastrophic convergence’ makes sense where he talks of the convergence of poverty, being fueled by several decades of neoliberal policies and its attending violence being fed by arms provided various groups during the Cold War now being accelerated with climate change.

      He talks about the problem of cryptoracism and trying to stay away from viewing people as less than human.

      He describes the situation in the US:

      “ICE operates a network of more than five hundred detention facilities that cost $1.7 billion and are scattered across the country. Many of these are run-down but fortified motels or converted suburban office parks; all are infamous for their wretched conditions, overcrowding and violence. The majority of these facilities are managed by state and local governments and specialized private firms, like Corrections Corporation of America, which runs sixty lockups of various types. Abuse in these prisons and detention centers is widespread, though the inmates, all poor and headed for deportation, have a difficult time bringing complaints or lawsuits against their jailers. So, it is hard to know what is really happening inside the ICE gulag.

      The de facto authoritarian, cryptoracist state hardening, encapsulated by the war on immigrants, will accelerate as climate-change-driven migration become an ever more pressing issue.”

    3. drexciya

      There’s a big difference in the current migrants and the Hugenots. Hugenots were Christians (protestants to be exact) to begin with and they were invited into Prussia (or earlier into The Netherlands). A Dutch city, such as Leiden, took in a huge number of people, but they were people who could easily make themselves useful. Think of merchants, craftsmen and so on. The same goes for the Hugenots which were invited by Prussia. This was easy because there was a cultural fit and there was a distinct need for the skills they took with them.

    1. drexciya

      Frau Merkel is regretting opening up all of Germany now? This just goes to show how incompetent the politicians are. I really hope this leads to the dissolution of the current EU; effectively the Schengen zone is broken now. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of the EU, but we need competent leaders that think of something banal such as what the people actually want and need.

      1. IsabelPS

        Incompetent they may be. But if you have any good way of preventing (urgently!) thousands of people from drowning in dingy boats, suffocate in trucks and being robbed, spanked, murdered by traffickers just because they are attracted to the prospect of a much better life, without at the same time putting in jeopardy that “much better life” for the ones arriving, for the ones that are already there and for the many more thousands (or millions) which will obviously try to arrive… There are apparently 4 million Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries, just Syrians. If you were a refugee, where would you prefer to be, in a crappy Jordanian camp or in a crappy German camp?

        1. drexciya

          The whole point is that people think that there’s paradise (easy money and so on) in Western Europe. They still believe that they can just go there and get rich. Well that’s nonsense and that has to be advertised. Or, the Australian way, you can only enter via official channels, if you enter the EU illegally (via Lampedusa or Greek islands), you’ll be escorted back to where you came from. Also, if you cannot identify yourself (throwing away your passport is a well-known trick), tough luck. That way, you will not encourage people from taking the journey to begin with.

    2. oho

      to be a realist, i’d bet $100 that once the Bundes authorities took a census of the migrants/refugees and realized that the vast, overwhelming majority of them are 15 to 30 single men, not the photogenic families and young children, the Berlin establishment made a slight mess in their lederhosen.

    3. jawbone

      Merkel to close or at least tighten Germany’s borders?

      Fear not, dear refugees! The most benevolent leader of the United States has said he will try to permit up to 10,000 refugees from Syria into the US in the coming year. Yes, up to TEN THOUSAND!

      Such mercy being shown by the Nobel Peace Prize winning president of the country most clearly causing the horrors of ongoing war in Syria….

      1. Brian M

        Shouldn’t we be importing Yemenis as well? Given how our best friends in the world, the enlightened Saudi regime, has created a disaster there.

        It is easy to blame the West for 100% of things, but cast an eye to the glorius guardians of the faith in Riyadh as wll

  19. coboarts

    As the article makes clear, the only consideration is the economic, no other considerations should possibly matter to a society, but wait, we are all consumers. This will end badly. But, I have to wonder. There are few grassroots social phenomena, most are based on hidden interests instigating the masses. I know that there have long been attempts at immigration into western Europe. But now, such a large-scale, seemingly organized onslaught accompanied by the agonizing in the corporate media, those who were the cheerleaders for the invasions and fomentations that are behind the waves of human misery, the agonizing over the moral dilemma over salvaging these people from their dire fates, all seems a little too managed. As fractured populations and isolated small communities, there will not be the power to resist the globalized forces that intend to dominate all of the world’s physical resources. Large, relatively cohesive populations like the German could pose a problem, once it is realized that they are also being broken on the wheel. Europe and America need to be re-calibrated to assure compliance in the New World Order. Self sufficiency and local resistance to “market” forces are the targets, in Europe, as they have been throughout the third world for decades.

    1. Gio Bruno

      …any Professor that blames the instability in the Ukraine on Putin listens to too much National Public Radio. (Or reads only the NYTimes.)

      1. OIFVet

        You got it backwards: Timothy Snyder is the one who comes up with the nonsense (his usual venue is the NYRB) and in turn the NYT and NPR run with it. Snyder is not on the Council on Foreign Relations by virtue of his academic integrity, that’s for sure.

  20. oho

    sigh, you have a confluence of so many “taboo” subjects—-it’s impossible to have a calm, rational, sensible discussion without someone one both sides resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    the whole migrant problem involves, not the least of which:
    ***expecting high minimum wages when importing unskilled workers in an age where unskilled work is going offshore or robotic;
    ***Europe and the US have a multi-ethnic/multi-racial near permanent underclass who are underhelped with resources as is.
    ***for a lot of developing world migrants, religion = identity and that identity is like mixing oil and water with secularism.

  21. Roland

    Immigration isn’t a solution to the demographic problems of sub-replacement fertility rates.

    The fertility rate of migrants to low-fertility countries matches that of the host population within a single generation. The fact the migrants themselves are relatively young does not alter the fundamental fact of sub-replacement fertility, which prevails across almost all developed countries (and today, even in many lesser-developed countries).

    An influx of young migrants reduces your population’s median age for a little while, but you end up with an even bigger grey bulge later on. It’s a demographic game of extend-and-pretend.

    Countries simply must adapt to a more columnar, rather than pyramidal, population/age distribution. Bite the bullet!

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