Within 10 years a third of the German population is expected to be over 60
In our programme, Paul Henley taps into Germany's "grey power" to discover how the country is preparing for the new age.
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I heard your programme say that "falling fertility" was the reason for the demographic time bomb that a number of European countries are about to experience.
But is the reason really "falling fertility" or is it not rather hedonism, contraception and abortion? Today's women of childbearing age are not less fertile than they were 50 years ago. The difference today is that women often choose "family avoidance".
Many of us have lived for ourselves and our own pleasure and left the cradles empty in the attic.
And to think that there are those who complain about the number of people we are letting into our country without realising that we need these people to generate the wealth to provide for the increasing number of elderly people.
We are soon to reap what we have sown.
After living and working in west Germany for over 30 years - as well as raising four children during the 70s and 80s when it was not really sociably acceptable to have so many children here - I feel bound to make a comment on the situation with women and pensions.
Unlike our counterparts in the east, we had no childcare or school system that took into account the needs of a working mother, so it was extremely difficult to take on employment.
Pensioners in the east are now reaping the benefits of a pension system into which they have not contributed. When employed, I always contributed. Well over 40% of my salary goes on tax and social contributions of one sort or another. Pension contributions are 19.5% of the gross salary.
I do not have a great deal left over to invest much in my private pension scheme. After a lifetime of work and children my state pension now stands at just over 600 Euros, and will rise to about 1000 by the time I retire at 65.
Considering that the rent for my small council flat is nearly 500 Euros and that I will now be expected to pay medical insurance contributions when retired, there is not going to be a great deal left over.
If the situation of working mothers was drastically improved here then there would be more young people willing to take on the challenge of raising children as well as working and making a financial contribution to society.
But having children in Germany often means poverty - especially for women - in old age.
This is a very serious problem, in the social welfare countries of the world. In Australia fortunately, the Federal Government some eight years ago, introduced compulsory superannuation contributions for all employees, paid by their employers. On a rising scale it is now at 9%, to settle at a maximum of 10%. So hopefully we will be able to weather the income crisis, in old age.
The mayor of Wittenberge has some good ideas but with such a large elderly population perhaps he could set up a database of experience - Wittenberge could then become a town of consultants, that might be a selling point with a difference. We have had several decades with the emphasis on modernisation and training has often failed to pass on to younger generations the knowledge based on the experience of their elders.
The whole problem with state pensions is that they are simply paid out on a current account basis, with no previous growth factor at all. All monies collected by the state for the purpose of financing pensions, and, indeed health, should be invested in the stock and bond markets until they are actually required, so that their value gradually rises. Clearly there would have to be a long transitional period before this could be fully implemented. However, the stock market has shown even higher gains than the property market over the last 50 years.
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