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Germany’s Ageing Population: Working longer? Working better?

The current trend in Germany towards an “ageing” population is seeing the numbers of older people rise as life expectancy increases, while the number of young people decreases dramatically. German researchers have a plan to manage the situation and balance the state’s financial burden, but is it the right one? Research into Germany’s demographic trends predicts that by 2050, as a consequence of an increasing life expectancy, people will have to work until the age of 72. This is believed to be necessary to balance the cost of an ever growing pension budget. In 2050, the German population is predicted to have a life expectancy approximately ten years greater than today. Preferred social models indicate that people should work half of their lifetimes, and with this in mind the government is suggesting that German citizens work five years longer, lengthening the working lifetime from 67 to 72 years. Many scientists and statisticians now argue that prolonging life by ten years means prolonging good health by a similar period, and that one way of dealing with this increased life expectancy would be to ask citizens to work longer and retire later, but to work less hours for a shorter working week. Hence, they would have more “quality” time to spend with their families or engaged in leisure pursuits throughout their lives, and their extended old age would be far less of a strain on public finances. This has sparked further debate. Would it really benefit Germany’s economy and its citizens to have these individuals working at a lower capacity during the prime of life? And isn’t it too easy to say that a population’s expectation of good health will automatically increase in the same proportion as the increase in their life expectancy? Furthermore, if people have to work until the age of 72, isn’t it reasonable to expect that the quality of their work might suffer? It remains to be seen if a workable solution can be found to Germany’s demographical transformation. VANESSA HORN

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