The rise of the AfD

The German establishment’s complacency and elitism are assisting the AfD.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
Germany Correspondent

Topics Politics World

Germany is just two months away from commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But for many commentators, east and west Germany are more divided than ever. The success of the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the recent state elections in Brandenburg and Saxony has fueled this concern. The AfD came second in both elections. In Brandenburg, it won 23.5 per cent of the vote, just 2.7 per cent below the ruling centre-left SPD. In Saxony, it won 27.5 per cent of the vote, 4.6 per cent behind the incumbent centre-right CDU. ‘When I, a Wessi [west German], leave Berlin… I see nothing but right-wingers… These are people whose sensitivities I don’t understand… Thirty years after the fall of the wall, there is still no unity’, said a writer for Der Spiegel.

Many in the east are just as keen as their western counterparts to distance themselves from AfD voters. The ‘most important message’ from Saxony’s election result was that the ‘friendly Saxony’ had won, said Michael Kretschmer, the state’s CDU minister president. As if reading from the same script, Brandenburg’s minister president, the SPD’s Dietmar Woidke, emphasised that ‘the face of Brandenburg would remain friendly’. Of course, ‘friendly’ is a code word for mainstream or pro-establishment. But presenting the elections in these terms may have helped the governing parties to their narrow victories. Some analysts suggest that voters, who would otherwise have opted for the Greens or Die Linke (the Left Party), supported the ruling parties for fear of the AfD coming first.

The debate about the east-west divide is deeply anti-political. It focuses solely on the question of what is wrong with east German voters – and the roughly one million AfD voters in particular – rather than on what has gone wrong with German politics as a whole. As a result, there is a great deal of snobbery in the discussion. For Brigitte Fehrle, former editor of the left-liberal Berliner Zeitung, the AfD’s success can be explained by a mixture of voters’ ‘disappointment’ and their ‘unrealistic expectations about what is possible in politics’. Sociologist Cornelia Koppetsch, author of a bestselling book on right-wing populism, describes AfD voters as a ‘cross-section of globalisation’s losers’. This is despite research finding that people who voted for the AfD in 2017 don’t see themselves as ‘losers’ of globalisation at all, and even rate their personal economic situation as above average. That AfD voters might simply hold different political values or views on climate policy, immigration and the family is rarely considered.

None of this is to say that there is no east and west divide. Most concerning is the economic weakness of the east. A report by the Halle Institute for Economic Research Productivity shows that, 30 years after reunification, productivity is still much lower in the east than in the west. Ninety-three per cent of the 500 biggest German companies have their headquarters in the west. People in the east still earn on average 20 per cent less than their western counterparts. The situation is particularly dire in rural areas, where there is a serious lack of infrastructure and public services. Even Saxony, once praised as one of the more dynamic eastern states, with its beautifully renovated cities of Dresden and Leipzig, is still heavily dependent on around €1 billion per year in subsidies from the federal government.

The key political difference between east and west Germany is that the disintegration of the mainstream political parties is far more advanced in the east. This is one of the main reasons the AfD performs best in the east. Unlike in the west, the traditional parties have never had a stable electoral base in the east. Election successes have been largely down to the popularity of individual leaders. In the west, the traditional parties are still able to rely on some form of voter loyalty. But these loyalties have been breaking down quickly in the west too, as the broader decline of the SPD illustrates.

In fact, the politics of the postwar era that gave us the two main parties was already over by the time of reunification. No one who grew up in the east will have experienced a time when it really mattered whether it was the SPD or the CDU in government. In the west, before the fall of the wall, the grand coalitions that have defined so much of the Merkel era were exceptional. Few would have claimed as they do now that the two parties were basically the same.

In 1969, Willy Brandt became the first SDP chancellor. He won the elections with his famous promise to ‘dare more democracy’. In the recent elections, Brandt’s slogan was appropriated by the AfD, which printed it on its election posters in Brandenburg. Another of the AfD’s campaign mottos was Vollendet die Wende. Die Wende refers to the post-reunification transition to liberal democracy, which the AfD promises to complete. Both slogans annoyed the representatives of Brandenburg’s SPD tremendously. But no one can claim that they weren’t cleverly chosen. Many Germans in the east rightly feel that the promises made 30 years ago – of economic growth and democracy – are yet to be properly fulfilled.

The established parties have ceded ground to the AfD by refusing to take it seriously. Instead of engaging AfD representatives in as many debates as possible, they have relied on trying to expose the party’s far-right connections. For instance, the AfD leader in Brandenburg has been accused of joining a Neo-Nazi demonstration in Greece in 2007. Though these accusations are not trivial by any means, they have only helped to strengthen the impression among AfD supporters that the established parties prefer to vilify the party morally, rather challenge it politically.

Ultimately, the desire for political change is not limited to east Germany. If the mainstream parties continue to be complacent, all voters will look elsewhere. On this front at least, the east and west might be closer than suspected.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl’s Brexit – Demokratischer Aufbruch in Großbritannien is out now.

Picture by: Getty.

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Alexander Nöthlich

12th September 2019 at 7:22 pm

It’s kind of funny, when in 1989 the people from East Germany took to the streets to call out the communist government for its disconnection from the ordinary people and what they want, they were celebrated as brave and heroic by the western elites. Rightly so, I’d say. But now, when they themselves are being called out for not knowing how those same people feel, they are being called all kinds of names to silence them. It won’t work in the long run. Sadly, the left has abandoned ordinary people for urban elites. Sahra Wagenknecht is one of the few in the left-wing party “Die Linke” who understands this but was stopped in her tracks by the environmentalist, feminist, anti-progress urban elites that hold the left hostage. That’s why many people from “Die Linke” who are against the mainstream passed directly to the AfD, which, right now, is doing a better job on being rebellious.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 8:16 pm

Absolutely. I live in Germany and it’s actually quite frightening to see how those who criticise the government (especially the government’s liberal immigration and asylum policies) are vilified. It’s like living in a sort of dictatorship

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 8:31 pm

They wanted to be incorporated into western capitalist “democracy” and that is exactly what they got. It is doubtful that they understood what capitalist democracy is, and its class basis in the rule of the bourgeoise and the needs of capital. Which is ironic given that they lived under a supposedly Marxist state for 50 years. It clearly never bothered to explain the Marxist theory of the state to the East Germans. Either that or they went in rose eyed nevertheless.

Well, they are getting a practical lesson now, though it is unlikely that many of them grasp what is going on at a fundamental level. To be fair, most ppl in the west who have lived their entire lives under the capitalist state fail to get it. Ppl have all sorts of subjectivity that blinds them (eg. patriotism, socialisation, conformism), it is just a part of how human societies functions. The ideational superstructure reflects the economic base, both politically and in the ideas of the ppl.

Winston Stanley

13th September 2019 at 1:07 am

Some quotes from Marx and Engels on the class basis of the State. The state exists to further the interests of the ruling class, in our time the bourgeoisie. Hence the German state will do what suits German capital, just as the British state will do what suits British capital. That includes the migration of additional workers, whether settled workers like that or not. I have kept the quotes well brief, the texts contain much further discussion.

> Marx: The German Ideology

Material Life the Basis of the State

… The material life of individuals, which by no means depends merely on their “will”, their mode of production and form of intercourse, which mutually determine each other — this is the real basis of the state and remains so at all the stages at which division of labour and private property are still necessary, quite independently of the will of individuals. These actual relations are in no way created by the state power; on the contrary they are the power creating it. The individuals who rule in these conditions — leaving aside the fact that their power must assume the form of the state — have to give their will, which is determined by these definite conditions, a universal expression as the will of the state, as law, an expression whose content is always determined by the relations of this class, as the civil and criminal law demonstrates in the clearest possible way…

The same applies to the classes which are ruled, whose will plays just as small a part in determining the existence of law and the state. For example, so long as the productive forces are still insufficiently developed to make competition superfluous, and therefore would give rise to competition over and over again, for so long the classes which are ruled would be wanting the impossible if they had the “will” to abolish competition and with it the state and the law. Incidentally, too, it is only in the imagination of the ideologist that this “will” arises before relations have developed far enough to make the emergence of such a will possible. After relations have developed sufficiently to produce it, the ideologist is able to imagine this will as being purely arbitrary and therefore as conceivable at all times and under all circumstances.

> Marx: Communist Manifesto

The bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.

> Engels: Socialism, Scientific and Utopian

And the modern State, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine — the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital.

> Engels: Ludwig Feurbach and End of Classical German Philosophy

If we enquire into this, we discover that in modern history the will of the state is, on the whole, determined by the changing needs of civil society, by the supremacy of this or that class, in the last resort, by the development of the productive forces and relations of exchange.

But if even in our modern era, with its gigantic means of production and communication, the state is not an independent domain with an independent development, but one whose existence as well as development is to be explained in the last resort by the economic conditions of life of society… If the state even today, in the era of big industry and of railways, is on the whole only a reflection, in concentrated form, of the economic needs of the class controlling production… If the state and public law are determined by economic relations…

The more it [the state] becomes the organ of a particular class, the more it directly enforces the supremacy of that class. The fight of the oppressed class against the ruling class becomes necessarily a political fight, a fight first of all against the political dominance of this class.

> Engels to Borgius

What we understand by the economic conditions, which we regard as the determining basis of the history of society, are the methods by which human beings in a given society produce their means of subsistence and exchange the products among themselves (in so far as division of labour exists). Thus the entire technique of production and transport is here included. According to our conception this technique also determines the method of exchange and, further, the division of products, and with it, after the dissolution of tribal society, the division into classes also and hence the relations of lordship and servitude and with them the state, politics, law, etc.

> Engels: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State

As the state arose from the need to keep class antagonisms in check, but also arose in the thick of the fight between the classes, it is normally the state of the most powerful, economically ruling class, which by its means becomes also the politically ruling class, and so acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. The ancient state was, above all, the state of the slave-owners for holding down the slaves, just as the feudal state was the organ of the nobility for holding down the peasant serfs and bondsmen, and the modern representative state is the instrument for exploiting wage-labor by capital…

Winston Stanley

13th September 2019 at 1:23 am

Engels, from the last quoted text: “OK, so lets have a fight with the capitalist state when the time comes.”

> And lastly the possessing class rules directly by means of universal suffrage. As long as the oppressed class – in our case, therefore, the proletariat – is not yet ripe for its self-liberation, so long will it, in its majority, recognize the existing order of society as the only possible one and remain politically the tail of the capitalist class, its extreme left wing. But in the measure in which it matures towards its self-emancipation, in the same measure it constitutes itself as its own party and votes for its own representatives, not those of the capitalists. Universal suffrage is thus the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the modern state; but that is enough. On the day when the thermometer of universal suffrage shows boiling-point among the workers, they as well as the capitalists will know where they stand.

Gerard Barry

13th September 2019 at 9:28 am

Germany may be a capitalist “democracy” but it is also very left-wing in many ways, not least in its ridiculously generous, liberal, naive asylum laws. Seeing as the East Germans lived for years under a communist dictatorship, I understand why so many of them want to vote for a proper conservative party like the AfD. I get it that you think mass immigration is great and/or unavoidable, but don’t expect everyone to agree with you. In other words, you can’t have it both ways: you can’t enforce mass immigration on the people and then expect that none of them will rebel in the polling booth. That’s their democratic right.

Winston Stanley

13th September 2019 at 4:38 pm

Mass immigration is a purely capitalist policy, there is nothing “left wing” about it. Yes it probably is inevitable within the context of capitalism, which is the reality of the situation. My own subjectivity is completely irrelevant and I have no “feelings” on the matter one way or the other. Yes they can vote for who they want simply b/c that is the law as it stands and not b/c I say so, again my own subjectivity is completely irrelevant to that question, it is determining of nothing. The situation is what it is and it would continue to be did I exist or not.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 7:19 pm

Marriage in UK is gradually becoming a quaint institution for lonely ppl in their 70s?

DM today.

The end of marriage? Proportion of women who are hitched dips below 50 per cent in England and Wales while the single population SOARS

The proportion of women who are married in England and Wales has dipped below 50 per cent while the number of people who are single continues to increase.

Proportion of women married in England and Wales was 49.5 per cent in 2018
Proportion of men married also falling, dropping 1.8 per cent since 2008
Single population increased by 369,000 between 2017 and 2018 to 16.7 million

The proportion of women who are married in England and Wales has dipped below 50 per cent while the number of people who are single continues to increase.

New data published by the Office for National Statistics today shows that since 2008 the proportion of men who are married has fallen by 1.8 per cent from 53.3 per cent to 51.5 per cent.

But the number is now below 50 per cent for women, having dropped by 1.3 per cent from 50.8 per cent a decade ago to 49.5 per cent in 2018.

However, the overall size of the married population increased over the past decade because of overall increases in the size of the population.

The statistics represent a potentially landmark moment for the institution of marriage in England and Wales as the proportion of people getting hitched continues to slide.

Edward Morgan, from the Centre for Ageing and Demography at the ONS, said: ‘In England and Wales, around half of the population aged 16 years and over were married in 2018.

‘The proportion of people married has been in decline over the last decade, while the single population has been increasing.

‘However, those in their 70s and beyond are seeing a different trend where, despite a modest rise in the divorced population, the proportion of people aged 70 years and over who are married has been increasing at a greater rate.’

Overall, the proportion of the population aged 16 and over in England and Wales who are married has continued its slow fall to 50.5 per cent, down slightly on the 51 per cent recorded in 2017.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 8:18 pm

What’s that got to do with the AfD in Germany?

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 8:51 pm

It is the same demographic trend. The situation in Germany fits into a wider European picture. It is important to recognise the wider patterns and the underlying common trends, as well as the local peculiarities.

Germany is blazing a trail with the incorporation of refugees into the society and economy.

The EU birth rate fell from 2.65 in 1964 to 1.44 in 1998 and it is stable at 1.59 in 2017. That is a 75.7% replenishment rate, which means that the number of births would fall to 57% in 2 generations, to 32.7% over 4 and to 18.6%, over 6 generations, of the present number. The direction is inexorably downward.

UK gets hundreds of thousands of migrants per year from EU and also from outside of the EU, six million over the last decade. So far we have not needed to rely on refugees, we get plenty of non-EU migration anyway. German has a law that non-EU migration must be high skilled, which limits its ability to get non-EU migrants. Refugees allow them to do that. We do not have that high skilled policy. The Brexit Party wants to bring it in, but BP is posturing, it is nowhere near government anyway.

UK is probably hoping that it can continue to draw in EU migration and non-refugee non-EU migration for the foreseeable.

Even if the DM article had no direct relevance to AfD, what are you going to do about it? The wider picture is interesting nevertheless.

Winston Stanley

14th September 2019 at 12:28 am

It was a mistake of custom to say “we”, obviously I meant the British capitalist state, which is obviously nothing whatsoever to do with me. I have said before that I do not “identify” with this society let alone with the British State. I bear it no allegiance and I recognise no authority or debt. Just wanted to clarify that embarrassing typo.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 7:09 pm


“A recent study by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees found that almost 35 percent of refugees who had arrived in Germany in 2015 had a job by October 2018, compared with 20 percent the previous year.”

Since when is an employment rate of 35% something to be pleased about? That means the other 65% don’t have a job! After being in the country for three years! In earlier times, a person was expected to start working straightaway as soon as they arrived in a country, yet you’re praising the refugees in Germany because a mere one-third of them have a job after three years. Do you realise how much it costs the state to look after those who don’t have work? For crying out loud, come into the real world.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 7:33 pm

Employment rates are gradually increasing. Hundreds of thousands are in language and integration courses and moving on to vocational training. Half are ending up in skilled work so far. Give it another five years and we can evaluate it then. Maybe it takes a few years but then, kids take 18-21 years to prepare for work.

Be clear, Germany took in their refugees for demographic and economic reasons, medium and long term. Obviously Germany looks more than three years ahead. It is learning how to integrate refugees into the society and economy and it is rapidly establishing the social infrastructure to do that.

The project is progressing better than expected and Germany will be better positioned to extend the project in the future. The biggest threat to Germany and its economy is demographic and refugees are set to be a significant part of the demographic input mix going forward.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 8:25 pm

“Employment rates are gradually increasing. Hundreds of thousands are in language and integration courses and moving on to vocational training. Half are ending up in skilled work so far. Give it another five years and we can evaluate it then. Maybe it takes a few years but then, kids take 18-21 years to prepare for work.”

Are you working for the German government? I don’t want to see the employment rates rising gradually, I want to see them rising rapidly so that these people stop being a drain on the German state. The language and integration courses cost a fortune. Give it a further five years, you say? Why on earth should these people be able to live off the expense of the state for such a long period of time before finally standing on their own two feet? As for it taking kids 18-21 years to be prepared for work, that’s a false comparison as these will usually be citizens of the country they live in and/or will have working parents contributing to the upkeep of the education system with the taxes that they pay. Refugees are non-citizen newcomers and get everything handed to them on a plate – for years evidently.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 9:27 pm

You are attempting to moralise the situation, which is irrelevant and I am not going to play that game. The German government has obviously undertaken this project with a medium and long-term view to the demographic sustenance of the German economy. Business leaders are happy with how it is working out so far, better than expected. Germany is learning how to do it and it is putting the infrastructure in place that will allow it to do it better in the future. The greatest threat to the German economy is demographic and the German state is undertaking projects to address that. Unsurprisingly the overriding concern of the German state is not whether or not you personally like immigrants. It is a capitalist state and it will do what suits German capital, just as the British state does what suits British capital. That is the real world in which you live. If it did not suit the German state then it would not have done it in the first place and business would not continue to support it as it does. Your argument is with German capital and I fancy that it already did its homework in the first place.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 11:13 am

“The ‘most important message’ from Saxony’s election result was that the ‘friendly Saxony’ had won, said Michael Kretschmer, the state’s CDU minister president. As if reading from the same script, Brandenburg’s minister president, the SPD’s Dietmar Woidke, emphasised that ‘the face of Brandenburg would remain friendly’. Of course, ‘friendly’ is a code word for mainstream or pro-establishment”

This demonisation of the AfD and their voters as being “unfriendly” is typical of attitude of the established political parties in Germany. As someone who has been living in Germany for years, I can attest to the fact that political affiliation here has nothing to do with being friendly or “unfriendly” (this s9ould be obvious really). I mix mostly with “liberal” Germans and, for all their alleged “tolerance” and so on, they can be downright cold and “unfriendly”. It’s quite pathetic – not to mention disturbing and unfair – that politics has been reduced to a level where people’s motivations for voting as they so wish are attributed to their having moral flaws (in this case being “unfriendly” towards outsiders).

Amelia Cantor

12th September 2019 at 10:15 am

The AfD are gangrene in the wounds that were dealt by Angela Merkel to racist white Germany when she opended the borders to vulnerable migrants. That is, the AfD smell and look very nasty but won’t be there for long. The wounds are fatal, because racist white Germany will soon be overwhelmed by the growth in BAME communities. And when they’ve grown enough, another permanent progressive majority will lock in. No more “free speech”, no more racism, no more AfD!

Ed Turnbull

12th September 2019 at 12:36 pm

Indeed Amelia, Germany must be deeply thankful to ‘Mutti’ Merkel for opening the borders and inviting in a goodly number of progressive vulnerable migrants of colour. The cultural enrichment that has resulted is to be welcome. Consider the benefits the vulnerable migrants of colour have conferred upon their host nation:

They exposed the serious traffic managment shortcomings around Xmas markets – the risk to life and limb of runaway trucks of peace. Xmas markets are now far safer as a result.

They’ve greatly helped to improve the safety of wombyn – following the community engagement fo vulnerable migrants of colour at the Cologne New Year celebrations a few years back wombyn now have a thorough understanding of the dangers of going out wfter dark, particularly without a male guardian (as is the sensible tradition in the vunerable migrants of colour’s countries of origin). Consequently wombyn are increasingly remaining indoors, and are at far less risk of exposure to toxic masculinity. Ok, following Cologne there were a few allegations of ‘sexual assault’ but consider: these came mostly from *white* wombyn (can we even consider them to *be* wombyn?), who are no doubt infected with internalised misogyny and unconcious racism. Also, Harvey Weinstein was nowhere near Cologne at the time, so how can any ‘sexual assault’ have taken place? No, Germany must thank the migrants of colour for their cultural enrichment, and the AfD should take their ‘facts’ and stuff them. In an intersectional way, of course.

Ven Oods

12th September 2019 at 1:42 pm

You missed out ‘cisgender’ again…

Identity Redacted

12th September 2019 at 8:29 pm

No more Germans then eh?

Gerard Barry

14th September 2019 at 12:14 pm

Unfortunately that seems to be the trend here (I live in Germany). The weird thing is most of the Germans themselves don’t even seem that concerned, or if they do they hide it well. I was talking to a colleague at work recently about the issue of migration. I said that I think it would be a pity if, in the future, all countries ended up looking the same in terms of their ethnic make-up, i.e. if they all became multicultural. She said she wasn’t bothered as we were on our way towards a Tower of Babel situation anyway with people of different cultures living side by side. She also said she viewed demographic changes as being part of evolution, no less. In other words, the people here seem more or less resigned to the fact of ethnic Germans being a minority in Germany some time in the future. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Jim Lawrie

12th September 2019 at 9:59 am

Could it simply be that the legacy of 45 years of communism and now thirty years without it, East Germans have looked at all the options with fresh eyes and decided for themselves.

The European left thought that when the wall came down such people would, given their education in Marxism, flock to the banner of true Communism carried by various Western leftist groups. They didn’t and they never will . The left refuse to see that they are finished. The left still think they know best, as in telling us all how we need immigration. A failed experiment, but in the best leftist traditions, they tell us the failure is to be remedied by more of the same. Like we are all stupid. Or bigoted. Or worse.

The above article tells us virtually nothing.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 3:05 am

“That AfD voters might simply hold different political values or views on climate policy, immigration and the family is rarely considered.”

Which raises Fehrle’s point about whether AfD are realistic about what is possible in politics. Germany has a low birth rate, the population is rapidly aging and it relies on immigration for demographic and economic stability.

The Germany fertility rate fell from 2.53 kids per woman 1966 to a low of 1.24 in 1994 and it now stands at 1.46 for 2018. The present fertility rate of 1.46 is a replenishment rate of 70%. The number of births thus halves every two generations.

Until recently Germany had the lowest birth rate in the world, it is now 213th out of 226 countries (CIA Factbook).

Over 16,000,000 in Germany have an immigrant background. “In 2008, 18.4% of Germans of any age group and 30% of German children had at least one parent born abroad… In 2015, 36% children under 5 years old had migrant background.” (Wiki)

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 7:18 am

Germany has the sixth highest divorce rate in the world at 44% compared to 42% in UK. (Globally 37% of all Christian marriages end in divorce. The rate in India is 1%.) German marriages last 15 years on average compared to 11 years in UK.

German spouses divorce because they do not get on and they cannot talk to each other.

“Through the years, the causes of divorce in Germany has changed through time. The old issues such as alcoholism, infidelity, and violence were taken over by incompatibility and communication issues.” (Unified Lawyers)

German men and women marry at 33 and 30 years old on average respectively, compared to 38 and 35 in UK.

Jim Lawrie

12th September 2019 at 9:46 am

We do not need to maintain the populations at previous levels. Unless you want to turn the clock back to 3 million miners amd a million agricultural labourers.
We live in a technological age. The calibre and IQ of many immigrants is not up to that, and cannot be made so, and many East European societies are left bereft o those who are.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 5:38 pm

The UK economy is mainly low (40%) and medium skilled (30%) employment. A particularly high IQ is not needed for the vast majority of jobs here. After all, the average IQ here is 100. Children with an immigrant background, including Africans, do better in UK schools than British kids and they do nearly as well in the job market. Their employment level is very high, much higher than historical British employment levels.

The UK economy obviously does need more workers through immigration, which is why UK has immigration. It is not an ill-conceived evil “plot”, it is driven by the needs and demands of business. We live under a capitalist state and capital gets what it needs and wants, which means lots of immigration.

Your anti-immigration arguments are counter-factual and you disregard the realities of the society. You argue tendentiously and inaccurately.

Garreth Byrne

12th September 2019 at 9:22 am

Deutschland braucht Kinder, Küche, Kirche, ja? Maybe other jaded industrial democracies need a baby boom too. I’ve read somewhere that immigrants are the children we (indigenous citizens) decided not to have. Attitudes to immigration depend a lot on perceived surplus or deficit of jobs relative to young manpower supply. But there is something unmindful of labour demographics called ethnic and national chauvinism. There are other factors influencing the rise of AfD in eastern Germany: Western German affluence compared to widespread subsistence incomes in the former DDR. There is a nostalgia for the social patriotism of the former communist state that the fatcat democratic patriotism of the former Western Bundesrepublik has not succeeded in replacing. There is the failure of the Berlin government to intervene firmly to correct the laisser-faire tendency of capitalism to invest in the most ‘favoured’ regions. There are cultural and regional nuances not sufficiently explored by materialist minded journos and intellectuals in Western Germany.

Jim Lawrie

12th September 2019 at 10:15 am

“There are cultural and regional nuances not sufficiently explored by materialist minded journos and intellectuals in Western Germany.” My impression was that the article was written with minimal research, no field work and a large dollop of technical trivia to disguise that.
I fail to see how the mention an AFD guy being associated with Swastika waving in Greece twelve years ago is anything other than joining in with the throwing of brickbats. Perhaps the author thinks it ought to be a crime all over Europe, not just in Germany.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 5:50 pm

The working age population of East Germany is collapsing due to low birth rates and migration to the west. Government and business are reluctant to invest in those areas b/c they do not have the demographic basis for an economic future. The resistance to immigration in the east only compounds the situation. The problem in the east is not lack of jobs but lack of workers.

> Eastern Germany on the brink of demographic collapse

Policymakers question whether to pour funds into areas with declining working-age population

Demographers say little can be done. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, eastern Germany was hit by a double blow, with turmoil prompting a collapse in the birth rate and an exodus of young workers to the west. Most of the region now has so few women of childbearing age that recovery and reversal are all but impossible. “At some point, there are simply too few people left who can physically have children,” said Susanne Dähner, one of the authors of the Berlin Institute study. Elbe-Elster is an extreme but far from isolated case.

Of 77 districts in eastern Germany, 41 are projected to lose at least 30 per cent of their working-age population by 2035. Much larger western Germany has only two such districts. Just five eastern towns and cities — Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Potsdam and Jena — are expected to maintain or increase their population aged 20 to 64.

Joachim Ragnitz, a professor of economics at Dresden University of Technology, said demography was among the biggest challenges facing the region. “There are a handful of cities that are growing, but elsewhere regions are shrinking rapidly and ageing rapidly at the same time. This has major economic implications: companies will not be able to find workers and regional disparities will rise sharply,” he said. Ms Dähner said: “For a long time, the problem of eastern Germany was, above all, the lack of jobs. Now you almost have the opposite problem: they are running out of workers.”

The government has promised to address the economic pain of the phase-out with an estimated €40bn of compensation over two decades. Where and how to spend that money will depend not least on an assessment of which towns and regions in the east have a demographic future.

Jim Lawrie

12th September 2019 at 10:24 am

So immigrants breed more immigrants. Look at the ever increasing ratio and number of blacks in London, the crime they commit, the fear and tension that creates, and consequent white flight. Spend a few days in Lewisham or Southwark where the police are a rarity, and tell us what we need more of.

Gerard Barry

12th September 2019 at 11:33 am

Recent statistics show that two-thirds of refugees in Germany are unemployed. The idea that such people are “needed” to prevent population decline is ludicrous. If Germany “needs” workers, the Germany should either produce them themselves (i.e. have more children) or admit working immigrants, instead of pretending that refugees are some sort of boon to the country. In any case, I see noting wrong with a bit of population decline – Germany is very densely populated.

Jane 70

12th September 2019 at 1:26 pm

I’ll try to get this past the Spiked moderator :

This article contains much good sense and challenges the currently dominant Ponzi schemes promoted by all politicians: rapidly growing numbers will converge with equally rapid developments in AI and automation.

Many jobs will disappear,to be replaced by highly specialised positions dependent on particular skills. What will happen to those whose services are no longer required? those whose cultures, languages and beliefs differ significantly from those of the host countries?

we face enormous and significant challenges in the coming years and events in Germany are an indicator.

Ven Oods

12th September 2019 at 1:53 pm

Germany has 80.6 miilion population in 357022 sq km. (4430 sq km per million folk).
UK has 64.4 miilion population in 243610 sq km. (3782 sq km per million folk).

Which makes Deutschland rather roomier than UK…

Jim Lawrie

12th September 2019 at 2:22 pm

We are seeing the end of the traditional retail trade and huge numbers of jobs disappearing. Delivery robots, supplied by driverless vans, will replace them. Millions of drivers will go the same way as the miners.

Winston Stanley

12th September 2019 at 5:29 pm

Refugees are taking integration and language courses, doing training, and gradually integrating into the German economy better than expected. Germany very much needs more skilled workers, as well as unskilled, and refugees are increasingly matching up. They have the chance of a lifetime and they are taking it. Germany is well-equipped to make it happen with the services and opportunities that it provides. It is estimated that Germany needs 500,000 immigrants per year to maintain the economy. Non-EU migration is limited by law to high skilled workers. Refugees offer an opportunity to boost the intake and the early indications are that they can contribute to the desired outcome. (The British tabloid press has never updated its scare stories.) Some who have trained and taken employment are being deported due to political pressures.

> Increasingly, that path is paying off.

A recent study by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees found that almost 35 percent of refugees who had arrived in Germany in 2015 had a job by October 2018, compared with 20 percent the previous year.

Researchers also found that many refugees managed to find work despite language difficulties and a lack of formal vocational qualifications that are normally vital to securing employment in Germany.

“What surprised us is that about a bit more than 50 percent of the refugees are working in skilled jobs, which usually require vocational training certificates or higher certificates, although only 20 percent of the refugee population have such types of certificates,” Herbert Bruecker of the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), which helped produce the study, told Al Jazeera. (Al Jazeera)

> Many among the more than one million people who arrived in Germany as migrants or refugees since 2015 are integrating speedily through work, the head of a key business group said Friday.

“Today more than 400,000 are in employment or training… even I am surprised at how quickly it’s progressing,” Ingo Kramer, head of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“The vast majority are in jobs subject to social security contributions, and that integrates them into society,” he added. “Business leaders are getting it done.”

Businesses in Germany are desperate for new workers, as with economic recovery the headline unemployment rate has sunk over the years to 5.0 percent, making available skilled labour increasingly scarce.

“Most young migrants can speak German so well after one year of study that they can follow classes in a vocational school,” Kramer said.

That was good news for “Mittelstand” small- and medium-sized firms — often hailed as the backbone of the German economy — in their search for employees, he added. (local de)

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