Professor Reinhardt, the demographic change in Germany is leading to a change in both the age structure and the structure of households. Against this background, what challenges do you see in Germany’s future?
There are numerous challenges involving almost every aspect of our lives. For example, town planners need to consider the need for smaller living spaces; the consumer goods industry needs to recognize that pensioners are becoming trend setters; politicians will be faced with the decision of whether to provide money for nursery schools or for old people’s homes; and employers will once again employ people who are 55, 60 or 65, as there is simply not enough young manpower.
The demographic map of Germany is already characterized by clear regional differences between urban areas and rural areas where there are more children. In your opinion, what is the structural impact of this and how could this be addressed?
The number of one-person and two-person households has undoubtedly increased both in urban areas and in the countryside. A key challenge here is making inner city living space affordable for families and making the rural areas attractive (again) for childless and older citizens. Pensioners, single people and couples are increasingly choosing a more concentrated life in city centers – with a wide variety of cultural activities, good medical care, easy access to shopping and cafes and restaurants right on the doorstep. At the same time, families are moving to the suburbs or to the countryside, but have to stay mobile in order to be able to commute between work, leisure and home. It is important to at least maintain the current mix, so that the established structures can be preserved and then ideally expanded gradually.
Germany ranks far behind other European countries in terms of both birth rate and child friendliness. In your study “why Germans do not have children
Currently, only one in five Germans considers the country to be child-friendly. This figure is a cause for concern. Nevertheless, citizens make a number of suggestions on how to improve the situation. For example, the majority of Germans call for more state support for families and – this I find interesting – more state support for family-friendly companies. As well as this, over half of those asked said that they were sympathetic to family-friendly companies and would be more likely to buy their products. When companies recognize what sort of opportunities family-friendliness offers – both in terms of employing staff and also in terms of marketing – and make their contribution to this policy, family-friendliness in Germany will increase again
What do you imagine life will be like in 2030?
My wife and I will continue to live in a mutually supportive neighborhood, and also continue to have contact with both our children and grandchildren and with our friends and colleagues. Work will still be a part of my life, one which brings me pleasure, excitement and satisfaction. The many new opportunities and achievements that will have been made by 2030 will allow me to enjoy my leisure time in a meaningful and fun way. The atmosphere in the country will be positive and optimistic, not least because Germany will have won the World Cup again in summer 2030.
Thank you very much for the interview