How can we solve the immigration problem
"You cannot solve age structure problems through immigration."
Herwig Birk: I hope not, because the line that is being negotiated could lead to an immigration law, but whether that solves more problems than it creates is definitely a question.
Heinlein: What would you want from politics?
Birk: A clarification of the basic question of whether Germany, as in the last 30 years, wants to replace the generations leaving the dead with immigration on this large scale, or whether it will not - which would have long been due - return to its own stability, i.e. to more births domestically. We now have just as many immigrants to Germany each year as there are births in Germany each year. That is a very remarkable fact for decades, as I said. If it is maintained in the long run, we would have to have more and more immigrants, more and more immigrants per head of a birth, so to speak, and the birth deficit would still build up, because immigration can solve demographic problems, and certainly not age structure problems. You can only conceal it temporarily, but you can't solve it.
Heinlein: But does that exclude the new family policy and a kind of immigration policy that you are calling for? Both together could be the solution to our demographic problems.
Birk: Correct. So I'm not against immigration policy - on the contrary. I just ask not to lose sight of the realities, i.e. which goals can be achieved with immigration policy and which cannot. That should be clear. First of all, we have to say that we already have an immigration law, namely in the form of the Basic Law. That guarantees, for example, immigration for people who seek asylum, if they are really politically persecuted, also for civil war refugees. This large part of the annual immigration is already regulated in the Basic Law. The immigration law now suggests to the population as if this part could also be subject to contingent control, i.e. limited upwards, or could be designed through selection in such a way that only those who we need come. That is not possible, I also want to say, thank God, not possible, because humanitarian immigration must be preserved. In other words, however, that means that humanitarian immigration brings out of itself, namely through the offspring, a supply of workers who also have to find jobs. If these jobs are not there, then we have what our interior minister calls and rejects immigration into the welfare system. Unfortunately, the words of the interior minister and the actions of the government do not coincide.
Heinlein: What you have just said, that it is not possible to get highly qualified immigrants, is being tried by politics and the German economy is also demanding that. Why do you think it is out of the question to bring highly qualified employees from abroad, from other European countries, here to Germany?
Birk: I don't think that's out of the question. I only have to consider that in addition to the highly qualified immigrants, whom we will hopefully be able to recruit more in the future, we also have unqualified immigrants, in particular old, sick and frail people in the context of humanitarian immigration who have to live on something and not have the high salaries that we expect from the highly skilled immigrants. So it has to go together. One should therefore set two quota of immigrants annually or at longer intervals: a clear humanitarian quota and a second quota for the highly qualified immigrants possible for economic reasons, and the two numbers should not be offset against each other, but should be decided separately from one another .
Heinlein: And you do not think it is possible that politicians, the government and the opposition, will bring about the law you have outlined in the negotiations?
Birk: No, because we already have a constitution. If you change the Basic Law, then I think it is possible, but as long as the current Basic Law applies, i.e. without limiting the number of humanitarian immigrants, an agreement with two immigration quotas is not possible, is excluded.
Heinlein: How much immigration is necessary to compare the demographic development in Germany or at least to alleviate the foreseeable consequences?
Birk: So if you wanted to keep the age structure constant, i.e. to ensure that no more and more elderly people are in the middle age group, 3.5 million net would have to immigrate to Germany annually, namely younger people. That adds up to 188 million over the decades by 2050, if you want to keep the age structure constant, and that is precisely the aim of the Immigration Act to improve the demographic age structure here. You can see from these numbers that the goal is illusory, which is why I also say that the law propagates something that it cannot keep. If one pursues another goal of keeping the population constant - which, by the way, no one is striving for, including myself - then less will suffice. Then about 100,000 immigrants a year would be enough at the moment. But we have over 200,000 a year. However, more would then be needed from year to year, until 750,000 around 2040.
Heinlein: On the issue of labor emigration - a point you also mentioned - the government and the opposition seem to be converging. The recruitment ban for highly qualified immigrants is to be lifted. Do you think that makes sense and is possible? Can you explain this point again?
Birk: Yes, I consider the point to be sensible, possible and even absolutely necessary. There must always be exceptions to the general rules we are discussing. There must be such exceptions for highly qualified people, perhaps also for other shortage occupations, nursing staff, etc. For those occupations that cannot be found domestically, there must of course be exemptions. But we are now talking about the basic ideas, and the basic ideas are not properly regulated by this law. The heading of the law deals with something different from the actual individual paragraphs, and that does not fit together. I only notice that the reasons are incorrect. So the reasons for more immigration are not correct, because by 2020 we would still have enough offspring from the local population development. The female employment rate could also be increased in order to meet all labor market needs if the economy were to pick up. Only then, after 15 to 20 years, will it become increasingly scarce, and until then a successful family policy could help defuse the problem.
Heinlein: Thank you for the interview.
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