Labor Shortage Hurts Germany’s High-tech Economic Boom
Ole Brandenburg, online marketing director for the German company dooyoo, a high-tech on-line marketing firm, announced on 8 March 2000 that a shortage of high-tech workers has had a negative impact on his company, and may indicate hard times ahead for Germany’s economy. “We could hire five people right now just to focus on programming, but it’s hard to find them,” Brandenburg said. “It’s very difficult to find high-quality people, especially in programming.”
Up-and-coming companies like dooyoo are part of a revved-up economy that attracted US $2.8 billion in venture capital last year, up 57 percent over the previous year, according to B VK Venture Capital Association. That makes Germany the largest market in Europe for technology investments. The 3-year-old, technology-oriented Neuer Markt index in Frankfurt, which has 220 members, has grown 80 percent this year, a better performance than the US Nasdaq.
Germany’s current high-tech labor shortage will likely threaten continued economic expansion, just as America’s high-tech workers shortage stands to threaten the boom in the US economy. To members of the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress on 17 February 2000, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that “[a]s we are creating an ever more complex, sophisticated, accelerated economy, the necessity to have the ability to bring in resources and people from abroad to keep it functioning strikes me as a relevant policy.” Greenspan wants to increase the annual immigration quota by 130,000 because he fears that an acute shortage of hi-tech workers will hobble the economy, impeding further economic growth.
If America imports high-tech workers from Germany, Germany’s economy would be further threatened. The only real long-term solution to labor shortages in Germany, America and other developed countries currently suffering from labor shortages would be to raise the Total Fertility Rate (TFR).
The main cause of the shortage of German workers is the decline in birthrates between 1965 and 1970. At that time, Germany’s Total Fertility rate plummeted from 2.3 births per woman on average to 1.6. Currently, Germany’s TFR is at 1.3.Had Germany’s population remained at replacement, there would not be a worker shortage today in Germany, and there may have been a German high-tech labor surplus to compensate for the shortage of workers in America.
(Steve Kettmann, “Where Are the Workers?” Wired, 8 March 2000, http://wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,34758,00.html; PRI’s Weekly Briefing, “Robbing from the Poor: Underpopulation Strikes America,” 3 March 2000, Volume 2 / Number 5, https://www.pop.org/briefings/robpoor.htm.)
JP II to Italians: Every Child is an Immense Gift
Speaking on Pro-Life Day in Italy on 6 February 2000, Pope John Paul II said that “It is up to married couples above all to reinvigorate the culture of love and life by rediscovering their mission as parents which they accepted at the time of their marriage.” The Pope expressed concerns over Italy’s population decline, and reminded his general audience that “every child is an immense gift: for the couple, the family, the Church, and society.”
Italy’s population has been in decline for several years. This year, Italy’s population is 57.1 million. It is projected to fall to 36.7 million by 2050, according to the UN Population Division. Italy’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 1.14. In other words, the average number of children born per Italian woman of child-bearing age is far below replacement (2.1). The Italian birthrate is the second lowest in Europe. The TFR of Spain is 1.09.
(L’Osservatore Romano, 9 February 2000; UN Population Division, “World Population Prospects,” The 1998 Revision, 235,371.)
India Launches Controversial Population Policy
A new policy that passed India’s parliament last month, offering incentives to encourage parents to become sterilized after having two children, is in violation of an international convention, analysts in India said.
The UN’s 1984 Cairo Declaration on population control repudiated all “incentives” to control population growth, saying governments should focus instead on trying to convince people of the alleged link between smaller families and higher standards of living, G.K. Sharma of the Family Planning Institute of India said.
Indian parliamentarians supportive of the harsh policy pledged “to translate our personal commitment into political action, as set forth in this Declaration, both in our national legislatures and elsewhere, as appropriate, and to encourage others to join us in meeting this urgent challenge” of reducing India’s population.
Indian Health Minister N.T. Shanmugham quickly gaveled Cabinet approval for the new policy. He said it comprised 16 promotional measures to check population growth, and offered special praise for a family welfare-linked health insurance scheme for couples who undergo sterilization after their second child.
Needless to say, the government’s population control measures are coming under fire. The executive director of the Population Foundation of India, K. Srinivasan, said he did not support the adoption of such harsh measures to curb population.
India could not follow China’s lead, he said, which brutally enforces one-child families. “Target-oriented population control has not worked in India” or elsewhere, Srinivasan said.
When in 1994 a statist committee on population policy submitted target-oriented prescriptions to the Indian parliament, health professionals and non-governmental organizations criticized the “promotional measures” of the plan such as prohibiting parents with more than two children from voting and running for office. Critics argued this was tantamount to penalizing women whose options of family size were limited by their caste. The committee suggested disqualifying poor parents with more than two children from receiving ration cards.
Indian lawmakers recently blocked legislation prohibiting parents of three or more children from holding public office. A vocal minority has vowed to curry support and offer the bill again.
India’s penchant for population control is well known. India was the first country in the developing world to initiate a state-sponsored family planning program in 1952. Since independence in 1947, India’s fertility rate has been cut from six births per woman of child-bearing age to 3.5, while the birth rate has declined from 40 per 1,000 in the 1960s to 28 per 1,000 in 1995–96. In a disastrous population control program in the 1970s, Sanjay Gandhi, son of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, encouraged doctors to sterilize as many people as possible. Some, primarily women in the poorer castes, were forced to undergo operations or were sterilized without their knowledge. In recent years, India’s population growth has been met with unprecedented economic growth and increases in standard of living.
(“India’s New Population Policy Raises Concerns,” by Suryamurthy Ramachandran, (CNS News, 16 February, 2000.)