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A graying society brings opportunities as well as problems, says German Chancellor Angela Merkel Older workers could be just as productive as younger ones - if companies create the right conditions.
Chancellor Angela Merkel invited leaders from cities and towns across Germany as well as researchers, doctors and elderly care experts to a demography conference at the Chancellery to discuss how the would deal with its graying society.
"This issue demands our greatest attention," Merkel told her guests on Tuesday.
Germans' average life expectancy annually rises by three months, according to the German Interior Ministry. Currently there are about 50 million of working age, between 20 and 64, in Germany. By 2030 that number will likely fall by 6.3 million.
"The question we're dealing with is where qualified workers will come from and how we keep the social system stable without overwhelming contributors," Merkel said, adding that Germany's graying society needed to be seen an opportunity. "The really goods news is that we are living longer and staying healthy longer and can stay active as we age."
Merkel repeated her support for raising the retirement age to 67 by saying that demographic changes in Germany called for it and added that having more experienced employees would increase companies' productivity.
"When all the older people are missing in a company then the company is also missing experience," the chancellor said, pointing out that an automaker's project in Bavaria showed that special slower production lines staffed by older employees proved as efficiency as those with younger workers.
Lots to do, lots of ideas
Merkel's demographic strategy addresses six main points: support for families, putting in place the right conditions for a longer working life, and finding ways for older people to choose the way they work. Cooperation among federal, state and municipal institutions, securing wealth and growth and limiting state debt rounded out her plan, which is expected to be approved by her ministers on Wednesday.
Participants at the chancellor's conference met to discuss ways of addressing these points and suggested local transportation companies also delivering goods, getting the elderly to organize their own care and merging schools in areas with low demand and weak infrastructure.
"There is a lot to do but there are also a lot of ideas," Merkel said. "Our demographic strategy shows that we have to be able to learn from each other - even as we go into the autumns of our lives."
Author: Heiner Kiesel / sms
Editor: Simon Bone