Germans Gloomy About the Future | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.03.2006
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Germans Gloomy About the Future

A study by the Emnid research institute reveals that Germany's 50-plus generation are happier with their lot than their European peers, but feel considerably more pessimistic about the future.


What does their future hold?

"Germans do tend to worry about the future," said Emnid CEO Peter Schöppner at the presentation of the report in Berlin.

Their fellow fifty-somethings in Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Poland agree that life might well take a financial turn for the worse when they become pensioners, but Germans expect a far bleaker future than anyone else.

According to the survey which questioned 500 people in their fifties in six EU countries, what niggles them most are fears about care in their old age, illness and crime. And most of them dread being financially worse off in twenty years time than they are today.

Even so, their fears are general rather than specific -- and somewhat contradictory. While somberly predicting that life will be much worse for the elderly in 20 years time than it is today, 63 percent of them say they're upbeat about their own twilight years -- compared to the 65 percent in France who look forward to growing old gracefully and the 74 percent of Brits who think old age is when the fun really starts.

Fi n e for n ow

Rentner joggt am Strand p178

Germans like to stay fit even in their old age

But the future appears to be what bothers Germans most -- because for the time being, most Germans in their fifties are actually surprisingly pleased with themselves. Eighty-nine percent of them say they have all the friends they need, 74 percent are satisfied with their health-care, 76 percent feel financially secure and 64 percent describe themselves as open to new experiences.

And despite their glum outlook on what lies in store, Germans are the ones best-prepared for the ageing process.

"Germans plan for their future exceptionally well," said Schöppner, pointing out that they do more sports and eat more sensibly then many of their European counterparts.

"People up to the age of 75 are as healthy today as the rest of the population," he added.

Pessimistic -- or just realistic?

Unfortunately, they might have a point. Germany will indeed face serious social problems when the full effects of its ageing population start to kick in.

Kinder auf dem Weg zur Randgruppe in Deutschland mit Galeriebild

Germany's population is ageing fast

"Those born in the mid-60s grew up in a very youthful society," said Meinhard Miegel, director of the Institute for Economics and Society in Bonn. "But by the time they're senior citizens in the 2040s, the percentage of 20-year-olds will have dropped by 50 percent and the percentage of 60-year-olds will have doubled."

So maybe Germans have just done the math.

"If over one third of a society is over 60, the state won't be able to afford its welfare system," Miegel said.

"A golden age is coming to an end," he said, referring to Germany's post-war economic miracle. "No one in Germany will end up starving under bridges, but the state can no longer keep the promise it once made to guarantee individual living standards for pensioners."

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