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Monday, August 18, 2003

A Small Worrying Detail about Germany

Amidst the growing political storm which surrounds Germany's growing debt problems one little detail of not inconsiderable importance has escaped the lips of opposition Bavarian CSU leader Edmund Stoiber: more and more Germans are leaving Germany. I have previously blogged the detail that the number of young people leaving has doubled each year for the past two years. Now we have it, as it were, from the horses mouth (of course Stoiber is persuing his own line of argument which I in no way endorse, especially in it's more xenophobic and anti-immigrant variant).

This tendency is unfortunately just what you would expect in a globalised labour market where the young and well-educated have the ability to travel: they leave to seek a better future elsewhere, or, as they say in the UK, they vote with their feet. The process, if not arrested by a general change of mentality all round, will surely produce a bi-polar situation with some countries enjoying the increasing returns of growing young cohorts (virtually gratis) while others experience the diminishing ones of an ever older work force. (This, of course, is one of the reasons I am so interested in, and pre-occupied for, Bulgaria. Minor digression here, I am heading south - and into sunny Valencia - next weekend to resume the study, and this time I will have a companion, a young Bulgarian research student, sent, like manna from heaven, by Margy. He is here doing, can you imagine, voluntary work among seamen in the port of Barcelona. A very intelligent boy - he started ethnographic research among Bulgaria's minorities when he was still in the last years of school - and from a 'good family', he was most shocked to learn under what conditions his relatively well-educated fellow countrymen were living and working here in Spain, something like the 'wild west' he commented. My initial feeling was that the whole thing was too strong for him, and that he wasn't going to be interested. But then I thought, if he goes back to Bulgaria and does a doctorate on something else, what will he do after he finishes, come to Valencia to pick oranges and peppers? And sure enough his interest soon perked up, we even talked jokingly about the situation, with me suggesting that clearly some contact with a Spanish university might come in handy one day. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not at all being cynical here, this is simply the logical conclusion of where we are going - at least here in Europe - if things continue unchecked).

Mr Stoiber also said Mr Schröder lacked "long-term goals", and such short- termism had seen him "bleed Germany dry" of top talent by cutting investment and increasing social benefits. "About 1.4m Germans have left the country in the last 10 years, and 80 per cent of them were high-flyers who have taken their knowledge abroad," he said.

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