Veranstaltungsbericht: Berlin International Economics Congress 2014

Welche globalen Trends gibt es in der Kreativwirtschaft? Welches Potenzial hat die grüne Idee für Industrie, Bildung, Unternehmertum und Tourismus als treibende Kraft für  ein nachhaltiges Wirtschaftswachstum? Diesen Fragen widmete sich dieses Jahr der ab dem 05. März, parallel zur Internationalen Touristik Messe (ITB) stattfindende Berlin International Econoomics Congress.

Der Kongress verknüpft die Bereiche der internationalen Wirtschaft und Politik. Die drei Tage des Kongresses, wurden mit Reden, Seminaren, Podiumsdiskussionen und interaktiven Sitzungen gefüllt. Diplomaten, Wissenschaftler, Journalisten und Wirtschaftsexperten hielten neben meinem Fraktionskollegen Thomas Gambke und mir ihre Reden.

Gleich am ersten Tag des Kongresses hielt ich in englischer Sprache meine Rede: eine Prämiere! In meiner Rede, der ich den Titel  “Demographic developments in Germany and the consequences on political discussions“ gab, beschrieb ich Konsequenzen und Chancen, die sich aus dem demographischen Wandel ergeben. Dieser bedeutet für Deutschland und in der gesamten EU, entgegen dem globalen Trend, einen Bevölkerungsrückgang und stellt bereits heute die Politik vor große Herausforderungen.

 

In der Rede stelle ich unsere grünen Ideen auf die Herausforderungen des demografischen Wandels dar und verknüpfe diese mit Ideen für ein nachhaltiges Wirtschaftswachstum:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Donfried,

I am delighted to be here with you today and to have the opportunity to speak to you. I’d like to begin by introducing myself briefly: I was born in Turkey and grew up in Germany, in Bavaria. I am married and have two children.

Many people might have expected that coming from my background I would naturally want to devote myself to migration policy, but in fact I always knew that the area I wanted to focus on was children and families. This was firstly because I wanted to spare children the negative experiences I myself had growing up and secondly because there is so much scope to shape and achieve things in this area. That is why I am also an active member of UNICEF and promote its work.

In Germany much is in flux. Society is constantly changing. Demographic changes in particular confront us with major challenges. While the world’s population as a whole is growing rapidly, the reverse is happening in Germany. Society is shrinking. Our numbers are declining and in future we will have fewer and fewer children in our midst.

People are growing older and the average age is steadily rising. But what is really new about this demographic trend is not the fact that people are getting older but that we will have a completely new stratification of the generations. Up to now we have been accustomed to few old people and many young people. This social structure is set to change.

In future fewer young people will have to find new forms of social coexistence with larger numbers of older people. This requires us to rethink our ideas of old and young.

Society is becoming more colourful and the country more diverse. Already almost every fifth person in Germany has a migrant background. Cultural and religious diversity will increasingly characterise life in our ageing society from generation to generation.

As we ask ourselves what can be done to counter the ageing and shrinking of society, many people call for more immigration or a proactive population policy. But these supposed solutions fall short of the mark. Measures in the area of population policy alone can neither reverse nor halt the developments to come. In the final analysis we cannot hold back demographic change, but we can take active steps to shape it.

As with any change, demographic development also brings opportunities.

We must rethink our understanding and our expectations with respect to what government institutions and civil society should be doing. People will be working differently, living together differently and moving around differently.

In principle we need a whole-of-government strategy which incorporates demographic aspects in all areas of policy and combines adaptation strategies intelligently.

In this process the paramount concern must always be to keep in mind the interests and needs of future generations. Ensuring that we do not live beyond our means today is one of the key factors which will determine the future opportunities of coming generations. We must not live today at the expense of our children’s future.

In the various areas of policy we should already be thinking today about what will be happening tomorrow and take an open approach to questions regarding the future.

We must use the coming years to adjust to the changes that we know are coming and not wait until the challenges become ever bigger.

One of the most urgent problems of demographic change is the shortage of skilled labour which is already having an impact in some branches of industry and in some regions. The knock-on effect of the shrinking population is that the employment rate is also declining. Workforces are ageing and there is a shortage of skilled workers.

To counteract this trend, the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group in the German Bundestag is proposing a raft of measures in the areas of the labour market, immigration, education and equality.

We can no longer continue to allow children to fall through the education system, and this will apply even more over the coming decades. No talent must be allowed to fall by the wayside.

Ensuring the best educational opportunities for all is imperative in the interest of justice and of economic innovation and sustainability.

Despite having the right qualifications, many women are not integrated in the jobs market. In many cases structural obstacles, discrimination and the problems of balancing family and career make it difficult for women to access the jobs market.

It is important to dismantle these obstacles and thereby enable more women to participate in the workforce as a whole.

There is also an urgent need to improve the integration of migrants in the labour market. Germany is a country of immigration; we need people who want to live and work here.

If we want to encourage people to come to live and work in Germany, we need firstly to dismantle bureaucratic obstacles. Secondly we need simplified access regulations and attractive conditions in terms of immigration and integration policy, providing prospects for partners and educational opportunities for children.

Immigrants are future citizens and that is how we should treat them. We must emphasize the need for integration from the very start, at pre-school level, in schools and in training, but also in daily life. It must be made easier for people to come to Germany and to access the jobs market, education and training. And this also applies to migrants who are already living here.

In an ageing population we will have to work longer and longer. This means that we must alter our thinking with regard to older employees. The labour and skills of older people are crucial to our economic performance, and even a modern corporate culture which embraces diversity will not survive without a good mix of generations. This means on the one hand that we need to exploit the potential of older people, but on the other hand we must enable people to stay fit for work for as long as possible.

There must be age-appropriate working conditions so that employees can stay healthy until they retire. We also need a society that actively participates in continuing education. We must promote lifelong learning by providing a combination of good advice, time for ongoing education and intelligent funding instruments.

The effects of a shrinking and ageing population are already apparent, particularly in rural areas. A modern policy to maintain the viability of rural areas must focus on broadening employment possibilities in the countryside and putting in place integrated development concepts. Job creation must be oriented essentially to the potential existing in the various regions.

Alongside agriculture this means tourism, the production and processing of renewable raw materials, the production of renewable energies from biomass, sun and wind, and also the further processing of agricultural products. It also includes a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Services and products offered in and for the region as well as regional supply chains help sustain a well functioning community and social cohesion. Regional supply chains and business cycles need to be expanded and promoted in order to bring regional products and goods to market - think global, act local.

The internet, too, is crucial to the development of rural areas. E-government and easily accessible barrier-free internet and media services will in future play a key role in rural areas. They can compensate in part for the lack of mobility of older people and those with disabilities and help to maintain quality of life, even if in the face of a declining population traditional forms of welfare have to be restricted. Connecting rural communities to modern communication technologies such as high-speed broadband must be a priority.

We Greens regard these changes as an opportunity to put the economy on a more ecological and sustainable footing. Maintaining the status quo is not enough. Rather we must redefine prosperity and progress.

For us one thing is clear: economic growth is not the measure of all things. The fixation of policy on gross domestic product has led us astray. GDP says nothing about the important things that make a country successful.

Ultimately if growth is bought at the expense of the destruction of the environment and injustice, it actually makes us poorer. When it comes to decoupling economic growth and environmental consumption the challenge lies in drastically reducing the world’s current consumption of resources. We are campaigning for far-reaching efficiency improvements and for a political, social and cultural climate in which this can be made a reality.

We need a new yardstick to measure prosperity and quality of life – a new indicator which factors in the social and ecological dimension of prosperity. We are therefore calling on companies from a certain size up to be obliged, along with their financial reports, to submit sustainability reports including social and ecological indicators. In this way we can give economic development a green direction. 

Our aim is to create an economy which uses resources sparingly, which develops products and services using modern technologies and minimum use of raw materials and energy. This too is part and parcel of intergenerational fairness, because it is not right for us to create our own prosperity at the expense of future generations.”