Cosmopolitan Country Shaped By a Pluralism of Lifestyles

Germany is a cosmopolitan country shaped by a pluralism of lifestyles. Demographic change is set to play a major role in the coming years

Bundestag

With some 81.2 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous nation in the European Union. The modern, cosmopolitan country has developed into an important immigration country. A good 16.4 million people in Germany have a migratory background.

Germany is now among those nations with the most liberal immigration rules. According to a 2014 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it is the most popular immigration country after the USA.

Most people in Germany have a high standard of living, on international comparison, and the corresponding freedom to shape their own lives. The United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) 2014 ranks Germany sixth of 187 countries. In the Nation Brands Index 2014, an international survey on the image of 50 countries, Germany tops the scale – also owing to its high values in the areas of quality of life and social justice. Germany considers itself a welfare state, whose primary task is to protect all its citizens.

NEW WAYS OF LIFE

German society is shaped by a pluralism of lifestyles and ethnocultural diversity. New ways of life and everyday realities are changing daily life in society. Immigrants enrich the country with new perspectives and experiences. There is great social openness and acceptance regarding alternative ways of life and different sexual orientations.

Advances are being made in terms of gender equality and traditional gender role assignments are no longer rigid. People with disabilities are taking an ever greater role in social life.


DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIOECONOMIC CHANGE

In future, demographic change is set to shape Germany more than virtually any other development. The birth rate has been constantly low since the late 1990s at 1.4 children per woman, and life expectancy is rising.

By 2050 the population in Germany is estimated to shrink by around seven million people. At the same time, the growing number of elderly people is presenting social welfare systems with new challenges.

Socioeconomic change in Germany in recent years has led to the emergence of new social risks and stronger social diversification according to economic living conditions. Although in 2014 unemployment was at the same low level as in 1991 (on average 2.7 million), almost one in six in Germany is at risk of poverty, particularly young people and single parents. Moreover, social differences continue to exist between east and west.

Rights, duties, and volunteering: anyone living in Germany is free to decide how he or she wishes to live. People have many freedoms that enable them to help shape the country

Rights, duties, and volunteering: anyone living in Germany is free to decide how he or she wishes to live. People have many freedoms that enable them to help shape the country.

Men and women have the same rights, and all inhabitants – and the state – must comply with the law in this “state under the rule of law”. You are free to choose your opinion and your religion: the constitution guarantees these rights and they are valued particularly highly. Civil society also defines modern Germany. Millions of young people are active in their free time – in clubs, church or political associations, and non-governmental organisations.

For political refugees, the right to asylum is anchored in the constitution. Particularly high numbers of refugees arrived in 2015. In many towns and cities, volunteers helped those arriving from war zones and crisis regions. However, hostile tendencies were visible in the debate on refugees and immigration.


GERMAN POLITICS

There are many important issues and projects on the agenda for Germany’s Federal government.

Since the Bundestag elections of 2013 Germany has been ruled by a “Grand Coalition” of the major parties, the CDU/CSU and the SPD. Coalition governments are a feature of the German political system.

Since 2005 Dr Angela Merkel, leader of the CDU party, has headed the German government as Federal Chancellor; she is now in her third term. Her role is to shape the principles of German politics. Angela Merkel is the first woman in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany to hold this office.

New ways of life and everyday realities are changing daily life in society. Immigrants enrich the country with new perspectives and experiences. There is great social openness and acceptance regarding alternative ways of life and different sexual orientations

The cabinet consists of 14 ministers as well as the Head of the Federal Chancellery. The SPD provides certain key individuals, including the Deputy Chancellor in the person of Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, and the Foreign Minister in the person of Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The “Coalition Agreement” titled Shaping Germany’s Future forms the basis for the tasks the “Grand Coalition” seeks to tackle up to 2017. Coalition governments use such agreements to reach an understanding of the political objectives of the legislative period before they enter into government together.

German politicians face huge challenges. Alongside social and environmental policy, one of the most important tasks is to manage the huge influx of refugees. In 2015 well over 800,000 people came to Germany seeking asylum. They came mainly from crisis and conflict regions, primarily from Syria. Germany recognises its humanitarian responsibilities towards people who are forced to flee their homelands. The German Federal Government is working at many levels to achieve an international – and specifically a pan- European – solution as part of its immigration and refugee policies. At the same time, German politicians are working to rectify the situations that cause such flows of migrants.


SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

German development policy is geared as a cornerstone of a global structural and peace policy to help improve living conditions in partner countries. It aims to overcome hunger and poverty worldwide and strengthen democracy and the rule of law. The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development draws up the guidelines and concepts. Politically and financially, the main emphasis is on bilateral cooperation with partner countries. As part of government development cooperation, Germany works with 50 partner countries in jointly agreed country programmes that can involve all the various government tools for development cooperation. Africa is a key region, but Germany also works extremely closely with countries in Asia, southeast Europe, and Latin America.

German development policy is geared as a cornerstone of a global structural and peace policy to help improve living conditions in partner countries. It aims to overcome hunger and poverty worldwide and strengthen democracy and the rule of law

Germany has increased the budget for development cooperation by €8.3 billion through 2019. This means that in 2016 a good 0.4 per cent of the gross domestic product will be channelled into development cooperation. On an international scale, the $16.25 billion Germany allocates annually puts it third among the largest donor countries for public development cooperation, behind the USA and Great Britain. As a rule, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the KfW Group are the implementing organisations and manage the projects in various countries.

Global development in the coming years will be decisively influenced by the 2030 Agenda as resolved by the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly at the end of September 2015. The 2030 Agenda will replace the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which defined development in developing and emerging nations for the period 2000 to 2015, and indeed go far beyond them.