Sussanne Tatje. Photo: DW /SaxThe rapid ageing of Germany’s population has led the northwestern city of Bielefeld to appoint a commissioner for demographics — a national first. Susanne Tatje, appointed in 2004, has the job of planning for a future with fewer babies, more elderly folk and more immigrants. What happens to areas of the city when young families move out and only older people are left? Does a wealthy part of town really need a third soccer field? Wouldn’t the community be better off if the money were spent on underprivileged children? How can native Germans get to know Muslims and their faith?

One solution is a mystery tour where a group of Germans find themselves at a mosque. Another is a residential project, known as the Bielefeld Model, where the elderly can live independently with nursing and other services available as they need them. But Ms Tatje’s favourite project is the redevelopment of an old district into barrier-free apartments and offices with shopping centres and daycare facilities, where young and old mix together. Children from more than 15 countries attend daycare.

Germany’s birth rate rose last year for the first time in three years — from 1.33 children per woman to 1.37. Births increased among women aged 33 to 37 but decreased among younger women, and the birth rate in eastern Germany rose to match that of the western part. Some have attributed the uptick in births to family allowances introduced last year and targeted at working women and their spouses. ~ Deutsche Welle, Sep 7

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet