Germany is not the country it once was. On the positive side, Germans today are more prosperous and have more free time than ever. For some years now, the Bonn republic has led the world in non-working time. But today's Germans also differ from their grandparents and great-grandparents in other, more ominous ways.
The people that once prided themselves as a nation of “thinkers and poets” is less able to read and write. About four million German adults are barely literate. A prominent specialist, Gerd Kegel, has estimated that about 15 percent of adults in western Germany (the former Bonn republic) can “barely write their signature and read simple headlines … but are unable to read detailed texts or fill out forms.”
Crime has increased enormously in Germany over the past several decades. In 1996 there were about seven million (registered) crimes in the German Federal Republic (with a population of about 81 million), whereas in the entire German Reich in 1938 (with a population of 67 million) there were 355,665. In short, Germany's over-all crime rate has increased more than ten-fold in 58 years. More specifically: there were 3,928 cases of murder in 1996, but only 468 in 1938; 6,200 cases of rape in 1996, and 903 in 1938; and, 63,470 robberies in 1996, and 502 in 1938.
During just the past decade or so, even visitors to Germany can see a noticeble increase in graffiti, trash on the streets, general slovenliness, and open drug dealing.
Most significantly for the long-term future, Germans are slowly dying out. During the late 19th century, Germany's birth rate was one of world's highest. In recent decades, though, it has been one of the world's lowest. The fertility rate in recent years has been about 1.4 live births per woman, which is below the replacement level.
With deaths outnumbering births, demographers estimate that in spite of continued net immigration, Germany's total population — now some 82 million — will decrease in the new century. Even if the population was to remain constant, Germany's relative position in the world would continue to decline, given the higher birth rates in most other countries.
Germany is also less “German.” According to the most recent official statistics, 7.37 million foreigners and 300,000 asylum seekers live in the country, of whom more than two million are from Turkey. Foreigners now make up nine percent of the total population. These figures do not include illegal aliens, of whom there were an estimated 1.8 million in 1997.
Foreigners tend to be concentrated in the larger cities. In Frankfurt am Main, non-Germans already make up 29 percent of the population. In Stuttgart the figure is 24 percent, and in Munich it is 23 percent. The percentage of foreigners is especially high among the youth. In Munich, for example, 34 percent of those under 18 years of age are foreigners. In the largest city, Berlin, the percentage of foreigners under 18 years old is estimated to grow to 52 percent by the year 2015.
Writing in the semi-official weekly Das Parlament (issue 43-44, 1998), population specialist Prof. Herwig Birg of Bielefeld summed up:
Of all the major industrial countries, Germany has become the most important land of immigration. The number of immigrants per 100,000 of population is several times higher than in the “classic” immigration countries of the United States, Canada and Australia. The German population has a high birth rate deficit, while the birth rate of foreigners [in Germany] has a high surplus. Germany can no longer choose whether it wishes to be an immigration country or not, because the birth deficit will greatly increase due to the dramatically falling numbers of women in their child-bearing years. German society finds itself in a demographically determined existential change, that is, in transition, against its will, toward an immigration society that ignores, suppresses and tabooizes its future demographic problems at the cost of the young generations.
(Sources: R. Wuttke, “Deutsche schaufeln sich das Grab,” Nation u. Europa, Coburg, January 1999, pp. 20-22, and, “Ausländer unter uns,” p. 27; Deutschland in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Tübingen, Dec. 1996, citing: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Sept. 20, 1996; Stuttgarter Nachrichten, April 18, 1996; Südwest Presse, June 14, 1996; Nation u. Europa, Coburg, March 1997, p. 36 [criminality figures].)