The German plastics industry regularly complains about professional staff shortages due to the demographic development: a “graying society” with increasing proportion of older people, due a low birth rate leading to Germany's population falling by millions in coming years.
Suddenly, an influx of large numbers of refugees from war-torn Middle East and African countries may help. But there is increasing discussion of whether integration of the new entrants to the country is a threat or an opportunity to relieve labor market pressure.
While mayors of 215 towns in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia wrote a joint letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel that their towns cannot handle any more refugees, chemical giant BASF SE announced plans to offer jobs.
BASF's new “Start Integration” program, announced Oct. 13, is a multi-point plan from the company which includes opening 50 positions at its hometown complex in Ludwigshafen as well as increasing involvement with existing charity projects for refugees.
“The flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees is a huge challenge for Germany and Europe, which we can only manage together,” BASF management board member Margret Suckale said in a news release. “With the new program, we are making a tangible contribution towards integration of refugees into the employment market.
“Each place is an opportunity, each place creates future prospects.”
Vitor Manuel Ribeiro Constâncio, vice president of the European Central Bank, talked in September of shrinking populations in many European states as “a form of collective demographic suicide” with far-reaching economic consequences. He said this has to be slowed down through immigration. Jens Weidmann, president of the Federal German national bank (Bundesbank), said he sees “a great challenge in the present refugee crisis, but also an opportunity, should new arrivals who stay in the labor market and society become integrated.”