The Guardian paints a bleak picture of a former Eastern German town, where the population crash has sank the place into a “demographic abyss”: with no children, tons of old people, abandoned buildings and packs of wolves. Wow, that sounds like the ideal setting for a Cormac McCarthy and P.D. James collaboration.
The more educated and mobile women moved out, and the men just kind of regressed, Russian-style.
Under communism, East German women worked more, and were often better educated, than the more conservative western hausfrau. But when their jobs disappeared in the early 90s, hundreds of thousands of them, encouraged by their mothers, took their school diplomas and CVs and headed west to cities such as Heidelberg. The boys, however, seeing their fathers out of work, often just gave up. In adulthood, they form a rump of ill-educated, alienated, often unemployable men, most of them unattractive mates – a further factor in the departure of young women.
Just like Japan, the problem becomes catastrophic in the second generation, when the pool of available women to have children dwindles, leading to even lower fertility. Especially if both genders are just as indifferent to the existence of children (social policies are moving in the right direction, but are they moving fast enough?).
“Today, 48% of German men under 40 agree that you can have a happy life without children. When their fathers were asked the same question at the same age, only 15% agreed,” says Europe’s top demographer.
The report gets spooked by its own doom at this point, and suggest we consider this as Europe’s future.
About a million homes have been abandoned, and the government is demolishing them as fast as it can. Left behind are “perforated cities”, with huge random chunks of wasteland. Europe hasn’t seen cityscapes like this since the bombing of the second world war.