This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Demographics of the Far Right Movement in Germany

My thanks to a reader who pointed me to an article in the NYTimes that I had missed a few days ago, about the demographic factors in East Germany that are helping to drive the far right movement in that country. It seems to take us back to the "tearing down of the wall." From this distance that just seemed like a universally good thing (well, unless you were a big shot in East Germany's Communist Party). However, this article suggests that West German men came in to run businesses and governments in East Germany, and East German women were at the same time heading west, leaving behind a lot of spouseless and jobless East German men. The story starts out with an interview of one of these men...
...Frank Dehmel was on the streets of East Germany in 1989. Every Monday, he marched against the Communist regime, demanding freedom and democracy and chanting with the crowds: “We are the people!” Three decades later, Mr. Dehmel is on the streets again, older and angrier, and chanting the same slogan — this time for the far right.
He won freedom and democracy when the Berlin Wall came down 29 years ago on Nov. 9. But he lost everything else: His job, his status, his country — and his wife. Like so many eastern women, she went west to look for work and never came back. To understand why the far right is on the march again in Germany, it helps to understand the many grievances of its most loyal supporters: men in the former Communist East.
Although Angela Merkel--Germany's leader for the past 13 years--is from the East, there is the sense among these men that she betrayed them, and that was even before she encouraged a million asylum seekers (largely from the mess in the Middle East) to settle in Germany. 
“We have a crisis of masculinity in the East and it is feeding the far right,” said Petra Köpping, minister for integration in Saxony. When Ms. Köpping took office in 2014, she thought her job was to integrate immigrants. But as hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers began arriving in Germany a year later, a middle-aged white man heckled her at a town-hall-style meeting. “Why don’t you integrate us first?” the man had shouted. That question, which has since become the title of a book written by Ms. Köpping, prompted her to tour her eastern home state and interview dozens of angry men. The disappointed hopes and humiliations of 1989, she found, still fester.
And Ms. Köpping notes that when the wall came down, it was women who were most likely to jump at the new opportunities:
Long before the #MeToo movement, Communism succeeded in creating a broad class of women who were independent, emancipated, often better educated and working in more adaptable service jobs than eastern men.

After the wall came down, the East lost more than 10 percent of its population. Two-thirds of those who left and did not come back were young women.
It was the most extreme case of female flight in Europe, said Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, who has studied the phenomenon. Only the Arctic Circle and a few islands off the coast of Turkey suffer comparable male-female imbalances.
In large swaths of rural eastern Germany, men today still outnumber women, and the regions where the women disappeared map almost exactly onto the regions that vote for the Alternative for Germany today.
This is an important story for several reasons, including the fact that the rise of the Far Right in Germany seems to have a different set of underlying (albeit clearly still demographic) causes than those in the United States (and probably anywhere else). We need to keep that in mind as we digest the news. 

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