Germans in the paternoster

Germans in the paternoster

Concern for the environment: the Germans in 2019 © dpa

For some time now, things have been looking up economically for many people in Germany. But according to a survey, only a minority is optimistic about the new year. Hamburg futurologist Opaschowski sees the Paternoster principle at work.

Looking ahead to the new year, Germans feel as if they are in a paternoster, according to Hamburg-based futurologist Horst Opaschowski. They see the continuing economic upswing and wonder with concern how long it will continue, when the downturn will come. According to a survey conducted by Opaschowskigemeinsam with the opinion research institute Ipsos, the mood in Germany is worse than it has been in five years.

The statement "I look forward to the coming year with great confidence and optimism. I expect better times" only 17 percent of respondents still agree. In 2014, the proportion of optimists was still 45 percent. "A broad middle class is currently living according to the paternoster principle. It rides the paternoster upwards, but is sure that it will also go down again as soon as you reach the top," says Opaschowski.

Social peace in danger

In 2015, the refugee debate had led to a slump in sentiment. Concerns regarding the integration of immigrants are still there: 50 percent of those surveyed fear that growing xenophobia will endanger social peace. That is four percentage points more than a year ago. At the same time, the futurologist sees signs that the wave of hatred in Germany is subsiding. The acts of violence and demonstrations in Chemnitz and Kothen would have occupied the country for weeks in some cases. However, it has become clear to everyone that things cannot continue without a "modus vivendi". "The majority has realized that we can't get along without immigration, but no binding rules of engagement have been found yet," Opaschowski says.

The professor illustrates this with the example of soccer players Mesut ozil and Ilkay Gundogan. In their comments on the meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they would not have made their affiliation with Germany clear enough. The population expects at least 51 percent of immigrants to feel connected to the country. "Instead of saying, "Erdogan is my president," they would have been better off saying, "Erdogan is my second president.""

Gap between rich and poor

Many people live quite well in Germany, the professor notes. Nevertheless, 66 percent fear that the gap between rich and poor will widen. That's four percentage points more than at the end of 2017. "It's amazing that this is increasing," says Opaschowski. To explain the trend, he points to the National Prosperity Index (Nawi-D) he compiled together with the Ipsos Institute. According to the survey, one in two Germans does not own an apartment, a house or even a car. Every second person also has financial worries and fears about the future. "People lack reserves and safeguards," Opaschowski concludes. Politicians must do more in this area. "Ownership is tremendously important."

According to a representative survey conducted by the Hamburg-based BAT Foundation for Future Studies, the public is more interested in old-age provision than anything else. The middle generation aged 35 to 54 in particular wants to know whether its own pension is secure and whether it can afford care in old age. The global ie of wars and conflicts as well as environmental protection are also of great importance to people. "Many are afraid of poverty in old age, war and climate change," says the foundation's scientific director, Ulrich Reinhardt. He also believes that politicians have a duty to find the right answers to allay the population's fears.

Sense of crisis without crisis

Are the Germans overdoing it with their worries?? In any case, Opaschowski says: "The Germans' sense of crisis doesn't need a big crisis." As an example, he cites the widespread fear of unaffordable housing (53 percent, up eight percentage points). The three million living-room couches in Germany would face one million empty dwellings. Rent increases primarily affect West Germans, singles, working people and "stilted" over-50s. "The rent explosion is also an entitlement explosion," Opaschowski finds.

The professor of education (77) sees a sign of hope in the significantly greater optimism of the under-20s. 26 percent of younger respondents identify themselves as optimists. By comparison, among the 65-plus generation, the figure is only 10 percent. When asked about their personal future, more than 70 percent of the young people said they wanted to make the best of their lives. In a good coexistence of Germans and refugees believe 26 percent of teenagers, but only 11 percent of seniors.

According to the BAT Foundation, the question of a happy marriage or partnership is most important for 14- to 34-year-olds (60 percent). They also want to know if they are on the right track (55 percent), if they will be successful (50) and if they will become parents themselves one day (40). "A somewhat more youthful and positive view of the near future would do the Germans good," Opaschowski believes.

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