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The Real Competition

(July 06, 2001) If domestic America were a closed market, the looming labor shortage would be less powerful. Unfortunately, America does not have the only aging workforce. The top 50 industrialized countries all face the same future: declining workforce size, skills imbalances, cultural pressures from immigration, lower than helpful unemployment, shorter cycles between jobs, workforce based growth constraints and businesses that fail for staffing reasons.

Germany, for example , faces an actual shrinking of the population, from 82 Million to less than 60 Million, by 2050. As a result, the typical things are underway. Hands are being wrung, committees formed and studies conducted. Since there is no meaningful way to raise the birth rate, all of the efforts focus on immigration.

Already, nearly 10% of the German population is a legal foreign resident. The neo-Nazis regularly protest the immigration incursion. Imagine what it would take to make the population stable; a staggering 30% of the country would be populated by foreign nationals.

There is little in the way of choice. A commission formed at the highest government levels focuses on attracting and keeping the best and brightest immigrants. At 20,000 new residents per year, the proposed solution barely scratches the surface of the problem.

``We are in an international competition for the best workers,'' commission head Rita Suessmuth said after presenting the recommendations to Interior Minister Otto Schily. ``We are a country of immigration - not just starting today, but already for quite a while.''

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder hopes the findings will help win support for his effort to pass Germany's first comprehensive immigration law this year, while keeping resentment among nearly 4 million jobless Germans in check and meeting conservative demands for a tightly controlled influx of foreigners.

The government wants to set clear immigration targets and cut through a patchwork of rules often seen as a hindrance to attracting the best and brightest. Schroeder is intent on reaching a legislative compromise that would keep the emotional topic out of next year's election campaign.

- ©2001 Associated Press
Get ready to see this same conversation begin in the United States.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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