What problems is Germany facing

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The world faces these tasks

October 2017

A flagging economy, political crises or a lack of job prospects are just some of the issues that are currently worrying people around the world. Depending on the country of origin, the answers to the question about the current most important challenges vary: In countries like Nigeria, Indonesia or Russia, it is above all declining purchasing power that people see as an important task for the future. In the western industrialized nations, the issue of immigration and integration is often at the top of the agenda. But unemployment, ailing health systems or an unstable government are also some of the top issues in the global challenge ranking in some places.

The majority of people in Nigeria agree: Rising prices and falling purchasing power are problems that must be addressed as a matter of urgency. 67 percent of consumers there put the topic at the top of the worry ranking. A comparison with other countries shows that nowhere else is there so much agreement on the top challenge in one's own country. No wonder: Due to the drop in the price of crude oil, less income flowed into the country. As a result, the currency weakened and imports became more expensive. The inflation rate in 2016 was well in the double-digit range (see World Bank).

Prices and purchasing power: top challenge in Nigeria, Indonesia and Russia

Globally speaking, how they should get along with their income is also of particular concern to other nations: In Indonesia and Russia, the inflation rate is well below the Nigerian level, but around a third of people each see price stability as the most important in these countries as well Mission to politics. These are the results of the long-term “Challenges of Nations” study, for which the GfK Verein openly asked 27,517 people from 24 countries in the first quarter of this year, i.e. without supporting answers, about the most urgent tasks that currently need to be solved in the respective country.

Unemployment: Europe's crisis countries continue to worry

Even if prices remain stable and the purchasing power in a country is no cause for concern, life is difficult without a regular, paid job. For the Spaniards in particular, the issue of unemployment is not off the table, even years after the crisis. Although the unemployment figures are now falling, there are often poor job prospects, especially for young people. So it is hardly surprising that the question of better prospects is still at the top of the agenda: 61 percent of Spaniards - and thus a clear majority - give the fight against unemployment top priority. In France and Italy, this topic is also a priority for many respondents: 51 percent of the French and 46 percent of the Italians currently think that doing something about a lack of job prospects is most important. Somewhat less, namely 30 percent of those surveyed, are in India. When looking at the official unemployment statistics, it is initially astonishing that this topic has such a high priority. However, according to the assessment of India experts such as the Swiss journalist Bernard Imhasly, the reality of life looks a little different than the statistics: There is a high level of hidden unemployment, i.e. people who are simply not recorded by the official Indian labor market statistics because they are in the informal sector ( see Focus) are active or are not considered unemployed by definition (see India - a country portrait). In addition, India also has to struggle with the consequences of the so-called “demographic bonus” (see Heinrich Böll Foundation): Due to the favorable intergenerational relationship with an overall very young population, a large number of (often poorly qualified) young professionals will enter the labor market and fight in the future about the relatively few places.

Immigration and integration: a hot topic in parts of Europe and the USA

The refugee movements of recent times and the way we deal with immigrants have left their mark on people, especially in the Federal Republic of Germany. How do we deal with all those who are looking for help in this country? Every second German (56 percent) thinks that this question needs to be answered quickly. There are a similar number in Austria (53 percent), the country that numerous people passed through on their way to Germany, especially in 2015 and 2016. In Switzerland, around one in three (36 percent) put the topic at the top of the list of most important tasks. Almost as many (35 percent) do this in Sweden. The main reason for this is that the country has taken in a particularly large number of refugees in relation to its own population. Not only in Europe, but also across the Atlantic, immigration is number 1 on the list of concerns - albeit at a significantly lower level: 17 percent of Americans spontaneously name this task as a top challenge.

Health care: deficits in parts of Europe and South America

What if I suddenly get sick? Who pays for a doctor's visit or an operation? These questions concern the respondents - like the unemployment figures - particularly in 4 out of 24 countries. The Brazilians in particular are concerned here: More than one in two (56 percent) put the topic in first place in the ranking. Although the public health system provides free medical treatment for all residents if necessary, the system is considered to be ailing (see Pharmazeutische Zeitung). For example, there is a lack of hospital equipment, well-trained doctors and often the necessary infrastructure (including poorly developed roads) to actually provide good care for all residents of the largest and most populous country in South America. Too long, poorly developed roads are hardly a problem in Great Britain, the Netherlands and Poland. Nevertheless, people there also see a need for action in terms of health care. For 31 percent of the British, this is the top challenge. The shortage of doctors, which is likely to be exacerbated by the approaching Brexit (see arzt-wirtschaft.de) and long waiting times (see aerzteblatt.de) are likely reasons for this. The latter points of criticism are apparently also an issue in the Netherlands. According to a dossier from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, there is still potential for conflict due to long waiting times for hospital treatment (see Federal Agency for Civic Education). Because there are often problems with the transition from outpatient to inpatient treatment. In addition, the high cost of deductibles and the factual lack of free choice of doctor are repeatedly discussed in the Netherlands (see Die Presse) - and one in four respondents thinks it is important to bring the healthcare system into shape. In Poland, 22 percent of people do this in view of structural deficits and chronic underfunding (see doctors' newspaper).

Corruption: Every second Kenyan sees a need for action here

On the international ranking for corruption, which is published annually by the non-governmental organization Transparency International (see Transparency International), emerging and third world countries have been at the critical end of the scale for years. Kenya also performed poorly in 2016, ranking 148th out of 176. The population is focusing accordingly on the serious consequences that corruption has for their country: every second respondent (51 percent) spontaneously names corruption as the most important challenge. Kenya is by no means the only one in the world to face the problem, but there it is obviously felt to be particularly serious. Because in no other country does corruption appear as a top challenge in the ranking.

Crime: Mexico and South Africa particularly hard hit

Drug cartels, conflicts between armed gangs and state security forces, assaults and exchanges of fire on the street - the population of Mexico continues to suffer from high crime rates. 43 percent of those surveyed currently see combating them as the most important goal. Almost as many - 39 percent - are there in South Africa. There, the security situation is considered tense, especially in the big cities and their surrounding areas.

Economic stability: hot topic in South Korea

These days, South Korea is in the headlines mainly because of the flare-up conflict with its neighbor in the north. In addition, 42 percent of South Koreans see the country's economic stability as the greatest current challenge. Other nations are also struggling with this problem, but nowhere else does the topic make it to the top.

Politics and government: Iranians, Belgians and Turks worried

In terms of government and politics, things are a little different: this is the task that occupies the respondents most in 3 of the 24 countries. In Iran in particular, they are concerned about the political developments in their country: 40 percent consider further reforms to be the most important challenge. In Belgium, the days of no government are over, but the political system there is still so complex that it can be difficult to understand, even for the locals. Accordingly, one in four respondents put politics / government at the top of their list of concerns. Almost as many people (22 percent) are there in Turkey who have anything but quiet after the attempted coup in 2016.

Family policy: Japanese worried about offspring

There are other concerns in Japan at the moment. Here family policy comes first - even if no majority of the population can agree that this is where the greatest need for action is. 22 percent of Japanese are concerned about declining birth rates. In fact, the number of newborns fell below a million for the first time in 2016 - one reason for this is probably the inability to combine family and work. A lack of childcare options as well as inflexible and long working hours apparently often stand in the way of starting a family in Japan.

Europe: jobs, immigration and health at the forefront

If you look at the challenges from the European perspective, the focus shifts slightly compared to the global ranking. Family policy does not appear as a top priority in the European context. In return, however, the people here also have issues such as poverty, transport policy or environmental protection in mind - albeit with a rather low level of sensitivity. On the other hand, people in Europe are particularly concerned about having a secure job. This is most pronounced in Spain, France and Italy. The integration of immigrants is also at the top of the list of concerns in parts of Europe - especially Germany and Austria. In Poland, on the other hand, which has so far fought quite successfully against accepting refugees, only a small proportion of people see this as the most important challenge (3 percent). There one concentrates more on domestic political issues, especially on the health system. More than one in five respondents (22 percent) named health policy reforms as a top issue. This value is only exceeded in the Netherlands and Great Britain.

4th to 7th place: Political systems, prices and pensions

Changes in the political system are currently of particular concern to the people in Belgium and Turkey: in both countries, almost a quarter of those questioned put this aspect at the top of the agenda. For comparison: In Sweden, but also in Russia, only 2 percent each see an urgent need for action - but for different reasons. In spite of the recent falling inflation rates, the Russian population is primarily keeping an eye on the development of purchasing power. The most important aspect, which is explicitly mentioned by 20 percent of the respondents, has nothing to do with price increases, but with a desired increase in wages. Overall, no other country on the European continent cites the problem of purchasing power as the most important challenge. The Swiss, on the other hand, are very concerned about pension provision in old age: Almost every fourth person feels that securing pensions is the most urgent task.

8th to 11th place: education, crime, economy and housing

The areas of education policy, crime, economic stability and rents and property prices are in the middle of the European ranking. The Austrians (14 percent) as well as Spaniards and Germans (12 percent each) are calling for changes in the education system. The latter are also ahead across Europe when it comes to the desire to fight crime better: For 16 percent of German citizens, this is the greatest challenge, and there are just as many in France. The Italians and the Turks are currently primarily concerned about a functioning economy: 15 and 14 percent respectively are calling for changes. And 16 percent of the people in Russia consider the creation of affordable housing to be an important task that needs to be done.

At the bottom of the list: poverty, transport policy, environmental protection and corruption

At the end of the ranking - apart from the issue of corruption - there are aspects that do not appear on the global list of concerns: Poverty, for example, plays an important role in the eyes of Germans: 17 percent of German citizens see it as a top challenge - no other European country has reached it even close to this value. In Belgium, on the other hand, people are particularly concerned about the situation on the streets. Almost one in five believes that transport policy is currently the most important challenge. The Swiss consider the topic of environmental protection to be highly relevant with 16 percent respondents. And the Spaniards in particular assume that corruption does not stop at European gates. Every fourth respondent sees the fight against corruption as the top task. This is by far the highest value on the European continent.

Germany: relaxed view of the labor market, concern about integration

How have the concerns of German citizens developed in recent years? Which topics have become more explosive and which have lost? A look at the time series shows that current political and social developments such as immigration, but also the drifting apart between rich and poorer social classes, have partially overlaid earlier problems. As in the previous year, one topic remains in first place, albeit with significantly fewer mentions: 56 percent of German citizens see immigration and integration as the most important task at the moment (2016: 83 percent). For the first time in second place is the fight against poverty on the list of tasks. While this played no role 20 years ago, today 17 percent of Germans point to its importance. The fight against crime has also become more explosive in the eyes of German citizens over the years: while 20 years ago only just under one in ten saw this topic as a top challenge, today it is 16 percent. Concern about jobs in the country, on the other hand, has decreased significantly. In view of the current employment situation, only 16 percent feel concerned here. In 1997, however, it was the vast majority of people (almost 80 percent), and in 2007 two thirds were still very concerned. The fluctuations over time when it comes to pensions and old-age provision are much lower: 20 years ago, 15 percent of those surveyed were concerned, today it is 14 percent.

Middle field: Concerns about international politics and terrorism are increasing

The topics of purchasing power development, education policy and social security can be found in ranks 6, 7 and 8. These issues worry a good tenth German citizen today. In terms of rising prices, this concern has noticeably faded into the background over the past seven years. And with a view to education and social issues, Germany is on a course of easing: the current values ​​are a bit above the figures from 20 and 10 years ago. But compared to 2010, for example, they have apparently lost their relevance again. In contrast, developments in international politics and the fear of terrorism in an increasingly globalized world are preoccupying people more and more: These areas did not appear in the ranking at all until 2007 and 2008; Today, however, every tenth German sees a need for action here. On the other hand, people are quite satisfied with domestic political developments and the work of the government. With 9 percent responses, this complex of topics has been fairly stable in the lower midfield for years.

Problems with Turkey: New concern in the ranking

Anyone who is currently looking for an apartment or dreams of their own four walls can tell a song about how deeply you have to dig into your pockets in some places. While in 1997 only 3 percent and in 2007 only 1 percent of German citizens saw this as a top task, the figure climbed to 8 percent in 2017. The Germans, on the other hand, are much less concerned about environmental aspects: after a noticeable increase in 2007 (16 percent), this value has more than halved again today. In the penultimate place in the ranking, there is a challenge that has not played a role to date: The problems with Turkey, which are discussed in the media almost every day, are currently mentioned by 5 percent of people. Just as many are concerned about Germany's economic stability.Compared to the times of the financial and economic crisis, however, this value has noticeably normalized again.

Worries through the ages

Sometimes it is a sudden, catastrophic event like an act of terror within reach, sometimes it's longer developments like international conflicts that gradually come to a head - all of this affects the global worry barometer. Conversely, the same applies to positive changes, such as those that can be seen in Germany, for example, on the labor market. It is therefore difficult to predict how the international agenda will change over the next few years - it will certainly not stay the same.


Data source: GfK Challenges of Nations 2017 / GfK Verein / August 2017

Responsible for the article and contact person for questions about Compact: Claudia Gaspar (please email [email protected]).


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