That’s my take away from this year. I am glad it’s over.
In my personal life the chores would simply never stop. First the constant back and forth between Germany and Spain. My wife started her career as a professional artist, which of course means mountains of work. I completely updated my first book, wrote a second and started a third one.
Then three moves to new apartments until we found a permanent place we liked. (Sidenote: How awesome are my friends, that they help us move all our stuff three times in a year – and always in houses without a lift!)
The kids were constantly sick, which shredded every plan we made. Constant lack of sleep took its toll on us parents and so we also got sick. Especially near end of the year, my reserves where completely used up. At Christmas the whole family had become a bunch of coughing, sneezing zombies with empty eyes – just crawling from one chore to the next.
No rest for the wicked.
On top of that we had constant worries about loved ones who either had to flee their home country or who we still try to get out.
This was a hard year.
For my clients as well. The upheaval in the world and the mounting insecurity made it harder to reach out, build connections and offer a useful contribution to the goals of employers.
Too many employers try to turn back the clock, despite the fact that the power in the labor market has clearly shifted to employees. Many companies try to force staff to return to the office, ask for more hours worked and stubbornly insist on “German fluency” – despite the fact that their positions cannot be filled.
Job openings remain vacant for an average of 120 days now in Germany. The average cost for companies is a whooping 29.000 EUR. And notice: This is the average. For in demand professions like software developers, data scientists and the like, the vacancies are way higher. IT jobs are vacant for an average of eight months for example.
But still: Reality seems to matter little as long as you can cover your ears, shut your eyes and pretend you still live in Barbieland.
I had a first-hand experience of this in autumn, when I gave a speech to employers in Thuringia. Early on in the presentation I shared demographic data on the age structure of the labor forces in Thuringia, Germany and the world.
Just showing this data (provided by the German federal bureau of statistics, McKinsey and others) upset many of the participants so much that they left.
Let that sink in.
Entrepreneurs, people who are supposed to make decisions with a cold heart and a clear mind, cannot handle simple facts that destroy their fantasy world.
Twenty years ago, small changes year by year would have gotten us where we need to be today. But just like lazy students we let time go by, did nothing – and now the paper is due and we have nothing to show.
Now we have to do it all at once. That is hard. That costs money. That requires that we shed a lot of our fairytale believes.
Even the most ignorant among us feel: The bill has finally arrived. But instead of facing the music many Germans throw a tantrum.
You can see this right now with German farmers staging furious protests about lost subsidies for gasoline – while at the same time their fields drown in an unpreceded flood and their winter seeds rot in the wet ground. Climate change doesn’t care about angry social media memes.
From all the tragedies, crimes and misfortunes that we have experienced in 2023, this one is for me the most worrying:
A significant part of our population – and our economical and political leadership – has simply declared war on reality. They actively, aggressively fight those who try to clean up their mess and adapt Germany to a changing world.
Darwin’s thesis of the “survival of the fittest” is consistently mistranslated in Germany. We translated it as “das Überleben des Stärkeren”. Which is wrong. It’s not “the strongest” who survives, but the one who is “best adapted to a changing environment”.
Can Germany still adapt and prosper?
This is my personal test:
In January, our parliament is supposed to pass the reform of our citizenship laws. If successful, Germany will allow dual citizenship for everyone and also ease other aspects of naturalization. Just like with every other progress in Germany, this law has been delayed over and over again – and the forces of yesteryear still try to sabotage it.
This is important. About ten million (!) legal immigrants in Germany work here and pay taxes, but have no say in the future of our country. They are on average younger, better educated and more internationally connected than an average German.
But they have no say in the future of our country.
The opposite is true for German citizens. More than half of all people eligible to vote in Germany are over 60 years old. Which means that old people decide everything.
They are lower educated than the typical immigrant (note: “lower”, not “low”!) and their worldview is mostly shaped by life in one country: Germany.
They also grew up in an analogue world. A world that served them well and left them with the highest living standard of any generation in the entire history of the world. It is hard for them to believe: The rules that made them comfortable, don’t apply anymore. So, they resist change.
Younger, fresher minds in Germany have no say, because they are outnumbered by the babyboomer-generation.
What hope is there?
If Germany changes the law and allows dual citizenship, I will give my home country a fighting chance. Because millions of international professionals and immigrants, who have been living here for decades, are able to make themselves heard.
The people who will rule our country will represent a wider share of our actual population, contribute more diverse insights and therefore our decisions will be based on a more accurate picture of the world.
And we will adapt to a changing world and thrive.
I wish you stamina, cold analysis and brave implementation of your plans. So that you will have a prosperous and happy new year 2024.
PS: Registration for the “Expats Job Offer by Summer 2024” program are now officially open.