Calculating demographic change

Most people in Germany are now aware that the country’s population is shrinking, aging and becoming more diverse. Having detailed data on future demographic structures can help policymakers make far-reaching decisions about which actions to take.

Responding proactively

Communities must recognize that demographic change is taking place. They must also analyze the facts and figures that can help explain what the future will look like. Experience has shown that the discussion is more effective if detailed, community-specific data sets are available. When that is the case, analyzing the data naturally leads to a desire to address the challenges – together with others.

The need for local infrastructure – such as kindergartens, schools, nursing and retirement homes, and public transport – very much depends on the various age groups extant within the population. Changes need to be designed for the long term – and early on, since implementing them will be a challenge from both the financial and urban planning perspectives. Decision makers can introduce and implement the necessary programs in a more targeted fashion if they are aware of their community’s future demographic structures.

This is where population forecasts can play a key role.

If-then principle

The basis for the forecasts is the if-then principle. Assumptions are first defined about how demographically relevant factors will develop over time and are then used as the basis for calculating future population levels for the region in question. If the assumptions reflect the actual developments, then the size and composition of the population will match the forecasted figures. A great deal of consideration is needed to formulate the assumptions, which must be differentiated by gender and age (here: from 0 to 109 years). The assumptions are based on the principle –based on experience – that the behavior of the population in any given area generally does not vary significantly over the short term. Variations can of course occur as the result of policymaking decisions, for example, or far-reaching economic developments.

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