Germany is sending its ailing pensioners to cheaper retirement and long-term care facilities in Eastern Europe and Asia in order to clamp down on soaring health care costs for the nation’s rapidly aging population.
According to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, thousands of elderly Germans -- most of whom cannot afford Germany’s own expensive health care facilities amid austerity cuts and shrinking pensions -- have been dispatched to foreign lands. Moreover, as Germany faces a demographic time bomb, more of the country’s senior citizens will likely be shipped overseas.
Demographers expect Germany’s current population of 82 million to fall to about 69 million by 2050, even if one takes rising immigration into account. Of that figure, nearly 5 million will require care in health care facilities.
An estimated 7,146 German pensioners were living in Hungarian retirement homes last year, the Guardian noted. More than 3,000 are in the Czech Republic, and another 600 in Slovakia. Other retired Germans have been relocated to Spain, Greece, Ukraine, and even as far away as Thailand and the Philippines.
Germany's government estimate is that more than 400,000 of its senior citizens cannot afford a German retirement facility, and this number is growing by 5 percent annually.
The program has come under severe attack from social welfare advocates in Germany, who have termed it as a form of "inhumane deportation."
"We simply cannot let those people who built Germany up to be what it is, who put their backbones into it all their lives, be deported," said Ulrike Mascher, the president of The Sozialverband Deutschland (VdK), a German advisory group.
"It is inhumane."
Patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s are of particular concern.
"People with dementia can find it difficult to orientate themselves in a wholly other culture with a completely different language, because they're very much living in an old world consisting of their earlier memories," Sabine Jansen, head of Germany's Alzheimer Society, told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, Germany is burdened with one of the fastest aging (and declining) populations in the developed world.
The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) warns that Germany’s shrinking population could have dire economic consequences for both Germany and Europe as a whole.
“With a birth rate of only 1.36 children per woman in 2009, Germany will also witness the size of its working-age population plunge 27 percent to roughly 36 million people,” AICGS stated.
“How can Europe’s largest economy maintain future economic growth when its overall population is shrinking and its elderly population is supported by a smaller working-age population?”
As a result, Germany’s social welfare systems may eventually collapse.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.