Germany’s Demographic Cliff [Chart]
Why Europe’s largest economy could be destined to be the next Japan
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
Last week’s chart showed that the world is turning Japanese with tales of economic malaise, extreme monetary policy, and negative rates. Germany, with its 5-yr government bond currently trading at a -0.33% yield, is no exception to this story.
However, negative yields are not the only concern that the country has in common with Japan. It’s the overall demographic picture that is worrying, and it could have a big effect on Germany’s economic future as well as the tough choices that must be made today.
Germany is the most populous and productive economy in Europe, with 80 million people and a GDP of almost $4 trillion. It’s also the world’s third largest exporter, and that’s why it had the largest trade surplus globally in 2014 with $285 billion.
For all of its economic power, Germany has a key weakness that could potentially be its Achilles heel: it’s projected that Germany’s population will decline significantly over the coming decades, and the ratio of workers to dependents will become one of the worst in the world.
Every year, there are 8.4 births and 11.3 deaths per 1,000 people in Germany. The way this plays out over time is that the percentage of Germans under 15 will fall to 13% of the population by 2050, while the amount of people over 60 years old is to rise to 39%.
In the future, it is likely that there will not be enough youth or workers in the country. As Baby Boomers retire, there will be a larger burden placed on those paying into the government’s social safety net and other programs. Further, this widening gap will also mean a significant loss of experience, skill, and know-how in the workforce that will create coinciding economic challenges for the population.
In many Western nations, immigration plays a key role in keeping a population with low birth rates to be sustainable. However, in Germany’s case, both the high and low immigration scenarios look dire for future numbers. Germany’s state statistical authority currently projects a “high immigration” trend resulting in a drop to 73.1 million people by 2060, while a low-end estimate sees the population falling all the way to 67.6 million.
The U.N. projects that one in every six Germans will be over 80 years old by 2050. Are Germans comfortable with their nation remaining on this path?
If yes, then they must also be comfortable with a significant decrease in Germany’s economic role in the future. The country will almost certainly be on a more level stage with the U.K. and France, and it will have a diminished place on the world stage as Asia and Africa continue their rise. Tax rates will surge as a decreasing amount of workers pay into the system, and economic growth could stall in such a way that Germany has its own “Lost Decade”.
If no, then Germans must accept that there is only one realistic way to combat this trend: to open the immigration floodgates even more. While this is not what many Germans want to hear, especially as the current migrant and refugee crisis progresses, it is an option that must be weighed with careful consideration.
Either way, there are difficult choices to be made. How Germany proceeds with this question has implications both today and tomorrow on cultural, economic, and political levels.
The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology
See how 5G compares to older iterations of wireless technology, and why it’s poised to change the way the modern world uses data.
The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology
Wireless technology has evolved rapidly since the turn of the century. From voice-only 2G capabilities and internet-enabled 3G, today’s ecosystem of wireless activity is founded on the reliable connection of 4G.
Fifth-generation wireless network technology, better known as 5G, is now being rolled out in major cities worldwide. By 2024, an estimated 1.5 billion mobile users─which account for 40% of current global activity─will be using 5G wireless networks.
Today’s chart highlights three generations of wireless technology in the 21st century, and the differences between 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.
5G: The Next Great Thing?
With over 5 billion mobile users worldwide, our world is growing more connected than ever.
Data from GSMA Intelligence shows how rapidly global traffic could grow across different networks:
- 2018: 43% of mobile users on 4G
- 2025: 59% of mobile users on 4G, 15% of mobile users on 5G
But as with any new innovation, consumers should expect both positives and negatives as the technology matures.
- IoT Connectivity
5G networks will significantly optimize communication between the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to make our lives more convenient.
- Low latency
Also known as lag, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred over networks. Users may see latency rates drop as low as one millisecond.
- High speeds
Real-time streaming may soon be a reality through 5G networks. Downloading a two-hour movie takes a whopping 26 hours over 3G networks and roughly six minutes on 4G networks─however, it’ll only take 3.6 seconds over 5G.
- Distance from nodes
Walls, trees, and even rain can significantly block 5G wireless signals.
- Requires many nodes
Many 5G nodes will need to be installed to offer the same level of coverage found on 4G.
- Restricted to 5G-enabled devices
Users can’t simply upgrade their software. Instead, they will need a 5G-enabled device to access the network.
Global 5G Networks
5G still has a way to go before it reaches mainstream adoption. Meanwhile, countries and cities are racing to install the infrastructure needed for the next wave of innovation to hit.
Since late 2018, over 25 countries have deployed 5G wireless networks. Notable achievements include South Korea, which became the first country globally to launch 5G wireless technology in April 2019. Switzerland boasts the highest number of 5G network deployments, currently at 225 and counting.
To date, China has built roughly 350,000 5G sites─compared to the less than 20,000 in the U.S.─and plans to invest an additional US$400 billion in infrastructure by 2023. Chinese mobile providers plan to launch 5G services starting in 2020.
What Does This Mean For 4G?
4G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As 5G gradually rolls out, 4G and 5G networks will need to work together to support the wave of IoT devices entering the market. This network piggybacking also has the potential to expand global access to the internet in the future.
The race to dominate the wireless waves is even pushing companies like China’s Huawei to explore 6G wireless innovation─before they’ve even launched their 5G networks.
Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?
How do the rankings of the world’s most affluent countries change when using different metrics to measure wealth per capita?
Which Countries Have the Most Wealth Per Capita?
Our animated chart this week uses data from the ninth Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, which ranks countries by average wealth, calculated as gross assets per adult citizen.
While using such a metric certainly gives a quick snapshot of wealth per capita, it doesn’t necessarily show the complete picture.
Some argue, for example, that calculating the mean doesn’t factor in the gap between the richest and poorest in a population—also known as wealth inequality. For this reason, we’ve compared this number to median wealth for each country, providing a separate angle on which countries really have the most wealth per capita.
Mean or Median: Which Makes More Sense?
Below, we’ve visualized a hypothetical example of two groups of people, each earning various sums of money, to show how average (mean) and median calculations make a difference.
What can we observe in both datasets?
- Total wealth: $2,000
- Total people: 15 people
- Average wealth: $2,000 ÷ 15 = $133
However, that’s where the similarities end. In the first group, wealth is distributed more evenly, with the disparity between the lowest-paid and highest-paid being $300. The median wealth for this group reaches $100, which is close to the average value. In the second group, this gap climbs to $495, and the median wealth drops sharply to only $30.
Scaling up this example to the true wealth of nations, we can see how the median wealth provides a more accurate picture of the typical adult, especially in societies that are less equal.
Let’s see how this shakes out when ranking the world’s most affluent countries.
Ranking Top Contenders on Wealth per Capita
When it comes to wealth per capita, it’s clear that Australia and Switzerland lead the pack. In fact, the data shows that both nations top the lists for both mean and median wealth.
However, both nations also have the highest absolute household debt-to-GDP ratios in the world: in 2018, Switzerland’s levels reached nearly 129%, while Australia followed behind at 120%.
Here is a full ranking of the top 20 countries by mean and median wealth:
|Rank||Country||Mean wealth per adult||Country||Median wealth per adult|
|#1||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$530,244||🇦🇺 Australia||$191,453|
|#2||🇦🇺 Australia||$411,060||🇨🇭 Switzerland||$183,339|
|#3||🇺🇸 United States||$403,974||🇧🇪 Belgium||$163,429|
|#4||🇧🇪 Belgium||$313,045||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$114,935|
|#5||🇳🇴 Norway||$291,103||🇫🇷 France||$106,827|
|#6||🇳🇿 New Zealand||$289,798||🇨🇦 Canada||$106,342|
|#7||🇨🇦 Canada||$288,263||🇯🇵 Japan||$103,861|
|#8||🇩🇰 Denmark||$286,712||🇳🇿 New Zealand||$98,613|
|#9||🇸🇬 Singapore||$283,118||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$97,169|
|#10||🇫🇷 France||$280,580||🇸🇬 Singapore||$91,656|
|#11||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$279,048||🇪🇸 Spain||$87,188|
|#12||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$253,205||🇳🇴 Norway||$80,054|
|#13||🇸🇪 Sweden||$249,765||🇮🇹 Italy||$79,239|
|#14||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$244,672||🇹🇼 Taiwan||$78,177|
|#15||🇮🇪 Ireland||$232,952||🇮🇪 Ireland||$72,473|
|#16||🇦🇹 Austria||$231,368||🇦🇹 Austria||$70,074|
|#17||🇯🇵 Japan||$227,235||🇰🇷 South Korea||$65,463|
|#18||🇮🇹 Italy||$217,727||🇺🇸 United States||$61,667|
|#19||🇩🇪 Germany||$214,893||🇩🇰 Denmark||$60,999|
|#20||🇹🇼 Taiwan||$212,375||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$58,905|
The United States boasts 41% of the world’s millionaires, but it’s clear that the fruits of labor are enjoyed by only a select group—average wealth ($403,974) is almost seven times higher than median wealth ($61,667). This growing inequality gap knocks the country down to 18th place for median wealth.
The Nordic countries of Norway and Denmark can be found in the top ten for average wealth, but they drop to 12th place ($80,054) and 19th place ($60,999) respectively for median wealth. Despite this difference, these countries also provide a strong safety net—including access to healthcare and education—to more vulnerable citizens.
Finally, wealth in Japan is fairly evenly distributed among its large middle class, which lands it in seventh place on the median wealth list at $103,861. One possible reason is that the pay gap ratio between Japanese CEOs and the average worker is much lower than other developed nations.
With reducing income inequality as a priority for many countries around the world, how might this list change in coming years?
Footnote: All data estimates are using mid-2018 values, and reflected in US$.
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