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Germany was an attractive destination for migrants in 2014 for the fifth year in a row. The net migration balance climbed again by roughly 20% on the year and clearly exceeded the 500,000 mark for the first time since 1992. Roughly 1.4 million persons immigrated to Germany, the second highest total in the last 65 years (1992: 1.5 million). Since the beginning of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone in 2010 a net 1.7 million persons have migrated to Germany, so despite a shrinking domestic population the total population has expanded by approximately half a million.
Industry 4.0 (also known as integrated industry, industrial internet) is currently the subject of intense debate. This megatrend sets out to change the way goods and services are created and distributed, reshaping the industrial landscape on a national and global scale. China intends to play a leading role in this digital evolution. A wide range of policies have been initiated and sizeable progress in various areas has been made. The country is determined to seize the outstanding opportunity at hand, as the recently unveiled “Made in China 2025” plan underlines. China still has a long road ahead. However, with its new plan it combines a long-term vision with concrete actions in the proclaimed “Year of Innovation”.
The Q1 GDP details provide some comfort relative to the disappointing 0.3% qoq headline number. Final domestic demand was up 0.8% qoq while net-exports as well as inventories both provided a drag. Thus, our 2015 story of GDP growth driven by strong domestic demand remains intact. Despite this, we lower our 2015 GDP forecast from 2.0% to 1.6%. This is primarily due to the weaker-than-expected Q1 GDP growth that provides a lower starting base for 2015. However, we still expect quarterly growth rates to average a healthy 0.4% qoq in 2015. Further topics in this issue: Construction investment: Sharp increase expected, but focus on downside risks, The view from Berlin. German politics: Quarrel among friends and families.
Politicians should focus on an expansion of building activity in the major cities and conurbations in order to reduce the upside pressure on house prices. In the past few months there have been indications of easing activity in the construction sector. If this trend materialises, the pressure on house prices will intensify further. One possible cause of this development is capacity restrictions, and a lack of suitable skilled labour in the finishing trades in particular. An immigration law that specifically focuses on bottlenecks in the labour market could help to bring about some relief. If it becomes obvious over the next few months that construction growth is going to remain sluggish long term, rent control should not be implemented in the regions.
The period up to 2025 offers the German steel industry good prospects for a stable and economically sound future. However, this requires policymakers to take a reasonable approach to the further development of the regulatory framework for steel producers and their customer industries in Germany just as it requires only a modest level of expansion in steel capacity at global level. There are also other conceivable scenarios with greater risks, challenges and consequences for the German steel industry and its employees – and these alternatives are in no way completely improbable.
At sectoral level, the positive effects of the euro's current weakness are clearly outweighing its drawbacks. Capital equipment manufacturers are benefiting the most from the increasing price competitiveness offered by Germany as a business location. In 2014, the automotive industry generated 45.5% of its total revenue from non-EMU countries, while the proportion for the mechanical engineering sector was almost 43%. Parts of the electrical engineering, chemicals and pharmaceutical industries are also especially benefiting from the recent devaluation in the euro.
Despite only marginally higher output in Germany's manufacturing sector in Q1 2015 we are sticking with our full-year production forecast (+1.5% in real terms). The current softness of the euro benefits Germany's export sectors. Nonetheless, companies appear much more upbeat in their assessment of the current situation than in their expectations for the coming months. This is likely due, for example, to continuing geopolitical risks and poorer economic policy conditions in Germany. So it is clear that in the business world not everything is sweetness and light.
The latest population projections by Germany's Federal Statistical Office once again highlight the Herculean task of coping with demographic change. Once immigration begins to fall from its current temporary high, the fair weather in the labour market caused by rising employment figures may already turn cloudy within the next ten years. Consistent political action in the fields of old-age provision and long-term care is required given rising life expectancy and the expected doubling of the number of the very elderly.