The Blog

Achtung Kindergarten!

2:31 PM, Oct 30, 2008 • By ULF GARTZKE
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Germany's demographic troubles are well known: Fewer and fewer women are having babies; and even if they do have kids, it often doesn't happen before they are already well into their 30s. The long-term economic, social, and political consequences of this unprecedented demographic meltdown in Germany and other European countries are staggering. Given the urgency of the situation, it is absolutely shocking to learn that a growing number of German Kindergartens have recently been forced to shut down because nasty neighbors took legal action against what they described as "noise pollution" stemming from playing children.

So far, German courts in major cities such as Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg have already sided with the plaintiffs. Unfortunately, the judges failed to ask the plaintiffs two obvious yet important questions: First, who exactly do you expect to pay for your costly "pay-as-you-go" retirement benefits in the future? (Hint: maybe the kids playing next door?). And two, why don't you just move on and relocate to a place that is really quiet (Hint: maybe closer to a retirement community?). In this context, the proliferating legal actions taken against Kindergartens in Germany could certainly hamper Chancellor Merkel's ambitious new plan to triple the number of Kindergarten/daycare spots for children under the age of 3 to 750,000 by 2013.