The German export powerhouse

by on September 17, 2013 at 1:38 am in Economics | Permalink

Sonja Miskulin has forgotten her beloved cat, Pooki. She can’t remember whether she has grandchildren and has no memory of her nine-hour journey one recent Sunday to forever leave behind her home in Germany.

Suffering from dementia, the wheelchair-bound former translator celebrated her 94th birthday in a Polish nursing home last month. Her daughter sent her there in a bid for a better life and more affordable care.

Miskulin has joined the vanguard of a controversial movement: emigrant nursing home residents. The “Grandma export” trend has set hands wringing in Germany, where Munich’s leading newspaper denounced it as “gerontologic colonialism” and compared it to nations exporting their trash. Yet more families like Miskulin’s say it’s their best option to provide a dignified old age for elderly parents — and save money — amid a lack of affordable quality care at home. One in five Germans would now consider going abroad for a nursing home, according to a March survey by TNS Emnid, one of Germany’s biggest pollsters.

“I can only say, children, when your parents get older, send them to Poland,” said Miskulin’s 66-year-old daughter, Ilona von Haldenwang.

I suspect a media advisor would have encouraged her to reword that last bit.  The full article is here, and for the pointer I thank Florens.

1 Da September 17, 2013 at 2:30 am

I don’t know about Poland, they have basically the same weather.
Thailand though – that’s a trend I could get behind…

2 Frederic Mari September 17, 2013 at 3:17 am

“I suspect a media advisor would have encouraged her to reword that last bit”

LOL. Quite.

But Da is right. And Thailand is picking up, actually, as a retirement place. Me, I am not so sure. Don’t they have regular monsoons and shit? I wouldn’t like that.

Some South American options for ‘eternal springs’:

3 Steve Sailer September 17, 2013 at 2:53 am

Retiring to Mexico would seemingly make a lot of sense for many Americans. My parents and I visited the American community at Lake Chapala in 1967, but retiring to Mexico still hasn’t caught on much among Americans.

4 Frederic Mari September 17, 2013 at 4:36 am

The violence might have something to do with it?

Also… public utilities?

I’ve lived and worked in emerging markets a lot of my life (and in the UK too, which isn’t a dissimilar experience when it comes to public services). Lots of things are cheap, that’s true but some of the stuff we tend to take for granted in first world countries tend to be expensive/hard to get.

Try getting properly pressurised water in a shower in London, for example. Or decent roads in Ukraine. But, yeah, labor is cheap.

5 George Doehner September 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

I think if I were going long of retirement futures, the Philippines would be on my list. Guatemala is another on the list along with Ecuador. A big part of the winner’s formula will be cheap health care. That’s what works for the Philippines. They have easy access to Indian and Chinese doctors and medical devise makers. Panama seems to be coming on strong with retiring Americans and health care seems to be the reason.

6 athEIst September 17, 2013 at 10:57 am
7 Steve Sailer September 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I reviewed the last book by Jorge Castaneda, former Foreign Minister of Mexico, which discusses the mutual benefits of making Mexico more attractive to American retirees. For example, installing more stoplights to make walking and driving in Mexico less nervewracking would appeal to older Americans, and would be good for Mexicans. For Mexicans to stop using the ethnic slur “gringo,” Castaneda argued, would both appeal to Americans and help Mexicans open up to lessons they can learn from the U.S.

8 athEIst September 18, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Actually that wasn’t it. But what a great article.
I particularly liked:
And that’s good, because it means that Mexico is not our fault. Sure, we arguably stole California from them, but they wouldn’t have done anything with it, as a visit to the San Diego-Tijuana border shows. It’s not as if Silicon Valley would be El Valle de Silicio if it were still ruled by Mexico.)

9 Axa September 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Awesome, article about Germany issues ignites discussion about how bad is life in Mexico.

The German case is about nursing homes for almost disabled ones while US retirees in Mexico are relatively young and can live independently.

Btw, Spiegel ran a great story about how to cut down on costs for retirees and perhaps being happy

10 zbicyclist September 18, 2013 at 12:24 am

I was talking to a neighbor who did a “Spanish immersion” language program in Ecuador. She reported that the “immersion” got undercut by the large number of American retirees in the city she was in, many of which knew no Spanish at all and didn’t seem to feel the need to learn. The side effect was that the city was in danger of becoming too expensive for the natives due to the gentrification.

11 dearieme September 17, 2013 at 3:50 am

In many ways Mexico is to the US as Poland is to Germany.

12 F. Lynx Pardinus September 17, 2013 at 5:47 am

One way the analogy breaks down is distance. Germany to Poland is about Boston to Washington DC.

13 dearieme September 17, 2013 at 9:05 am

Eh? Germany and Poland share a border; Mexico and the US share a border. The distance for each pair is therefore about one stride.

14 Steve Sailer September 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm

20 million Southern Californians are within 200 miles of a major Mexican city. (Downtown L.A. to downtown Tijuana is 142 miles.) Maybe 10 million Texans are within maybe 350 miles of the border.

15 Prakash September 17, 2013 at 4:15 am

Germany doesn’t have a minimum wage. Why aren’t they getting cheaper care-givers in Germany itself? Is the higher cost of care mainly regulatory cost and not labour cost?

16 Andreas Baumann September 17, 2013 at 5:05 am

You know, there IS something called “the Iron Law of Wages”…

17 prior_approval September 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

Interestingly, the only case of a German in foreign nursing home I know of is in the U.S. And she is no longer able to speak in any language but German, I was told.

And the news reports last week were fairly full of the shortfall of ‘Pflegepersonal’ – 40,000 or so positions need to be filled, with the number likely growing if more labor is not found.

However, it is nice to see the article recognizes that this potential export wave is not about private enterprise – ‘The owners say half the residents will soon be Germans, who have state-mandated long-term care insurance through a nearly 20-year-old program, a benefit out of the reach of most people beyond Europe, including the United States.’

18 Z September 17, 2013 at 9:10 am

I’m surprised that we have not started outsourcing prisons to Mexico. Running a prison is a low skill affair. The bulk of the investment is in the physical construction to prevent break outs. Put the prison on the Yucatan and that is no longer an issue. The next big expense is the unionized work force of guards and administrators. For the same reason companies moved manufacturing off-shore, we could move our prisons to places like Mexico. It is not just cheaper. It would bring the benefit of severing the link between gang members in and out of prison.

19 STALIN September 17, 2013 at 10:04 am

Why didn’t Hitler think of this?

20 Pedro September 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

This has been going on for ages in Spain. There are so many Germans in Mallorca that I would make sense to recognize German as an official language of the island.

Maybe Mallorca is going to split from Spain before Catalonia. 😛

21 prior_approval September 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

But would the British island residents ask for help from Gibraltar?

‘The annual league table of the populations of Majorca’s towns has been published. You can now amaze your friends with your knowledge of all sorts of population statistics. There are 876,147 people living in Majorca. The total foreign population amounts to 185,824, and the total number of UK residents is 16,163, down slightly on the figure for 2011.

These population stats are useful if only because they represent the official version of what is otherwise unofficial – the guesswork that is made in arriving at a figure of UK residents. As I have mentioned previously, this figure is inflated. Hence, one is told that the Balearics have 50,000 UK residents, of which some forty odd thousand have to be in Majorca. Why is there such a wide discrepancy between this guess, which is plainly wrong, and the figure that is arrived at from totting up the number of residents who are registered with their respective town halls?’

22 TESC September 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Did anyone notice the silly view that Germany is exporting, colonialism?

No, Germany is importing eldery care, no different than turism. Cash is flowing to Poland, not to Germany. When is the economic nonsense going to end in the media? They are making the general public more illinformed. Western civilization goes from bad to worse.

23 JWatts September 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Personally, I thought they should have gone with the Germany invading Poland slant. 😉

24 Hunter Pritchett September 18, 2013 at 12:31 am

Yeah, send your grandma to Poland, but good god don’t allow any more Turkish immigrants in. They might try to convert your grandma to Islam while you pay them less than the Polish to care for her at home.

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