Who Will Fill the Labor Void?

Low birthrates and the need for more workers are hurting the economies of Europe and Japan. These nations dealt with this problem in the past. How will they solve it today?

In many European nations, continued low birthrates have drained labor pools. At the same time, the elderly of these nations are living longer lives, burdening already swamped social and pension programs, which are kept running by the taxes paid by the dwindling work force.

Such nations cannot sustain growth in their economies with only their own dwindling citizenry to fill the increasing void in their labor markets. Efforts to maintain their present standard of living, aside from ambitions for increasing international influence, wealth and power, are overstretching their ability to sustain the pace of desired economic growth.

One obvious solution to Western Europe’s dwindling labor pool is imported labor. But European Union nations prefer, instead, to tighten their immigration policies, hoping another solution can be found to fill the mounting labor void. For example, at the beginning of this year, five EU coastal nations began a coordinated effort to police their common border adjoining the Mediterranean Sea, in an effort to stem illegal immigration, primarily from Africa.

What will these nations do to fill their employment ranks? Could this problem involve you, personally, one day?

Low Birthrates Affect EU’s Future

Despite government incentives, Europe’s low fertility rates persist, “suggesting that the reasons go well beyond the arithmetic of salaries and schedules” (New York Times, Dec. 26, 2002).

In societies where couples are increasingly career-oriented, many Europeans are extending their education, finding work and marrying later in life. At the same time, divorce rates have increased. Couples that choose to have offspring want only one child. Contraception and easy abortion have made this goal very attainable.

If the trend were to be reversed and women began to have more children earlier in life, the population would still fall for many years to come, simply because of a lack of sufficient women of childbearing age, according to a study using data from the European Demographic Observatory (Times, London, March 28). Wolfgang Lutz, of the Austrian Academy of Science in Vienna, said this “negative momentum has not been experienced on a large scale in world history so far” (ibid.).

Joseph Chamie, chief of population statistics at the United Nations, has predicted that if the current birthrate continues and there is no immigration, Germany will lose over half of its population by the century’s end (Taiwan News, Aug. 1).

In an attempt to reverse this trend, Renate Schmidt (the German minister for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth) and the Bertelsmann Foundation have begun a new scheme to promote larger families. “Alliance for the Family” will encourage companies to give women a variety of schedules they can work, plus offer day care for the children of these workers (Deutsche Welle, July 10).

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.1 children per family on average must be maintained to keep populations stable (New York Times, op. cit.). Anything less than that would eventually lead to failing national economies, resulting in huge shifts of population.

Europe’s low birthrate has been an ongoing problem since the 1980s.

Japan Faces Similar Future

On the other side of the world, Japan too is heading toward a shortage of workers as its birthrate declines. Increasingly, women are choosing careers over their traditional roles of wife and mother.

“Women in Japan feel that having children will affect their work,” said Dr. Thang Leng Leng of the National University of Singapore (Straits Times, Jan. 26). An anthropologist at the university’s Japanese Studies department, Dr. Thang said that in the 1990s, fertility rates were only 0.6 for career-minded women, while homemakers had on average 2.96 children per household.

Other reasons for small families in Japan include the expense of having children, and the desire among many men and women to put professional careers above marriage and children until they are in their mid-30s. The Straits Times article stated that in Japan, 15,000 fewer babies were born in 2002 compared to the previous year, with the birthrate at only 1.33. Rates have not been this small since 1945.

Just like European policy makers, Japanese officials are scrambling to find ways to encourage procreation. A plan was introduced in the 1990s to provide child support for working mothers, but failed to produce any significant results. The government has since tried to introduce other incentives. Still, with Japan’s strict immigration laws, the shortage of workers continues.

The Historical Solution

This, however, is not the first time Germany and Japan have faced a labor-shortage problem. How did these nations resolve this problem in the past?

In the years leading up to World War ii, under political stress and with the desire to build empires, both Germany and Japan reverted to the old practice of slave labor. Though a practice hard to imagine in modern times, this became the answer to the problems of each nation’s labor shortage during the 1930s. The number of slave laborers dramatically increased every year until war’s end in 1945. At end of the war, these former slave laborers comprised many of the millions of displaced people wandering the landscape of Germany and its former occupied territories.

In Europe, the Nazis subjugated non-Germans who were considered enemies of the state, to meet their imperial aim of global conquest. In addition, hundreds of thousands of civilians were deported from the Soviet Union to serve in Nazi work camps.

Areas close to industrial sites were chosen for hundreds of slave labor camps. Around 12,000 German business firms took advantage of slave labor during World War ii (bbc News, July 9, 1998). Those considered of no use to the imperial labor force were simply dispensed with (at the Auschwitz death camp alone, at least 1.5 million people were massacred at nearby gas chambers—cnn, April 19, 2001).

Volkswagen (vw)—which recently stopped production of the world’s most-sold car, the vw Beetle—was one such company. The world remains largely unaware that vw’s current profitability had its genesis in World War ii slave labor. Although vw admits to using 7,000 people as slave laborers, others say that estimate is extremely conservative. Belatedly—after more than 50 years—Volkswagen announced it would start a fund to give financial aid to the victims of slave labor in their factories, which produced weapons and equipment to help further the war for Germany.

During January 1945, Edward L. Deuss, an economic analyst, prepared a report that detailed the enormity of the number of people, of 14 different nationalities, held by the Nazi Third Reich in Germany as slave laborers. Deuss’s total of slave laborers, including prisoners of war and political prisoners, added up to almost 6.7 million.

A more recent estimate from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website puts the total number of forced laborers in German-occupied areas at 8 million. Within the huge German corporate war-empire, consisting of private and public businesses aiding the war effort, some of the most punishing treatments were dished out during the frenzy of slave labor. Certain categories of these prisoners were literally worked to death. The Nazis had a name for this work plan: “annihilation through work” (www.ushmm.org).

“This harsh treatment grew out of the forced labor regimen that, since 1933, had been an integral part of the Nazi program for controlling those it deemed as political or racial enemies of the German people” (ibid.; emphasis mine throughout).

Japan Mirrors Germany

A few years ago, a U.S. federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought against numerous Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Nippon Steel, which forced Allied prisoners to work as slave laborers during the Second World War. The judge sided with the Japanese government position that the U.S.-Japanese 1951 peace treaty had settled all claims. Whether the crimes had been committed or not was not the issue.

In the company camps, about 9,000 out of 25,000 prisoners died because of Japanese cruelty—a 37 percent death rate, compared to Germany’s American prisoner-of-war death rate of 1 percent. “So it’s outrageous that these companies, which profited from slave labor, are celebrating in their board rooms,” said David Casey Jr., one of the former soldiers’ lawyers (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22, 2000).

Unlike many German corporations, Japanese counterparts have never apologized for their crimes.

What Will the Solution Be?

If the European Union and Japan are intent on expanding industry to support a renewed military strength, as post-9/11 trends indicate, core populations of trusted citizens are going to be needed to fill the ranks of their armed forces. Yet at the same time, it will be difficult to build such armies without hindering the required industrial expansion and economic development. Low birthrates will compound their problem.

The question is, will old answers be used to solve new but similar labor shortage problems?

On April 19, 2001, American President George W. Bush observed Holocaust Remembrance Day at the U.S. Capitol. Speaking to members of Congress, Holocaust survivors, Allied veterans and others, he declared, “We are bound by conscience to remember what happened ….”

A strong warning was contained in his address. President Bush stated that the orders to murder countless millions “came not from crude and uneducated men, but from men who regarded themselves as cultured and well-schooled, modern and even forward-looking.” Further, he said their crimes show that, in today’s world, evil can emerge and “blend in, amid the most civilized of surroundings.”

Take a look at just one such 1940s “modern” and “forward-looking” German man, Erich Koch, Reich commissioner for the Ukraine. On March 5, 1943, during a National Socialist Party meeting in Kiev, Koch said this of Germany, its people, and the slave laborers that served them: “I will draw the very last out of this country [the Ukraine]. I did not come to spread bliss. I have come to help the Führer. The population must work, work, and work again …. We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here” (Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946).

Such thinking may seem archaic, but the scourge of anti-Semitism now gaining ground in various parts of the world, especially Europe, illustrates that such warped reasoning is not dead! (See “Death by Prejudice” in the August Trumpet.)

Modern-Day National Captivity?

According to Bible prophecy, the world will have to face the atrocity of forced slave labor on a massive scale once again—as humanity is plunged into another world war!

Herbert W. Armstrong warned for 57 years of the future national captivity of the modern-day nations of Israel—America, Britain and the Middle Eastern state of Israel, as described in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Both he, and our own editor in chief and staff writers, have pointed to a startling biblical prophecy slated to be fulfilled in the not-too-distant future. In the book of Revelation we read of the merchants of the day, during a great revival of the ancient Holy Roman Empire, once again trading in “slaves, and souls of men” (Rev. 18:13).

Regarding the future of the peoples of America and Britain, Mr. Armstrong said this: “Every prophecy in the Bible showing where our people (Israel) will be, at the Second Coming of Christ, and the coming great exodus back to the Holy Land, pictures them in captivity and slavery once again” (Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?).

“It’s time to awake to the immanency, and the stark seriousness of this!” warned Mr. Armstrong. “If you rely on the majority of sinning people, you will suffer their penalties with them!” (ibid.). Only those who positively respond to God’s end-time warning message, and turn to God in repentance and obedience, will be protected from the coming enslavement.

It will be the European Union, led by Germany, that will ignite the spark of another world war and be the imperial power God uses to bring the conquered nations of Israel into captivity for the last time before the return of Jesus Christ (Deut. 28:49-50). Sadly, this is the only event that will bring those nations to a collective repentance of their rebellion against their God.

Watch to see how the sure prophecies of God will come to pass. Historically, both Germany and Japan have used slave labor to fuel their wartime efforts. Will the need for labor to support the prophesied future military aggression once more lead to slave labor—this time for the nations of end-time Israel?

Connect the dots between history, current trends and prophecy, and the prospect of slave labor becomes very real.