Globalisation and demographic change led the rise of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, the head of Germany’s biggest industrial union has said.
Jörg Hoffman, chairman of metalworkers’ union IG Metall, said the anti-mass immigration party has risen in popularity because working people no longer feel their lives are getting better.
“Digitalisation, globalisation and demographic change are hitting a society which is marked by insecurity and inequality,” he told German daily Tagesspiegel.
“The fact is, we have an increase of inequality in many dimensions, there is a lack of social cohesion. If people are afraid of globalization and digitization, then this is linked to the experience that it is not fair.”
Although he said his union would not be supporting the AfD, he did acknowledge that many of his members backed the party.
“We must create more security on the labour market,” he said. “The old promise ‘My children will get better, they will have a better degree than me and better prospects’ does not apply to Germany anymore.”
The anti-establishment AfD has seen its popularity soar since the German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed over a million migrants to enter the country last year.
Although initially welcoming, public opinion turned against immigration after the mass sexual assaults of women over New Year, especially in the city of Cologne.
AfD then rose in the polls and caused an upset in state election in Saxony-Anhalt in March, coming from nowhere to finish second with 24.2 per cent of the vote. They also finished second in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in September with 20 per cent of the vote, having previously never stood in the region.
Unease over globalisation and mass immigration were also two of the driving forces behind Britain’s Brexit vote this year.
Polling in September found that more than half of working-class Leave voters who traditionally vote for the Labour Party have abandoned it, with only 48 per cent who had voted for the party at the last election still intending to vote for it next time.
The poll presents a huge opportunity for UKIP, which is now targeting Labour voters in Northern England.