Germany is one of many European countries now dealing with the consequences of embracing a culture of very low birthrates.

Bloomberg contributor Alex Webb discusses how the nation is dealing with a deficit of one million scientists because of the new demographics.

With Europe’s lowest birth rate and its oldest population, Germany needs immigrants, and not just any immigrants. It needs Xiaoqun Clever.

Disillusioned by her prospects in Deng Xiaoping’s China, the computer scientist abandoned her studies there to come to Germany in 1991. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy.

“I said to my dad ‘God, I am lost here, it’s a boring country, I am wasting my youth here,” Clever recalled of those early days in the university town of Goettingen in northern Germany. “I was shocked that the shops were all closed from Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. And then on Sunday, it’s dead.”

She persevered, spent two decades rising up the ranks of software giant SAP AG (SAP) and, in January, landed the plum job of chief technology officer at private broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG. (PSM)

With economists estimating that Germany stands to lose more than a million qualified engineers, mathematicians, computer technicians and scientists by the end of the decade, the country is facing a looming talent crisis. Without a fresh influx of highly educated, highly skilled newcomers like Clever, demographic trends stand to endanger the industrial and engineering future of a country whose economy is built not only on national icons such as Volkswagen AG (VOW) and Siemens AG (SIE) but also on thousands of small and medium-sized businesses responsible for much of Germany’s technical innovation.

…German universities are expanding programs to attract more top students from China, Russia, India and elsewhere. When Herrmann took over at Munich’s TU in 1995, the greatest foreign contingent was from neighboring Austria. Now it’s the 1,100 Chinese in the 38,000-strong student body. Yet many of these foreign students, initially attracted to Germany’s engineering tradition, turn down jobs for opportunities closer to home.

“As a mechanical engineer, I knew that Germany was doing things in the right way,” said 26-year-old Indian Mohit Shukla, who declined an offer to attend Indiana’s Purdue University for Aachen’s technical university in north-west Germany in 2009.

Lower tuition fees also helped swing Shukla, the first in his circle of friends and classmates to study in Germany, where he earned a master’s degree in computational mechanics. He was one of four from his home country who entered the university on its English-language program.