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A population on the move

So what does the latest German census, the first since reunification, reveal about Europe’s most populous nation?

This year the Germans have published the results of their first census since 1987, and it has revealed some interesting trends. Firstly, it notes a decline in the overall population to 80.2 million, which is 1.5 million fewer than had been presumed. The majority of the ‘missing’ are actually 1.1 million foreign citizens (ie Russians in the former east, NATO soldiers in the former west) who have since left.

It also records what everyone already knew: that the working population has made a general move westwards (unemployment rate circa two percent), to where the economy is stronger, leaving the east (unemployment rate circa four percent) under-populated. This is particularly shown in the age balances, because it is the elderly who have stayed behind: in eastern states, on average 22-25 percent are over 65; in the western states, that figure is more like 19-22 percent.

In general, it is becoming a nation where the elderly dominate. Germans have been prudent about birth control, so there are 12.6 million children, but 17 million over 65s, which is partly why employers have been so welcoming to overseas workers. And it is slowly becoming more ethnically diverse, with nearly one in five citizens coming from a migrant background, mostly concentrated in the south and west.

For Berlin, the darling of the short-break industry, the figures don’t look good.  As you’d expect, its population has a higher proportion of under 18s than the surrounding states, and the proportion with a migrant background, at 23.9 percent, is particularly high. But its economic problems are considerable, because it has virtually no industry, apart from government and tourism; the unemployment rate in Berlin, at 4.9 per cent, is the worst in Germany.

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