Over the last few weeks (nay, months) we have seen the large number of North African, Middle Eastern and Asian migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe by land and sea. Fleeing persecution, war or simply seeking a better life for themselves or their families, these migrants/refugees have created problems for the European Union as its leaders try to decide what to do with them.

However, as we’ve talked about before, there are those who see large numbers of young migrants as a cure for many western European nations’ demographic outlook which, due to low birthrates and longer-lived citizens, is looking unsustainable. Many countries’ welfare systems (and pension and healthcare systems) require a much greater number of working taxpayers than beneficiaries to work. When countries start to have a larger proportion of elderly citizens and a drop in the number of working-age taxpayers, then the continued viability of the tax/beneficiary system is threatened. One of the countries facing this future is Germany – about 20% of its population is over the age of 65 and its fertility rate is about 1.4 children per woman. For

With this in mind, it is interesting to see that Germany’s population rose by 430,000 in 2014 to 81.2 million people, the largest population increase 1992 (when it rose by 700,000 people). As Destatis (the German federal statistics office) reported, this rise of 0.5% continues the trend of the year before when the population grew by 244,000 (or 0.3%). However, this increase in the population over the last couple of years has not made up for the decade-long trend of population decline: there are 1.4 million fewer people living in Germany in 2014 than there were in 2004.

But the reason for this latest population increase is not due to there being more German citizens – German citizens are still dying in greater numbers than German citizens are being born. Instead, strong inward migration is entirely responsible for 2014’s population increase. As the German newspaper The Local explains:

“While the number of German citizens living in the country fell slightly from 2013’s figure – by 0.1 percent to 73.7 million – this was more than made up for by the number of foreign citizens living in the Bundesrepublik (Federal Republic) which rose by a massive seven percent to 7.5 million.”

By the end of 2014 foreigners accounted for 9.3% of the population, up from 8.7% only a year earlier.

However, German citizens are also doing something to at least reverse the trend – in 2013 212,000 more people died than were born in Germany, but in 2014 this number had dropped to 153,000. This was due to a 4.8 percent increase in the number of babies born (to 715,000) in 2014. There is still some way to go before the German population is self-sustaining. At the moment it is growing only because it is resettling hundreds of thousands of immigrants within its borders each year. Time will tell if such a policy is workable or whether it is as unsustainable as the problem it was trying to solve, albeit for different reasons…

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...