Poor old Germany. Too big for Europe, too small for the world. Or so said Henry Kissenger when reviewing German history post-unification. While it probably won’t be testing the second part of this aphorism anytime soon, Germany is still the biggest player in Europe. It is the economic powerhouse and politically it sets the agenda in the EU.
And it is still the most populous country on the continent west of Russia. In 2019 the German population increased again slightly to 83.2 million people. This was the highest number of inhabitants that Germany has ever held according to the Federal Statistical Office.
But while Germany’s population is growing, it is not doing so at a breakneck pace. The population growth from 2018 to 2019 was 147,000 people, or 0.2 per cent. But this growth was entirely due to immigration – without people arriving from outside of Germany’s borders the population would have decreased by about 160,000 instead.
Not surprisingly, since Germany is importing its population growth, the country is necessarily becoming less German. The proportion of foreign nationals in Germany increased from 12.2 to 12.5 per cent in 2019. And, again not surprisingly in light of Germany’s low fertility rate (circa 1.55 children per woman), the population as a whole is getting older: the average age of the population increased to 44.5 years old in 2019.
In many ways Germany’s population epitomises the continent which it sits in the heart of. It is slowly ageing as it has fewer babies. At the same time more deaths than births means that the population will shrink unless it imports citizens, workers and taxpayers from elsewhere. This is changing the social and demographic makeup of Germany but keeping the population slowly growing. For the time being.