Germany – A Country of Immigrants?

Last Sunday, when Bavaria voted to shift the local political balance for the first time in 60 years and send the cold shiver of irrelevance down the spines of major traditional party leaders, structural factors were invoked. So, has the population structure really changed that much during the past electoral cycle? Let’s have a look.

Recent statistical data regarding immigration to and emigration from Germany (see reveals some interesting and perhaps unexpected information regarding countries of origin and destination and offers a credible analysis of Germany’s population along  the lines of nationality and citizenship.

1,865,122 people settled in Germany in 2016 – following a record of 2,136,954 immigrants in 2015 (the great refugee wave of 2015). At the same time, a number of 1.365.178 people left Germany in 2016. This yields a net migration of half a million people in 2016.  By comparison, during the same period, Great Britain (remember one of the big issues of Brexit – excessive and uncontrolled immigration?) experienced a net migration of only 248,553 people – half that of Germany!

And here comes the first big surprise:

  • in 2016, the most migrants to Germany came from Romania!
    • 212,863 Romanians (the size of a city) moved to Germany in 2016, followed by Poles (163,753) and Syrians (155,412)
  • In fact, even in 2015 (the year of the great refugee wave), the number of Romanian immigrants was still hovering around 200,000 (213,037 to be precise), exceeded only by the number of Syrians (326,872)!

So, while Syrian migration to Germany seems to have abated despite the war waging on, migration from Romania has remained fairly constant over the past couple of years. However, it must also be said that Romanians also form the largest emigrant community out of Germany – 156,468 of them returned home to Romania in 2016 alone. This indicates that we are probably dealing with a lot of job-related mobility.

Another interesting fact: 112,211 foreign nationals were naturalized in Germany (became German citizens) in 2017, putting the slice of the population with a migration background at 23.6% of the total population! (The German Statistical Office defines people with a migration background as those who/whose parent(s) did not obtain the German citizenship by birth – were born elsewhere, immigrated to Germany and acquired German citizenship at a later time.)

Apart from this, the percentage of foreign nationals (foreign citizens) living in Germany reached 11.3% in 2017 – an all-time high.

The next big surprise: millionaires are leaving Germany in droves. And this trend appears to be accelerating. Until 2015, only a few hundred were leaving each year. In 2015, around 1000 millionaires settled outside Germany, and in 2016 a whopping 4000 turned their back on GermanyPreferred destinations for the German moneyed elite appear to be Australia, Canada, Monaco, USA.

It is also the case that increasing numbers of “ordinary” German citizens are leaving Germany (many more than those German citizens who relocate back to Germany). The phenomenon called “retiree migration” (Rentnermigration) certainly plays a big role  – especially since rent is skyrocketing in many German cities and seniors prefer the sunnier South.

According to Statista, in recent times, migration has become an important economic and cultural factor in Germany.

More fascinating data on migration in Europe can be found here.