What is in demographic data

DESTATIS - Federal Statistical Office

Changing birth behavior

The development of the number of births depends - in addition to the number of potential mothers - with the birth behavior of women. How many women in a given cohort become mothers, when do women start a family, how many children do they give birth in the course of their lives? Answers to these questions show how the birth behavior of women is changing. The information on this is provided by the birth statistics and the microcensus.

The trend towards later birth continues

Women have their children at an ever increasing age. In 2018, the mothers of the firstborns were on average 30 years old. In 1970, on the other hand, a woman with her first child in the former federal territory was around 24 years old and in the former GDR only 22 years old.

Final number of children per woman: end of the descent

The women born in the 1930s - mostly the mothers of the baby boom generation - gave birth to more than two children on average. Her family founding phase coincided with the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Even among women born from the mid-1930s, however, there was a decline in the final number of children per woman. This fell particularly quickly between the birth cohorts 1934 and 1944, when fewer and fewer women decided to have a fourth or additional child. Subsequently, the number of children per mother has stabilized with two children, but at the same time the proportion of women who have never given birth to a child has increased.

Between the cohorts 1937 and 1966, the so-called final childless rate (the proportion of childless in all women in a cohort) almost doubled from 11% to 21%. In the following years it stabilized and varied slightly between 20% and 21% up to the year 1969.

The increasing childlessness of women led to a continuous decline in the final number of children per woman, which for women born in 1968 has reached its all-time low of 1.49 children per woman.

By 2018 - between the ages of 39 and 48 - women born in the first half of the 1970s had on average given birth to more children than women born in 1968. There are two main factors that are decisive for this: On the one hand, the birth rate increased Women aged 30 and over are significantly more likely. Under generally favorable economic and family-political framework conditions, they realized the wishes for children that had not yet been fulfilled. On the other hand, the fertility of these cohorts has stabilized in the younger childbearing age up to 29 years. The immigrant women, who tended to be younger than German women when their children were born, played a decisive role. Since their share of all women in the 1970s cohorts increased, this had a positive impact on overall fertility.

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Life expectancy and mortality

In connection with demographic change, life expectancy at birth is the key indicator for expressing the trend towards an ever longer life. This long-term trend has been observed since statistical records began at the end of the 19th century. Since then, the life expectancy of newborns has more than doubled. The main reasons for this are advances in medical care, hygiene, nutrition and living conditions, improved working conditions and increased prosperity.

According to the results of the 2017/2019 life table, the life expectancy of newborn boys is 78.6 years and that of girls 83.4 years. Longer life expectancy in older years has also risen sharply. For example, 65-year-old men had an average of 9.6 years to live in 1871/1881. In 2017/2019 it was 17.9 years. This development is even more pronounced for women: while the value for the period 1871/1881 was 10 years, 65-year-old women could look forward to an average of 21.1 more years of life in 2017/2019.

A further increase in life expectancy is also expected in the future. In the 14th coordinated population projection, three assumptions were made. The increase in life expectancy at birth up to 2060 varies. A range of +4 to +8 years was assumed for men and +3 to +6 years for women.

These assumptions assume that improved living conditions, declining smoking rates and alcohol consumption as well as further improvements in medical care will continue to have a positive influence on the further increase in life expectancy in the future.

In the future, the improved chances of survival in old age will increasingly influence the increase in life expectancy. At a younger age, the risk of death is already very low.

How is life expectancy calculated?

The values ​​for life expectancy (e.g. at birth) result from the so-called life tables. These can be set up either for specific periods of time (period tables) or for birth cohorts (cohort tables). In the public perception, the results from period life tables are usually the focus. Definitive results for the actual life expectancy of individual birth cohorts from cohort mortality tables are only available when all members of the corresponding birth cohort have already died.

What does statistical life expectancy mean for the individual?

Although the term “life expectancy” suggests that the results can be used to indicate the expected time span from a certain age to death, the values ​​are mostly very hypothetical. Statements can either be made about how old a person would be on average if nothing changed in the conditions of the current period (period mortality tables) or if the current change trends would continue for a very long time into the future (cohort mortality tables for birth cohorts still alive) . In addition, life tables can only give average values ​​for life expectancy, from which individual survival prospects can vary considerably depending on living conditions, lifestyle, occupation, health and other factors.

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Old-age quotient - working-age population and senior citizens

For every 100 people aged 20 to 65 in Germany, there were around 36 people aged 66 and over in 2019. This so-called old-age quotient shows how many potential pensioners people of working age have to take care of in the broadest sense: financially through contributions to pension and health insurance, but also through medical care, care services or household support services. As the number of seniors increases and the number of employable people falls, the old-age dependency ratio increases. Without adequate measures, this can make care more difficult. Regions are affected to different degrees by the challenges of demographic aging.

Development since 1950

In 1950 there were 16 people of retirement age versus 100 people of working age. The old-age quotient of 16 was therefore less than half as high as in 2019. By the end of the 1970s, the old-age quotient had risen consistently to 27 in 1979. The reasons for this were the increased life expectancy on the one hand and the effects of the Second World War on the age structure of the population on the other. As a result, the number of older people increased faster than that of people between the ages of 20 and 65: between 1950 and 1979, the number of people aged 65 and over increased by 5.5 million, while the number of those aged 20 to under 65 Year-olds only increased by 3.1 million. In the following years up to 1991, however, the old-age quotient fell to 24 and then stabilized at this level. During these years, the baby boomers of the post-war period (“baby boomers”) reached working age. At the same time, the weak cohorts born after the beginning of World War I reached retirement age.

Since 1991, an almost continuous increase in the old-age ratio has been observed, due to the upward trend in the age groups with low birth rates. The old-age quotient grew particularly strongly in the late 1990s and early 2000s: within eight years between 1998 and 2006 it rose from 25 to 33.

Regional differences

Demographic change has different regional effects: at the beginning of the 2000s, the old-age quotient in eastern and western German states was almost the same. Since then, aging has progressed faster in eastern German territorial states: The old-age quotient in western German territorial states rose only slightly from 33 in 2006 to 35 in 2019. In the same period the value in eastern German territorial states increased from 36 to 46. The background to these different developments is, on the one hand, the fall in birth rates in the east after reunification and, on the other hand, immigration to West Germany from the new federal states and from abroad, which is slowing down the aging process in the west.

Since the mid-1990s, the old-age ratio has been lowest in the city-states. This is likely to be related to the fact that many young adults, workers and families live in urban areas due to the availability of jobs, universities and schools. In 2019, the city-states had an overall old-age quotient of 31. In a comparison of the federal states, Hamburg (29) and Berlin (31) had the lowest values ​​in 2019, followed by Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse (33). In 2019, proportionately most of the older people per 100 people of working age lived in Saxony-Anhalt (48), followed by the other eastern German states of Saxony (47), Thuringia (46), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (44) and Brandenburg (43).

Methodological notes

The calculation of the old-age quotient is based on information from the population extrapolation to population stocks by year of birth. The demarcation of the population of working age and the population of retirement age is therefore based on the year of birth. Actual employment or relationship with pension are not taken into account. Alternative age limits are also possible for calculating the old-age quotient. Other common delimitations are, for example, 60 or 67 years for the start of retirement age.

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Migration in times of demographic change

Alongside aging, migration is one of the greatest challenges of our time. However, while demographic aging is a relatively new phenomenon, migration has a thousand-year history. It has shaped contemporary societies and contributed to their change.

Since German reunification, a total of 7.5 million people have immigrated to Germany. Of these, 1.1 million people were German and 6.4 million were foreign nationals. Since the immigrants are on average younger than the resident population in Germany, the net immigration counteracts the aging process and steadily rejuvenates the age structure of the residents. Immigration will not be able to reverse aging, but it will slow it down.

As a result of migration, people of many different nationalities live in Germany today. In 2016, 9.2 million people or 11.2% of the population were foreign nationals. Most of the foreigners came from Europe (70%) and Asia (21%). Turkish (15%), Polish (8%), Syrian (6%), Italian (6%) and Romanian (5%) nationals were particularly widespread.

The total number of people with a migration background (including Germans with foreign roots) was around 21.2 million in 2019. Here, too, Europe continues to be the most important region of origin. However, the importance of other parts of the world has increased in the last five years. 3.2 million people in Germany now have their roots in the Near and Middle East. Around 988,000 people are of African origin.

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Migration movements in East and West Germany

Different demographic developments can be observed in East and West Germany. The reasons for this are complex; However, the migration patterns of both regions have a major influence. In East Germany they are partly responsible for the decline and the faster aging of the population. In West Germany, on the other hand, they tend to counteract the aging of the population and also contribute to a higher proportion of people with a migration background. This is due to both the east-west migration within Germany and the different external migration (across the borders of Germany) in both regions.

East Germany: Emigration is slowly declining

Migration in East Germany (here excluding Berlin) was long characterized by emigration to the old federal states.

Since German unification from 1990 to 2016, the number of people moving to West Germany has been higher than the number of people moving there in all years. The resulting population losses could only be compensated for in a few years by immigration from abroad, so that the population in eastern Germany has declined overall. This development has been exacerbated by the fact that young adults in particular have emigrated. As a result, the East German population has aged faster overall. In addition, more young women than young men have emigrated, which in the past has also led to a deficit of women of childbearing age.

However, emigration to West Germany has been decreasing since 2009, so that the migration balance - i.e. the difference between immigration and emigration - between the new and old federal states is now almost balanced. From 2017 to 2019 there were even positive internal migration balances for eastern Germany. Since the turn of the millennium, the decline in migration losses among 18 to under 25-year-olds has been particularly noticeable, which is mainly due to the mobility of students who are increasingly studying in eastern Germany.

In this graphic you can show or hide the lines for the different age groups with a click of the mouse. If you hold the mouse pointer over the lines, the respective values ​​are displayed.

The population of West Germany increases due to migration

West Germany has benefited from the migration from east to west in the past, also due to the age structure of the immigrants. Due to the higher population, the gains for western Germany are not as significant as the losses for eastern Germany.

The external migration has a greater influence here than the east-west migration. Even before German unification, West Germany was characterized by high levels of immigration from abroad. These population gains mean that the number of inhabitants in western Germany continues to rise despite the low birth rate. But this also changes the structure of the population. Because immigrants are on average younger than the native population, immigration counteracts aging. As a result, the proportion of people with a migration background is significantly higher in West Germany than in East Germany.

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Influence of demographic processes on the population structure

The population structure is influenced by demographic processes - fertility, mortality and migration. The graph shows how births, deaths and external migration have changed the structure of the population over the past 100 years.

The individual years of birth from 1919 to 2019 are shown here on the one hand in the year of their birth and on the other hand in 2019: The year size for women (right) and for men (left) in the year of birth is shown with bars. The line contours show the respective vintages in 2019.

The ups and downs in birth rates are causing demographic waves

The number of births has halved over the past hundred years. The long-term decline in the birth rate was not continuous and was interrupted several times. In addition to the deep notches that arose towards the end of the two world wars (in 1917 and 1918 as well as 1945 and 1946), there were also phases in which the birth rate rose.

The first increase occurred after 1933 as a result of the family policy of the National Socialists.People born between 1934 and 1941 currently represent a relatively large generation of senior citizens between the ages of 70 and early 80 and benefit from increased life expectancy.

The second rise in the birth rate began after the Second World War and culminated in the so-called baby boom in the mid-1960s. The high birth rates between 1950 and 1970 with over one million newborns annually led to the emergence of a comparatively large generation known as baby boomers. Subsequently, the number of births fell significantly, so that after the baby boom of the 1960s, the so-called baby bust of the 1970s followed.

Such birth fluctuations create demographic "waves" that can lead to problematic disparities in the age structure. For a long time, the baby boom created a large labor force. If, however, the baby boomers gradually reach retirement age over the next few decades and the significantly less populated cohorts of the 1990s and 2000s follow them into working age, the pay-as-you-go social security systems will be burdened much more heavily than before.

Influence of net immigration and mortality

The middle age groups were more populated in 2019 than in the year of their birth. This can be explained by migration: When these cohorts were between the ages of 17 and their mid-50s, more people of the same age came from abroad than had moved away. Since the number of deaths in this age range is also relatively low, the respective age groups gained in people on balance. Nevertheless, the excess migration was unable to compensate for the disparities between the age groups due to fluctuations in births. The current age structure will shape the population development over the next three decades.

For those born in 1941 and earlier, the influence of the increasing mortality rate with age can be clearly seen in the graph. Their age group decreased significantly compared to the time of birth.

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Future population development

The future changes in the size and - above all - in the age structure of the population of Germany are shown with the help of population projections. These show a range of possible future developments based on the current age structure of the population and the assumptions made regarding the development of the birth rate, life expectancy and the balance of migration to and from Germany. The current 14th coordinated population projection for Germany and the federal states shows the following development up to 2060 based on several variants:

The total population is expected to increase from 83 million in 2018 at least until 2024 and decrease from 2040 at the latest. In 2060 it will be between 74 and 83 million.

Due to the current age structure, an increase in the number of senior citizens and a decrease in the working-age population are predicted. The number of people aged 67 and over rose by 54% from 10.4 million to 15.9 million between 1990 and 2018. It will grow by a further 5 to 6 million to at least 21 million by 2039 and then remain relatively stable until 2060. The working-age population between 20 and 66 was 51.8 million in 2018. By 2035 it will decrease to 45.8 to 47.4 million and thus be around 4 to 6 million lower.

By the year 2060, depending on the assumed trend in migration, a stabilization of the number or a further decrease to 40 million is possible. The future development of demographic influencing factors such as birth rate, life expectancy and migration can only influence these processes to a very limited extent.

The regional differences will continue to increase. With a moderate development of the birth rate, life expectancy and net immigration, the population in the western German states will decrease by 4% by 2060 and in the eastern German states by 18%. In contrast, it will grow by 10% in the urban crops.

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Population development in East and West Germany between 1990 and 2019: Equalization or consolidation of the differences?

The German unification on October 3, 1990 triggered strong demographic changes, especially in East Germany. Declining birth rates, emigration of mostly young people to the western federal states, as well as increasing life expectancy accelerated the demographic aging of the East German population. In western Germany, on the other hand, increased immigration from abroad and influx from the new federal states have slowed down aging. Despite a clear convergence, typical demographic West German and East German development patterns can be recognized even after 30 years of German unification.

Increasing population in the west and population decline in the east of Germany

At the time of German unification in 1990, around 62 million people lived in West Germany (here: former federal territory without West Berlin). There were four times as many as in the East German federal states (excluding Berlin) with their then around 15 million inhabitants. While the population in western Germany grew by 9% to 67 million between 1990 and 2019, it decreased by 15% to 12.5 million in the same period in the east. This means that in 2019 there were five times as many people in western Germany as in the eastern German federal states. These different developments result from changes in the population due to migratory movements, births and deaths.

More people immigrate to West Germany than to East Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany grew by around 8.7 million people between 1991 and 2019 due to the positive migration balance, i.e. the difference between people moving to and leaving Germany. If one disregards Berlin, the net immigration from abroad in this period was around 900,000 people in the east. In the west, the gain in migration was around eight times as large, at just under 7.3 million people.

The initially strong migration from east to west was reversed

In the period from 1991 to 2019, around 1.2 million more people migrated from east to west than vice versa. About half of this strong emigration can be traced back to the first 10 years since reunification: By the year 2000, a balance of about 611,000 people left the east for west Germany. In the following 10 years up to 2010, a balance of around 553,000 people migrated from east to west. This development slowed significantly in the 2010s, with a net emigration from east to west totaling around 64,000 people between 2011 and 2019. Since 2017, for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, slightly more people have been migrating from the West German federal states to the east than from the east to the west.

The loss of emigration for the East is due in particular to the emigration of young and middle-aged people: On balance, the East has lost more than 720,000 people in the age group up to 25 years to the West since reunification, and around 514 between 25 and 65 years 000 people. Hikes by senior citizens only make up a small proportion of the east-west hikes.

In the west and east, the number of deaths is higher than the number of those born

In both parts of Germany, between 1990 and 2019, almost 2 million more people died than children were born. This corresponded to an average annual population decline of 1 people per 1000 people in West Germany and 5 people per 1000 people in East Germany.

The changes relevant to the population are not shown in full here, as migrations to and from Berlin in particular are not included.

Aging is progressing faster in the east

The population has become older across the country: between 1990 and 2019, the proportion of people under 20 years of age fell from around 22% to 18%, while the proportion of senior citizens (65 years and older) rose from 15% to 22%. However, this development is progressing faster in the east. In 1990 the population in the east was younger than in the west: the proportion of under 20-year-olds was 25% in the east and 21% in the west (both excluding Berlin), while those aged 65 and over were 14% in the east and 15% in the west Population. Over time, this ratio has reversed: in 2019, the proportion of under 20-year-olds in the east of 17% was lower than in the west of almost 19%. At the same time, the proportion of people aged 65 and over was 26% higher in the east than in the west (21%).

Since 2011, however, a new development has emerged. The number of people under 20 years of age in eastern Germany increased by 288,000 between 2011 and 2019 (+ 16%). In contrast, the corresponding increase in the west was significantly weaker (+130,000 or +1%).

The proportion of the foreign population is significantly lower in the east than in the west

While there were 5 million foreigners living in the west (8% of the population) at the end of 1990, the number of foreigners in the east was 112,000 (1%). The foreign population has increased everywhere since reunification, but differences remain: At the end of 2019, the foreign population represented 14% (9 million) in the west and 5% (631,000) in the east The west can also be seen in the composition of the foreign population: the proportion of nationals from guest worker countries (including current EU members) in the foreign population was 40% in the west at the end of 2019, significantly higher than in the east (12%). The proportion of EU citizens is also higher in the west than in the east (44% and 35% respectively), with this difference mainly due to the former guest worker countries Spain, Italy, Greece and Croatia. In contrast, citizenships from Asia (37%), especially from refugee countries (Syrians, Afghans) are more common in the east than in the west (20%). The different migration histories are also reflected in the length of stay: While 19% of foreigners living in the west were in Germany 30 years ago, the figure is only 3% in the east.

Berlin is located in the east of Germany, but has a special population structure and development

After the ups and downs of the 1990s, Berlin has seen a continuous increase in population since 2005. At the end of 2019, its population of 3.7 million was around 7% larger than in 1990 (3.4 million people). This population increase was mainly due to increases from migrations across the borders of Germany (+530,000 people) and from the western federal states (+149,000 in total). At the same time, Berlin lost 203,000 people through emigration to the new federal states (especially to Brandenburg) and 78,000 people through the excess of deaths compared to births. In terms of migration history, Berlin has more similarities with West Germany than with East Germany.

Despite convergence in birth behavior, younger mothers can be found in the east than in the west

In the unified Germany, a total of more than 22 million children were born between 1990 and 2019. Most of them were born in West Germany. Only 3 million or 14% babies come from the eastern German federal states. At the beginning of the 1990s, during the serious decline in the birth rate, only every tenth child was born in the east. Only since the mid-2000s has the birth rate in East and West Germany converged and in the last ten years has even been slightly higher in the East than in the West. Out of 10 children born in Germany, 8 are born in the west and 2 in the east.

At the time of German reunification, mothers in the east were significantly younger than in the west (around 27 years) at an average of 23 years. In 2019 this difference was reduced to one year: 30 years in the west compared to 29 years in the east.

There are still clear differences in the prevalence of childlessness. The proportion of women without children of all 45- to 49-year-olds in 2018 was 22% in western Germany, still significantly higher than in eastern Germany (15%), although childlessness has increased faster in the east than in the west since reunification.

The births of unmarried parents are more widespread in East and West than in 1990, but the differences are still very pronounced. In 2019, births out of wedlock were almost twice as frequent in the east (56%) than in the west (29%). In 1990 their share of all births was 35% and 10%, respectively.

The life expectancy of East Germans has quickly approached the West German level

If one looks at the development of life expectancy at birth since German unification in the new federal states and in the former federal territory, the rapid adjustment of life expectancy in the new federal states to that of the former federal territory becomes clear. At the beginning of the 1990s there was still a difference in life expectancy at birth between the two parts of the country of more than 3 years for men and more than 2 years for women in favor of the West. Within seven years, the difference for men has halved to 1.6 years, and for women it has been reduced even more to 0.6 years. In the years that followed, the difference in life expectancy for men fell further to 1.3 years and has now stabilized at roughly this level. In the meantime, there is hardly any discernible difference among women. In the current surveys, life expectancy at birth of women in the federal states in the east is even marginally higher. It is believed that improvements in medical care and general living conditions in the new Länder contributed to this rapid adjustment.

The number of marriages has fallen significantly in both western and eastern Germany since 1990

In the eastern German federal states there were only half as many civil weddings in 1991 as in 1990. In western Germany, on the other hand, the number of marriages initially decreased only slightly and was then a quarter lower than in 1990 in the mid-2000s. The number is lower in both areas marriages then increased again. There are currently around a third fewer marriages in the east and around a sixth fewer marriages in the west than in 1990.

Even 30 years after unification, the proportion of couples who bring children together is still very different. In the West, around 5% of couples had premarital children together when they married, compared to over 25% at Easter. This proportion increased in both parts of Germany. In 2019 almost 20% of parents in the west and almost 40% of parents brought children into the marriage with them. The twice as high proportion in the east corresponds to the almost twice as high proportion of children born outside of a marriage there as in the west.

Divorces: In both the West and the East, around half of divorced couples have underage children

In eastern Germany, the number of divorces collapsed after German reunification. In addition to all the other changes, the fact that on October 3, 1990 the up until then West German divorce law was introduced, which usually only provides for a divorce after a year of separation. Already after a few years the number of divorces increased again in the east and between 2000 and 2005 again reached the level of 1990. In the west of Germany, however, the number of divorces increased after 1990 and reached its maximum in the early 2000s. In both parts of the country, the number of divorces then fell again. Currently, slightly more marriages are divorced in the western federal states than in 1990 and around 30% less in eastern Germany.

In both the West and the East, around half of divorced couples today have underage children. In the mid-1990s, on the other hand, only 30% of divorces in the east affected underage children.