SStatistically speaking, Germany's population will increase minimally by 2040, according to the study. According to the “Municipal Guide” of the Bertelsmann Foundation presented on Tuesday, about 0.6 percent more people will live in the Federal Republic after 16 years. The problem: development is distributed very differently between the individual Länder. If the eastern federal states and Saarland have to plan for some significant population declines, the authors predict positives for the other states. The foundation's benchmark for 2040 is 2020. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 83.15 million people lived in Germany four years ago.

According to the study, the population in Saxony-Anhalt is likely to decrease by 12.3 percent, Thuringia by 10.9 percent and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by 7.3 percent compared to 2020. According to the fund's population forecast, a 5.7 percent decrease is expected in Saxony and a 2.4 percent decrease in Brandenburg. However, the west of Saarland has also been seriously affected, where the population decline is predicted to be 5.3 percent.

The situation in metropolises and agglomerations is quite different: for the state of Berlin, for example, a 5.8 percent growth is expected by 2040. Over the course of 20 years, Baden-Württemberg will also grow significantly with a 4.6 percent increase and Bavaria with a 4.4 percent increase. According to expert calculations, the city-state of Hamburg can expect a population growth of 3.5 percent by 2040. Some eastern cities are also growing significantly. The population of the city of Leipzig in the state of Saxony is expected to increase by 14.7 percent by 2040 – and thus more than any other municipality.

Western countries, on the other hand, tend to stagnate – for example, North Rhine-Westphalia with a projected minimum decrease of 0.1 percent or the state of Lower Saxony with a small increase of 0.1 percent. Schleswig-Holstein, in the northern part of the republic, also saw a slight increase of 15,000 people to 2.926 million inhabitants. With 0.5 percent growth, the North is almost in line with the national average of 0.6 percent.

Immigration from Syria and Ukraine complicates the calculations

“Three factors are decisive for forecasts: birth rate, mortality and migration. Points 1 and 2 are developing relatively strongly, migrations are the more difficult part,” says study author Petra Klug. “There have been two events in recent years that have made forecasting difficult. This there was a war in Syria in 2015 and a war in Ukraine in 2022. Both had and will have an extreme impact on the calculations,” said the Bertelsmann Foundation expert.

And according to Klug, both events brought with them different influences. “Unlike Syria, a large number of young and middle-aged women have come to us from Ukraine,” says the researcher. Experts believe that the extremely high level of immigration that followed the war of aggression against Ukraine will not continue.

Germany is getting old

Population changes are one thing, demographic developments are another. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and the number of employed people is declining. According to calculations, the number of people over the age of 80 will increase from approximately 5.8 million in 2027 to approximately 7.7 million in 2040. This age group will then account for 9.2 percent of the total population.

The so-called median age shows how big the differences are in the age structure of the population. This value divides the population into younger and older halves. Nationwide, the median age will increase by 1.2 years to 47.1 years by 2040. The interval between federal states is almost 10 years. In Hamburg and Berlin, this value is about 43 years in 16 years. In four of the five eastern countries, the average age is 52-53 years. At the regional level, the differences are even greater. The oldest district is therefore Greiz in Thuringia with 57.3 years, the youngest district in Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg) with 38.8 years.

Regarding potential errors in such projections, Klug says: Assumptions are discussed with various federal and state experts to the best of our knowledge and belief. “The smaller the territorial units, the more error-prone the forecasts are. But small municipalities also need to be able to plan and need numbers to assess trends,” says Klug.

In particular, large companies moving away from the city have an impact on population development – they can rarely be planned. “All calculations no longer hold true.” Municipalities with primary reception are also a problem with the forecast. Klug talks about special cases that distort statistics with their reporting data.

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