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Germany’s population is growing due to immigration

Word has got around that Germany is a good place to live and work: Germany is a more attractive destination than ever for immigrants. Since 1950, there have been only a few years in which more people emigrated from than immigrated to Germany. The most important historical events can be easily discerned from the figures: German reunification in 1990 paved the way for high immigration figures, which peaked in 1992 with 1,502,198 people. The positive balance of the following years was due to a favourable economic situation and continuing stability on the labour market. Only the global recession of 2008 and 2009 checked this trend slightly. In both these years, net migration was negative for the first time since 1984. The gap between inflow and outflow increased between the years 2010 and 2015. The high positive migration balance of about 1.15 million foreigners in 2015, which is also due to the high number of refugees, decreased in 2016 to 634,807 foreign persons. So more and more people are coming to Germany to pursue their professional career.

Especially young immigrants come to Germany, which could close the expected gap caused by the low birth rate. In 2016, 82 million people were living in Germany. Their average age was 44.3. Given the low birth rates, the younger people in Germany cannot, in purely mathematical terms, replace their parents' generation. But immigrants can close this gap, as they are frequently younger than the average age of the German population.

Most persons with a migration background in 2016 came from Turkey, Poland and Russia. While Russians and Poles were just below the average age of German population at 38.1 respectively, the Turks were on average much younger at only 33.2 years old. Compared to the European groups, it is noticeable that people with a migration background from Asia and Africa with an average age of 32.1 and 28.9 years are even younger. In 2016, around 75 percent of them were 45 and younger.
These young immigrants could remain on the German labour market for a long time to come, palliating the shortage of qualified workers and contributing to prosperity and economic success. This is if they have the suitable qualifications.

Immigrants are increasingly well qualified

More and more immigrants of working age have a higher education degree. For some years, the qualification profile of immigrants has changed significantly. In 2005, 13.6 percent of persons with own migration experience at the age of 25 to 65 years showed an academic degree. By 2016, this figure was already 20.44 percent, which is roughly the same as the share of the total population in Germany at the same age (21.36 percent). Thus, the qualification structure of the immigrants does not significantly differ from the total population in Germany anymore. The fact that more and more academics go to Germany can be explained by the simplified immigration for this group.

Due to the Recognition Act (Anerkennungsgesetz) which came into force in 2012, immigrants and anyone thinking of immigrating can have their foreign qualifications recognised in Germany. This is a necessary step for non-EU immigrants who do not have a university degree and wish to take up employment in Germany. For EU nationals who work in a regulated profession – doctors or lawyers, for example – recognition is also a prerequisite for exercising their profession in Germany. The chances of success are high: only 3,4 percent of decisions were classified in 2016 as not equivalent to a qualification obtained in Germany. This provides a favourable basis for immigrants wishing to find a job and start their career in Germany.

In 2015, nearly 42,365 international scientists were working in German research institutions. The good news is that recently, there have been more researchers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Between 2012 and 2015, the number of scientists doing research in mathematics, science and engineering subjects rose from 20,627 to 24,498 (Source: DAAD, 2017). As a highly specialised centre of industry, Germany needs their know-how to develop innovative strength and international competitiveness.

Plenty of room for growth – Granting of residence titles to qualified migrants

Many highly qualified people come to Germany to build their future professional career. Fundamental differences exist here: for example, nationals from EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland have free access to the German labour market and do not need a residence title. 

Nationals from non-EU countries require a visa, however. The number of third-party nationals who received a residence title in their respective capacities of qualified professional or highly skilled worker was just over 28,000 in 2015. With the exception of the downturn in 2013, due to Croatia’s accession to the EU, more and more residence titles are being granted to highly trained workers. The EU Blue Card is only for a small proportion relevant: with a share of around one quarter, it has plenty of scope for growth. And in sectors with a shortage of qualified professionals, such as engineering and medicine, the proportion is even smaller, at just 11 percent. However, the number of residence titles granted in these sectors since 2012 is rising.

Qualified workers in occupations that usually require two years of vocational training still make up the largest group, with 20,000 residence titles granted. 

In addition, in 2015 nearly 2,000 new residence titles were granted for self-employment, and 409 for research.

Bring your family to join you

Germany loves children! It is easy for workers with a residence or settlement permit in particular an EU Blue Card for Germany to get their family to join them if their accommodation is large enough, the family has a secure livelihood and the spouse is of age. In 2010, over 40,000 visas were granted for family reunification. This figure scarcely varied between 2010 and 2013. For the first time significant gains have been recorded since the year 2014. In 2015 around 73,000 visa for the purpose of family reunification have been awarded (Source: BAMF, 2016). The reason for this was the steep rise in applications from Syrian family members.

Migrants contribute to economic growth

Germany’s economy is growing which one can see through the development of the production potential. The production potential corresponds to the amount of all the manufactured goods and services and basically depends on three factors: the number of people producing goods and services, the time required for production and how productive the workers and machines used are. Labour-related immigration has a positive effect on production potential in two ways: firstly, immigration raises the number of workers and more goods and services can be produced. Secondly, ongoing studies have shown that migrants who come to find work are better qualified than national workers and consequently raise work productivity. In a calculation model, the German Council of Economic Experts has estimated that migration in general will have significantly positive growth effects on medium-term production potential in the next few years. If only qualified immigrants were taken into account in this kind of estimate, the results would be even more positive.

The majority of immigrants live off their own income

The argument that migrants come to Germany primarily to take advantage of the attractive social security system is very widespread among immigration critics. They assume that immigrants who are living in Germany depend mostly on the state to support themselves. This argument is not supported by the statistics, however. In fact, in 2016, the majority of people who had experienced migration themselves earned their living by working (49 percent). Unemployment benefit formed the main source of income for only around 9 percent of the households. This means that migrants’ sources of income do not substantially differ from total population. 45 percent of these earn their living by working and around 4 percent are supported by unemployment benefit.

Information on the internet

Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community

Labour migration in Germany (German, English)

Brochure Welcome to Germany- Information for Immigrants (German, English, French, Spanish and others)


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