Navigation and service

Karl Schwarz (2001)

2000 Report on the Demographic Situation in Germany*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 26, 1/2001, p. 3-54, Opladen: Verlag Leske + Budrich, ISSN: 0340-2398

82.2 million people lived in Germany at the beginning of 2000, including 7.3 million foreigners or 9% of the population. Population growth has slowed over the past years. There are two reasons for this: a continuing surplus of deaths over births, which was almost 80,000 in 1999, and the smaller surplus of arrivals over departures. As a result of many of the civil war refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo returning home, in 1997/98 there was indeed a negative migration balance among foreigners, which was however compensated by the continuing immigration of ethnic Germans.

The proportion of the population that is 60 or older is now 23%, and the proportion of children and young people under 20 is 21%. In contrast, they account for 8 and 27% respectively of foreigners living in Germany. If there were to be no further immigration, there would be an accelerating decline in the population in the decades to come, and at the same time the proportion of people aged 60 and over would approach 40%. However, even with immigration preventing too great a decline in the population, one must presume that the proportion of elderly persons over 60 will continue to increase to more than 30%.

Within Germany, the degree of the demographic shift from the New to the Old Federal Länder has reduced; the migration balance is now almost in equilibrium. At the end of 1998, there were 66.7 million inhabitants in the Old Federal Länder, while the New Länder had 15.3 million inhabitants. In 1990, these figures were 63.7 and 16.0 million respectively.

Propensity to marry has been falling considerably for roughly 30 years. This could lead to a situation in which almost one-third of younger men and women will never marry. In contrast to the situation in the past, marriage is no longer something that can be taken for granted. The developments to date have been linked to a considerable increase in age at marriage. In 1998, roughly 2 million consensual unions of men and women living together were registered, but that considerable increase did not by any means keep pace with the increase in the number of single persons of marrying age. Children live in only 28% of consensual unions.

In recent years, one marriage in three has ended in divorce. Re-marriages are now less frequent. Of the more than 192,000 marriages dissolved in 1998, 52% had children of minor age. If today's divorce rate continues, almost one child in five born in wedlock will one day be a "divorce orphan".

For roughly 25 years, the fertility level has been roughly one-third below replacement level. For 1998, this gives rise to a total fertility rate of 141 births per 100 women in western Germany, and in the 1998 Microcensus survey per 100 35- to 39-year-old women there were 143 children living in their households. For married women living together with their husbands, this figure was 173 children. Of all 35- to 39-year-old women, 26% were childless, whilst 13% of married women were childless. Childlessness is even more widespread in the cities, where today up to one-third of women who are almost 40 are unmarried. The proportion of children born out of wedlock has reached 16% in western Germany and 47% in the New Länder. One should however bear in mind here that roughly one-third of the children are brought up in wedlock by virtue of the subsequent marriage of their parents, and that a further one-third grows up in a complete family when the mother marries a man other than the father of the child.

Life expectancy, the most highly summarising measure of mortality trends, has increased further. For new-born boys, it is now 74 years and 80 years for girls. A 60-year-old man can expect to live almost another 19 years according to the 1996/98 life table, and a woman of the same age can expect a further 23 years. This means that for 60-year-olds, life expectancy has increased by roughly four years in the past 25 years or so. According to the 1996/98 life table, only 14% of men and 7% of women die before the age of 60. The significance of this trend for the pensions systems, the healthcare system and care of the elderly is obvious and serious. This however also impacts the structure of employment potential, family, culture and the power structures within society.

The average number of persons per household has reduced considerably because of the reduction in the propensity to marry and to have children, as well as the increase in the number of divorces and the continuing demographic ageing. One-person households now account for 35% of all households, but only 16% of the population. Their number doubled between 1972 and 1999. Roughly one-third of households consists of married persons and sole parents with their children. 25 years ago, this still accounted for 46%. Households including members of three or more generations are nearly non-existant. However, one should not prematurely conclude from these and similar findings that people have become lonely.

In the Microcensus in April 1999, 40.5 million economically active persons (those in work plus the unemployed) were counted, of whom 32.3 million lived on the territory of the Old and 8.2 million on the territory of the New Federal Länder. 4.1 million, or 10%, were unemployed. Of the 7.3 million foreigners in Germany, including 3.6 million economically active persons, 18% were unemployed.

The considerable increase in women's labour force participation is demonstrated by the fact that in the Old Länder an employment ratio of 62.2% (1972 only 47.7%) was revealed for 15- to 64-year-old women in 1999, while in the New, that figure was 73.2%. The considerable increase in women's labour force participation in the Old Länder, in spite of the extension in schooling time and earlier retirement, should not hide the fact that in particular the increase in the rate of labour force participation among married women is largely based on a very large increase in part-time employment. In 1999 in the Old Länder, 42.5% of women working as civil servants, salaried employees or wage-earners stated that their weekly working hours were less than 31. Half of these women worked fewer than 20 hours. In contrast, the proportion of employed men working part-time is 5%. It would be good to take more account of this considerable difference in assessing women's employment. It is certain that many women with part-time employment can by no means make a living and ensure sufficient pensions.

* Original title: Bericht 2000 über die demographische Lage in Deutschland (full text in German only)

This Page

© Federal Institute for Population Research - 2017