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Germany is growing – but not everywhere

The population of Germany is growing at different rates in its individual regions. Between 2010 and 2016, the population has grown in 282 of its 401 districts and independent towns and cities. Growth is especially rapid in major cities and their surrounding regions.

Fußgänger  in der Innenstadt Menschen in der InnenstadtSource: babaroga/

However, as an analysis by the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development shows, many rural regions are also experiencing population growth, although sparsely populated rural districts away from conurbations continue to register a declining number of inhabitants.

Between 2010 and 2016, the 66 independent major cities have expanded by a total of 1.35 million inhabitants. That represents an increase of 5.9 percent. By comparison: between 2000 and 2010, there was only an increase of 240,000 inhabitants. Apart from a few exceptions in the Ruhr region, all independent major cities have experienced population growth between 2010 and 2016. Compared to their respective population sizes, the greatest increases occurred in Leipzig (+13.7 percent), Darmstadt (+11.4 percent), Münster (+10.8 percent) and Frankfurt am Main (+10.7 percent). Population sizes also rose very sharply in areas surrounding the seven largest cities in Germany, of which the fastest growing were districts near Munich, namely Ebersberg (+9.2 percent), Munich District (München Landkreis, +8.6 percent), Freising (+8.1 percent), Erding and Fürstenfeldbruck (both +7.9 percent).

While around half the rural districts also grew between 2010 and 2016, a number of sparsely populated districts away from conurbations continued to face falling population numbers. The population sizes fell particularly sharply in the rural districts of Mansfeld-Südharz in Saxony-Anhalt (-6.2 percent), Altenburger Land in Thuringia (-5.8 percent) and Anhalt-Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt (-5.9 percent). Rural districts in the former West Germany also experienced dwindling population sizes, albeit not so strongly. Examples of such districts are Wunsiedel in Bavaria (-4.3 percent), Cochem in Rhineland-Palatinate (-3.8 percent) and Holzminden in Lower Saxony (-3.3 percent).

The average age is not high in all rural areas

Regional population development is closely connected to age structures. Above all, major cities benefit from the influx of young people, where the average age is now 42.4, compared to 45.2 in rural areas. The youngest populations are in the university cities of Heidelberg (39.7 years) and Freiburg (39.9 years). In some districts near major cities, the average age is also low, for instance in Freising (40.6) and Erding near Munich (41.5), and Tübingen near Stuttgart (40.7). One reason for this is that many families with children live in the environs of major cities. By contrast, the average age in sparsely populated regions is considerably older, for instance in the districts of Mansfeld-Südharz (49.3) and Wittenberg (48.9) in Saxony-Anhalt, as well as in Oberspreewald-Lausitz (48.9) in Brandenburg.

It is certainly untrue that all rural regions have a high average age. Generally, the population in parts of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, as well as the northwest of Germany, is particularly young. The average age in some districts in western Germany – such as Vechta (40.1) and Cloppenburg (40.2) – is comparatively young. A large proportion of children and youths live there: for example a fifth of inhabitants in Vechta and Cloppenburg are below the age of 18. However, in the districts of Altenburger Land (Thuringia), Mansfeld-Südharz and Anhalt-Bitterfeld (both Saxony-Anhalt), only every tenth inhabitant is under 18, while a quarter of the population is over the age of 65.

Picture shows a map of Germany with regions in different colors to show the population development. Population development 2010-2016Source: BBSR


Antonia Milbert
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