More people left Germany than arrived in 2005
The exodus of Germans being lured away from home is greater today than at any time since statisticians began collecting figures about population movements in the 1950s.
Last year, for the first time since 1968, more people left Germany than arrived, according to Destatis, the federal statistical office. It estimates that 144,815 Germans left the country last year because of high unemployment, better opportunities or, in some cases, tax.
Germany has among the lowest birth rates in Europe and its population is shrinking, prompting some experts to warn of the negative impact of the departures on the country's economy.
German demographers were shocked in 1987 when the latest census put the population at 82.4m – 1.3m lower than projected. But a more unpleasant surprise could be in store for Germans as work for the next census gets under way this week. The previous emigration record of 1956 was breached in 1994 and, after several years of decline, the outflow began rising again in 2001, and continued to rise up to 2004, although 2005's figure of 144,815 was slightly down on the year before.
"There has definitely been an increase [in German emigration] over the past two to three years," said Christina Busch at the Raphael-Werke, an organisation that counsels would-be emigrants. "What worries me is that 99.9 per cent of those I see have qualifications. Many have children. Some even have good jobs. And most want a clean break – they do not intend to come back."
Architects, engineers, lorry drivers, scientists and social workers are leaving in droves, according to figures. The outflow of doctors towards Scandinavia is such that the medical faculty of Erlangen University recently started offering Swedish courses to its students.
Until recently, the assumption was that demographic shrinkage would help alleviate high unemployment. In a recent study, however, the IAB research institute, part of the Federal Labour Agency, concluded: "Without new policies, no significant decline in unemployment can be expected [before 2020]."
The reason is the deepening mismatch between demand and supply on the labour market as the best-qualified emigrate, demand for untrained workers decreases and the quality of education stagnates. For former East Germany, the outlook is particularly grim. Another IAB study estimates the region's population will drop from 15m to 9m by 2050.
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