Mapping the dynamics of population growth in Germany

Germany, according to United Nations projections, is also expected to see a decline in population:

Unlike China, Germany's decline is moderated by immigration. Although fertility rates in Germany have been below replacement since 1972, the country has seen periods of population growth, largely driven by immigration.

This chart isn't a typical line chart! The vertical axis represents the migration rate, illustrating the ratio of immigrants (people entering Germany) to emigrants (people leaving). A migration rate above zero indicates more immigrants than emigrants. Meanwhile, the horizontal axis depicts Germany's total population. Trace the path of the dots to observe how these variables have evolved over time.

Upon first glance, I found myself captivated by the distinctive loops in this visualization! It reveals a complex relationship between migration and population growth. Drawing from my understanding of German history, supplemented by resources like Wikipedia, I attempted to elucidate the patterns depicted in the chart, which coincide with periods of population growth and decline highlighted earlier.

Immediately following World War II, the population continued to decline overall, but there was a sharp rise in immigration, particularly among ethnic Germans returning from across Europe. From 1952 through the 1970s, Germany experienced a period of post-war economic prosperity known as the "Wirtschaftswunder" (economic miracle). During this time, substantial immigration of guest workers from Turkey, Italy, and other nations helped compensate for labor shortages. Germany's fertility rate remained above replacement levels during this period, contributing significantly to population growth.

The 1970s brought global economic challenges, leading to a decline in fertility rates and a decrease in immigration that surpassed emigration, resulting in a population decline. However, legislative measures promoting family reunification in the 1970s helped bolster immigration rates.

Leading up to German reunification in 1991, increased immigration once again drove population growth. Many of these immigrants were "Spätaussiedler" (ethnic Germans returning later) and refugees from the Yugoslav wars. However, these sources of immigration slowed over time, leading to another decline in population.

In the 2000s, the expansion of the European Union sparked a new wave of significant immigration from countries like Poland and Romania.

Germany's economic prosperity in the latter half of the 20th century was heavily reliant on its immigrant labor force. With an aging population and ongoing debates surrounding immigration, the future trajectory of Germany's prosperity hinges largely on the political decisions made in the years ahead.


This story originally appeared on DataWrapper and was produced and distributed in partnership with DataPulse.

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