There are fewer people in the East, but there will be more people in large cities: According to a study, Germany’s population will increase minimally by 2040. According to the Bertelsmann Foundation’s “Guide to Municipalities” presented on Tuesday, around 0.6 percent more people will be living in this country in 16 years. The problem: The development is distributed very differently across the individual federal states.

While Saarland and the eastern states have to plan for population declines, the authors predict an increase or stagnation for the other federal states. The point of comparison with 2040 for the foundation is the year 2020. According to the Federal Statistical Office, four years ago 83.15 million people lived in Germany.

According to the calculation, the population development in the 13 federal states is between plus 4.6 percent for Baden-Württemberg and minus 12.3 percent in Saxony-Anhalt. In the city states of Berlin and Hamburg there is a significant increase of 5.8 and 3.5 percent. Bremen only increased moderately by 1.1 percent.

Among the independent cities, Leipzig, Potsdam and Bamberg expect an increase of more than 10 percent. This also applies in a comparable way to the districts of Biberach (Baden-Württemberg), Mühldorf am Inn and Kelheim (both Bavaria).

Districts and independent cities in the eastern federal states are at the bottom of the list with declines of 17 percent or more.

“Three factors are crucial for forecasts: births, deaths and migration. Points 1 and 2 are developing relatively stringently, the migration is the difficult part,” says author Petra Klug. “There have been two events in recent years that have made forecasts more difficult. That was the war in Syria in 2015 and the war in Ukraine in 2022. Both had and continue to have extreme effects on the calculations,” said the Bertelsmann Foundation expert.

According to Klug, the two events brought different influences with them. “Unlike from Syria, a high proportion of young and middle-aged women in particular have come to us from Ukraine,” she says. Experts believe that the extremely high level of immigration following the war of aggression against Ukraine will not continue.

Changes in population are one thing, demographic developments are another. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age and the number of employed people is decreasing. According to calculations, the number of people over 80 will increase from around 5.8 million in 2027 to around 7.7 million in 2040. The share of this age group in the total population will then be 9.2 percent.

The so-called median age shows how big the differences are in the age structure of the population. This value divides the population into a younger half and an older half. Nationwide, the median age will rise by 1.2 years to 47.1 by 2040. The range between the federal states is almost 10 years.

In Hamburg and Berlin the value is around 43 years. In four of the five eastern countries, the median age is between 52 and 53 years. At the district level the differences are even greater. The oldest district will therefore be Greiz in Thuringia with 57.3 years, the youngest the city district of Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg) with 38.8.

Regarding possible errors in such forecasts, Klug says: The assumptions are discussed with experts at federal and state levels to the best of our knowledge. “The smaller the territorial units, the more error-prone the forecasts are. But even small municipalities have to be able to plan and need the numbers in order to be able to assess trends,” says Klug.

Another study shows that the average age of fathers at the birth of their children in Germany has been rising for years. In 1991, the average age of fathers at the birth of their offspring was 31.0 years, as researchers from the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) and the University of Oldenburg reported in the journal “Human Reproduction”. In 2022 they were on average 34.7 years old. “This trend can be observed in many countries around the world,” writes the BiB in Wiesbaden in a statement.

Historically, an older age is not unusual: in France around 1900, fathers were on average 34 years old when their offspring were born. Until the 1970s, this age fell to around 30 years, before increasing again from 1980 onwards. Similar trends have been documented for Sweden, Japan, the USA and other countries.

For Germany, data on the age of fathers at birth has only been available consistently since 1991. According to the Federal Institute, data from more than 4,000 births of different vintages in 140 countries were evaluated for the study. The analysis statistically refers to all children of fathers.

According to BiB, their high average age at the beginning of the 20th century in a number of countries can be explained in part by the fact that they started families relatively late for economic reasons. “At that time there were still many families with large children where the last children were born at a relatively old age.”

Later, fathers were able to earn more money at a younger age, which encouraged early families. The proportion of families with large children fell, meaning that many parents completed their family planning early. Fathers were statistically getting younger.

Then their average age at birth increased again. From the 1970s onwards, new career opportunities for women appeared in many countries. The understanding of roles of women and men changed. Training became longer. All of this contributed to the increasing age of fathers, according to the analysis.

Sources:  Bertelsmann Stiftung (paid content), “Human Reproduction”