How has the pandemic affected the number of people in Germany's cities?

The Local Germany
The Local Germany - [email protected]
How has the pandemic affected the number of people in Germany's cities?
Schlossplatz in Stuttgart in summer 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Are we seeing the end of the big-city boom in Germany and a mass rural exodus? A new study shows that could very well be the case. In one city the population decline is particularly striking.


For years the number of residents in Germany's biggest cities grew strongly. But then the pandemic began, throwing uncertainty into the air.

In fact, the coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the growth of Deutschland's big cities, researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) found after analysing population data in the 15 largest German cities.

Lower immigration, fewer births and more deaths in the first pandemic year of 2020 are responsible for this, the researchers say. The study authors also see signs of a negative shift in 2021.

The researchers looked at population trends in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden, Hanover, Düsseldorf, Essen, Bremen, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Dortmund and Duisburg.

READ ALSO: Are Germans really fleeing the cities for an idyllic life in the countryside?

At the end of the decade (2010 to 2020) these cities had grown almost without exception, by an average of 0.55 percent between 2017 and 2018. In 2019, growth was about 0.36 per cent.


In 2020, however, the bottom line was an average minus of 0.18 percent growth, with Leipzig, Hamburg and Munich being the only three cities which have been able to record small or moderate growth.

Frankfurt and Berlin stagnate, while Stuttgart loses many people

According to the report, the greatest decline in population was in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, with a drop of more than one per cent of its population.

In Berlin, Frankfurt am Main and Essen, population development stagnated in 2020. In Dortmund, Hanover, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Bremen, the researchers registered a weak to moderate shrinkage of the population. The population declined sharply not only in Stuttgart, but also in Duisburg and Nuremberg.

This new development is said to come from several factors. The number of people moving into cities - from abroad as well as from rural areas - has been of great importance for booming large German cities in recent years.

In 2020, perhaps not surprisingly, there was a slump. Across all municipalities, the number of people moving into cities fell by almost 17 per cent, while the number of people moving out fell by 9 percent.

READ ALSO: How did it get so expensive to live in Munich?

The ratio of births to deaths was also unfavourable last year: a 2.5 per cent drop in births contrasted with a nearly 5 percent increase in deaths in urban areas.


Overall the pandemic has had an impact on population development in Germany. According to an initial estimate by the Federal Statistical Office, the population in Germany did not increase in 2020 for the first time since 2011. Rather, it stagnated at 83.2 million residents

"It appears that in the first Corona year 2020, long-term trends in population development in Germany's 15 largest cities were slowed down or interrupted," write the UFZ researchers.

They also expect population figures to continue to decline in 2021. It can be assumed that "only low growth rates, stagnation and increased shrinkage can be observed".


Number of inhabitants/population - (die) Einwohnerzahl

Plummet/nosedive - einbrechen

Population development - (die) Bevölkerungsentwicklung

Immigration - (die) Zuwanderung 

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also