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How Germany’s population is changing during the pandemic

Immigration is causing the population in Germany to grow slightly again after stagnating during the pandemic. Here's what we learned from the latest report on population changes.

How Germany's population is changing during the pandemic
People walking in Berlin in the sunshine. Berlin has seen an increase in population. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

How is immigration influencing population changes in the pandemic?

At the end of 2021, around 83.2 million people lived in Germany – that’s 0.1 percent or 82,000 more than at the end of the previous year.

The development was mainly due to an increase in net immigration, said the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). Around 317,000 more people came to Germany than left in 2021.

Initially, the statistics office predicted that the German population would see a stronger stagnation in 2021.

It comes after net immigration decreased significantly in the first pandemic year. Since reunification, the number of people living in Germany has mostly grown. However, in 2020, Germany’s population stayed the same for the first time since 2011.

Destatis said that the the number of people immigrating from abroad to Germany was down by 24 percent in 2020, while the number of people emigrating from Germany was down 22 percent year on year.

They said changes in migration patterns were particularly significant among young adults aged 18 to 22.

It means that the number of immigrants who came to Germany in 2021 was almost at pre-pandemic levels. At the end of 2019, net immigration stood at 327,000 people.

At the same time, the excess of deaths over births in Germany continued to rise in 2021 to 228,000 (2020: 212,000).

Germany’s population figures are calculated using data on registered births and deaths as well as from the arrivals and departures reported to the statistical offices by authorities. 

Experts say the stats can change as more information becomes available. 

What else do we know about the German population?

At the end of 2021, 72.3 million people with German citizenship, and 10.9 million people with foreign citizenship lived in Germany.

The proportion of foreigners in the total population increased from 12.7 to 13.1 percent compared to the previous year.

As in the previous year, the number of older people continued to rise in 2021. The group aged 60 and over saw an increase of 341,000 people to 24.4 million (+1.4  percent). And the very elderly aged 80 and over rose sharply to 6.1 million (+175 000 or +3.0  percent) people.

The number of senior citizens between 60 and 79-years-old was 18.3 million at the end of 2021 (+166 000 persons or +0.9  percent). At the same time, the number of people aged 20 to 59 fell to 43.4 million (-358 000 persons or -0.8  percent). In contrast, the number of children and young people under 20 increased by 99,000 or 0.6  percent to 15.4 million.

The average age of the German population increased slightly by 0.1 years to 44.7 years.

What’s the situation in different parts of Germany?

Population development in 2021 varied from region to region: in absolute terms, the population in Bavaria increased the most with an increase of about 37,000 people, followed by Lower Saxony (+24,000) and Baden-Württemberg (+22,000).

In percentage terms, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin (+0.4  percent each) had the highest increases in population. There were also population losses in Bremen, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia.

The below table shows the population changes in German regions.

Screenshot: Federal Statistical Office

Chart: Federal Statistical Office

Overall, the western German states (excluding Berlin) recorded a population increase of 98,000 people to 67.1 million. Although this increase was significantly higher than in 2020 (+24,000), it was still below the level before the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in 2019 (+144,000).

In eastern Germany (excluding Berlin), the population continued to decline (by 30,000), and stood at 12.5 million at the end of the year.


Immigration – (die) Zuwanderung

Population – (die) Bevölkerung

Increased/grown – gewachsen

Previous year – (der) Vorjahr

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.

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For members


From nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can’t) do on your balcony in Germany

When the sun is shining, there's nothing better than spending quality time on your balcony in Germany. But you may run into some problems with the neighbours if you don't follow these rules...

From nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can't) do on your balcony in Germany

If you happen to live in any German city, you’re probably used to fitting most of your outdoor living onto your balcony.

They may be slightly smaller than your average garden, but it’s amazing how versatile they can be, from hosting friends for dinner and drinks to testing out your fledgling plant-growing skills.

Of course, this being Germany, there are a set of rules that you need to follow in order to stay on the best possible terms with your neighbours. 

Here’s how to make the most of your balcony this summer while avoiding awkward conversations or even visits from the police. 

Naked sunbathing

Legend has it that the English poet William Blake and his wife used enjoy sitting out in their garden stark naked pretending to be Adam and Eve. 

But while nude biblical scenes may be all well and good in a Lambeth garden, German law unfortunately calls for a slightly more conservative approach.

That doesn’t mean that stripping off on your balcony is necessarily forbidden. However, you do need to consider whether the neighbours might see more than they want to while you’re catching some rays. 

As is generally the case with rules for what you can and can’t do on your balcony, the law says that you’re more than entitled to take off your clothes in your own private space – but this shouldn’t impact your neighbours. 

To get around this, you may want to put up a screen between you and your neighbour’s balcony, or even go full Adam and Eve (William Blake style) with a strategically placed plant or two.

Another option is position your sun umbrella so it blocks your neighbour’s view – just watch out for any gusts of wind that may strike at an inopportune moment.

READ ALSO: What are the laws around nudity in Germany?


If al fresco sex is your thing, you’ll once again need to make sure that the neighbours don’t accidentally catch sight of what’s going on. Obviously, getting a report filed against you may dampen the mood somewhat.

The same applies to making loud noises or even having some “intimate” time in front of a window that people can see into. In the worst-case scenarios, both can be grounds for a police complaint. 


Participating in Germany’s unofficial national sport – Grillen – is technically also allowed on the balcony, but there are some rules to know.

The first is that you should avoid open flames and any kind of BBQ that doesn’t come with an actual grill. 

If you can, you should also try not to send a billowing cloud of smoke over to your neighbours’ windows or balcony while you’re cooking up a storm. In the worse-case scenario, you could face a fine for excessive smoke under the Emissions Control Act. 

Barbecue on the balcony

A barbecue with burgers and vegetables. People who want to have a barbecue on their balcony should watch the smoke. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Beyond Meat | Beyond Meat

That means an electric grill might be preferable to an old-fashioned coal barbecue.

Certain states and districts also have rules about how often you’re allowed to barbecue outside. In Berlin for example, twice a month is considered reasonable. It’s also a good idea to alert the neighbours beforehand if you’re planning a grill-fest anytime soon, and some regions require this by law. 

The other thing to note is that some rental contracts have clauses that ban barbecues on the property or even just certain types of barbecue. So be sure to read the small-print in your Mietvertrag (rental contract) to ensure you don’t accidentally break the rules.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Germany?


There’s very little better than sitting out on a warm summer evening sharing a drink with friends – but you may wonder how much socialising is considered too much.

The good news is, you’re perfectly entitled to invite people over and have fun in your own home, and you certainly don’t need to whisper the second you go outside.

That said, German states do put in place a legal Nachtruhe (night-time quiet) period between 10pm and 7am, so you may want to turn the music down or take the party inside during these hours. 

Once again, it’s also considered polite to give neighbours a heads-up before inviting a big group of people round, especially if it’s going to be a big event like a birthday party: most of them won’t begrudge you a bit of extra noise on a special occasion, but it’s always nice if they know what’s going on beforehand. 


Surely no neighbour would begrudge you a quick ciggie on the balcony once in a while, right? Right.

In principle, you’re perfectly allowed to smoke on the balcony. Once again, just be mindful of the neighbours, who may not be that pleased if a cloud of smelly smoke blows over their way. 


Depending on where you live, you may have considered installing a CCTV camera for a bit of extra security. But is this actually allowed under German privacy laws?

Yes and no. 

In Germany, everyone is entitled to protect their own residence and property with video surveillance, but this should exclusively record what happens on the property.

That means you can have a CCTV camera pointing at your balcony that can record any trespassers, but it shouldn’t record people and areas outside of this remit – so you certainly can’t use it to spy on your neighbours or record what’s going on in their private space. 

Decor and plants

When it comes to turning your balcony into your own personal oasis, you pretty much have free rein. Whether you want to try your hand at growing tomatoes or fancy hanging a banner for your favourite football team, it really is up to you.

The only thing to watch out for is that you don’t obstruct your neighbours’ view or install anything so elaborate that you end up damaging the brickwork or the integrity of the balcony. For this reason, snap hooks and dowels are a no-no. 

Fairy lights and other light features are absolutely fine as well, although your neighbour does have the right to demand they get turned off at 10pm if they’re disturbed by the light pollution at night.

A Ukrainian flag on a balcony in Wilmersdorf.

A Ukrainian flag hangs from a balcony in Berlin Wilmersdorf. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

It’s a similar state of affairs with wind chimes, which may constitute a noise disturbance if your neighbour happens to dislike them. Once again: communication is key. Check with them beforehand if you’re worried your musical decor may be considered a nuisance. 

On the plant front, pretty much anything goes, apart from ivy and other climbing plants. These tend to be a problem because their roots can damage the brickwork. 

You’ll also need to make sure your plant pots are relatively secure and won’t fall down onto the street in heavy winds. And, it should probably go without saying, but spraying your neighbours in the face with a hose every time you do some “watering” is not considered very neighbourly. 

As always, common sense should be the order of the day: a few drips of water or stray petals from your plants on your neighbour’s balcony can’t be helped, and as such, they shouldn’t be a problem. 

READ ALSO: ‘The pandemic made people want to grow stuff’: How a Berlin balcony project led to a chili revolution

Hanging out laundry

If your balcony is big enough, you may want to hang your clothes on a rack out to dry on your balcony.

Although it seems harmless enough, it can actually be forbidden if that is written into your rental contract. As with everything in Germany, check the fine print in your contract before you go hanging your underwear out to dry in the wind.