emigration For Members

EXPLAINED: Where do Germans typically emigrate to?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Where do Germans typically emigrate to?
Many German emigrees opt for German-speaking Switzerland. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/KEYSTONE | Yanik Buerkli

We know a great deal about the foreigners that call Germany home and where they live. But where do Germans tend to go when they emigrate elsewhere?


Around five million Germans currently live abroad, with a net 64,000 Germans having left Germany last year, according to official figures from Germany's federal statistics office Destatis.

Most though, stick fairly close by. The majority of the most common destinations for emigrating Germans are in Europe and, perhaps not surprisingly, the two biggest also have German as an official language.

Switzerland takes in the most German emigrees by quite some distance. About 17,000 Germans took up residence there just in 2021.


The second most common destination country was Austria, with 11,000 Germans going there to live and work last year.

Yet Germans also went to many places where German is not an official language.

In third place for Germans in 2021 was the United States, with 8,400 Germans having moved there last year. Notably, the United States was the only country outside the European continent to make the top ten for emigrating Germans.

Just over 6,000 Germans took up residence in sunny Spain last year, with around 5,000 each opting for Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and Poland. The Netherlands and Italy then rounded out the top ten.

Emigration from Germany also went up slightly in 2021, charting about a 0.7 percent uptick over 2020 figures to a total of one million. It still comes in below the number of people immigrating to Germany, with 1.3 million, or a net 300,000 people having taken up residence in Germany in 2021. At the end of last year, a total of about 11.8 million foreigners were living in Germany.

Career reasons motivate many Germans, particularly graduates, to take up residence in a new country. Higher salaries and lower taxes in Switzerland are described as an attractive reason for some Germans to emigrate.

The federal statistics office reports that many do end up returning later, with very few countries having seen a significant net gain of Germans heading there compared to those returning home. Switzerland and Austria are the highest net gainers of Germans.

In 2021, 11,000 Germans headed to Austria in 2021 while only 6,000 came back from there - for a net gain of 5,000. The same year, Switzerland had a net gain of 7,500 Germans. In 2020 alone, 6,900 Germans naturalised as Swiss citizens.

Spain and Poland also gained more Germans than they lost - with net gains of just over 2,000 a piece.

READ ALSO: Who are Germany’s foreign population and where do they live?

According to official statistics though, Germany has been a net immigration country for most of the time since records starting getting kept in 1991.

The year 2008 was, so far, the only year on record that saw more people leave Germany than come in, with that year seeing a net loss of 100,000 people. The next year, 2009, is the only year on record that saw an equal number of people entering and leaving.



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riccaliolio 2022/11/24 13:18
Some kind of graph or table would have been nice...

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