East Germany’s population is shrinking - Fading echoes
Despite an influx of 1.2m refugees over the past two years, Germany’s population faces near-irreversible decline. According to predictions from the UN in 2015, two in five Germans will be over 60 by 2050 and Europe’s oldest country will have shrunk to 75m from 82m. Since the 1970s, more Germans have been dying than are born. Fewer births and longer lives are a problem for most rich countries. But the consequences are more acute for Germany, where birth rates are lower than in Britain and France.
If Germany is a warning for others, its eastern part is a warning for its west. If it were still a country, East Germany would be the oldest in the world. Nearly 30 years after unification the region still suffers the aftershock from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when millions—mostly young, mostly women—fled for the west. Those who remained had record-low birth rates. “Kids not born in the ’90s, also didn’t have kids in the 2010s. It’s the echo of the echo,” says Frank Swiaczny from the Federal Institute for Population Research, a think-tank in Wiesbaden. The east’s population will shrink from 12.5m in 2016 to 8.7m by 2060, according to government statistics. Saxony-Anhalt, the state to which Bitterfeld-Wolfen belongs, is ahead of the curve.