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Evelyn Grünheid and Juliane Roloff (2000)

1999 Report on the Demographic Situation in Germany Including the Part B "The Demographic Development in the Federal States of Germany – A Comparison"*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 25, 1/2000, p. 3-150, Opladen: Verlag Leske + Budrich, ISSN: 0340-2398

For the first time this decade, 1998 saw the size of the German population decrease in comparison to the previous year. In recent years, the dynamism of the population growth had continuously slowed. The causes of this situation lay not only in the lower birth rate, but also in sinking migration gains in West Germany and, for the first time since 1991, negative migration in East Germany.

The marriage rate in Germany has been decreasing for years. The year 1998 saw an increase in the marriage rate for the New Federal States and a further decrease in the Old Federal States. The "magic date" of the 9/9/99 lead to a marriage boom in September, with the number of marriages almost 1.5 times that of the previous September. Since the middle of the seventies, the average age of people getting married for the first time has been steadily rising. In 1997, the average age of men getting married for the first time was 30 years, with the average age of women being 28 years. Around two thirds of all people getting married for the first time chose partners who, like themselves, were still single, whereas in most cases, divorcees chose partners who were also divorced.

1998 saw the tendency to get divorced increase further in comparison to the previous year, with the number reaching its highest level since the foundation of the Federal Republic. Under present circumstances, more than one in three of all marriages is in danger of collapsing, with the highest risk of divorce hitting marriages that have lasted between 9 and 14 years. However, the risk of divorce has also increased considerably for longer marriages of between 10 and 14 years, whereby couples with children are showing themselves more prepared to get divorced.

After a two year phase in which the birth rate increased, the number of live births sank in 1998 by 3.3% in comparison to the year before. This negative development is based exclusively on the findings for the territory of the former Federal Republic. In the New Federal States, the number of live births increased in comparison to 1997, albeit at a slower rate than that of previous years. These tendencies have appeared to have continued in 1999. In comparison to 1990, a very severe decrease in the number of first-born children can be observed in the territory of the former Federal Republic and also in the number of second children in the New Federal States. A general decrease in the birth rate is most apparent in women under 30.

The death rate has continued to decrease not only in the territory of the former Federal Republic, but also in the New Federal States. But the decline in the birth rate in West Germany and the generally low level of births in East Germany have lead to an excess in deaths in both regions. The mortality rate in the New Federal States has, in recent years, decreased at a rate faster than that of the former Federal Republic, so that it’s values are now approaching the mortality level of the West. Life expectancy has increased in both East and West Germany. In 1996/98 it was 74.4 years (West) and 72.4 years (East) for newborn boys. For newborn girls it was 80.5 (West) and 79.5 (East). This shows that the life expectancy in the West is still considerably higher than in the East, and is, in addition, substantially higher (6-7 years) for girls than for boys. In 1998, as had been the case for years, the most common causes of death were diseases of the circulatory system. Almost every second casualty was caused by diseases of this type which especially affect older individuals.

Migration across state borders is a characteristic common to two main groups. On the one hand, the ethnic Germans from eastern European states and, on the other, people from the former Yugoslavia, seeking asylum in Germany due to wars in their home countries and who are now returning home. As had been the case for most of the eighties, the level of migration in 1998 was clearly positive but had become considerably lower. 1998 saw the lowest number of people being taken in for the last 10 years (a number totalling approximately 130,000). Not only the diminishing number of immigrating ethnic Germans played a role here. Also the excess of emigrants contributed substantially to this decrease. This excess had already been observed over a period of two successive years, whereby the number of people leaving was around 35,000 higher than the number of those entering the country.

In 1998, around 7.3 million people of foreign nationality lived in Germany, equating to nearly 9% of the population. But a decline in the foreign population in comparison to 1997 was clearly apparent. The age and gender of the foreigners living in Germany differs profoundly from that of the German population, with the foreign population being much younger.

The single household is still the most common type of household in West Germany. Households with two members represent the majority in the East. The proportion of larger households is decreasing, with this tendency already apparent in three-member households. The largest group of people living in single households are senior citizens over the age of 65. However, their share is sinking while that of the younger age-groups is growing. This is not only due to the rising number of younger singles, but also to a decrease in the number of older individuals living alone. A new trend is coming to light: The proportion of older individuals living alone is dropping, as age groups that were not extraordinarily affected by war losses are now reaching their senior age. The proportion of married women is also increasing while that of older single women, who had previously represented the majority of people living in single households, is decreasing. The number of two-member households, in which the individuals are from a higher age group, is rising accordingly.

Marriage is the main form of living together among the adult population in Germany. In 1998, more than half of the people aged 20 and over were married. The majority of all minors still lived in a household with a married couple. Complete families – i.e. those with a mother and father – not only represent the family type in which most children grow up. They also represent the family type into which most children are born. 1998 saw the number of non-marital communities reaching an all time high, with 2 million couples cohabiting. When this is compared to the beginning of the nineties, one can see that this form of relationship has become remarkably popular, with the members of every 20th household in West Germany and every 14th household in East Germany deciding in favour of it.

With the exception of women, the number of employed people in the territory of the former Federal Republic has generally declined. However, the level of unemployment rose in the nineties, at a rate much faster for men than for women. In East Germany, unemployment reached a significantly higher level than in West Germany. The end of the nineties saw families and/or single parents with children having a much higher risk of unemployment than households without children.

In April 1998, almost 6 million people held a part-time job. This represents a significant increase in comparison to the beginning of the nineties. The part-time job sector is almost completely dominated by women. In April 1998, 40% of West German women had part-time jobs compared to only 22% of women in the New Federal States and East Berlin. For women in the West, the decisive factor in taking up part-time employment was not the desire to work shorter hours but family or personal responsibilities. For women in the East, the main reason was the fact that they could not find full time employment. Women were over-proportionally represented in the number of people working in so-called "geringfügige Arbeitsverhältnisse" (part-time, limited-income employment). A micro census led to the conclusion that three quarters of all people holding part-time, low-income jobs were women. The number of working married mothers with children under 15 is significantly higher in East Germany than in the Old Federal States.

The demographic aging of the population of the Federal Republic of Germany is an inevitable process which will increasingly affect all areas of social life in the coming decades. In Part B of the report on the demographic state, the question is asked whether this process will take place to the same extent in all Federal States or whether regional differences will occur. A preparatory analysis of the average age of the population, designed as a tool to measure demographic aging, revealed that in 1997 (the last year to be analysed), Saxony had the oldest population, with an average age of 41 years. East Berlin had the youngest population, with an average age of 37 years. Thus, the age difference between the two states amounted to 4 years.

Furthermore, it has been ascertained that the populations of East German Federal States have aged faster than the populations of the West German Federal States. In 1997 – in comparison to 1989 – the populations in the New States aged by around 4 years on average whereby the populations of the Old Federal States aged by 1 year on average. This is a result of profound changes in the age structure in the New States. The report discusses these changes in more detail and compares the age structures of all the Federal States. It shows that differences not only exist in the age structures between East and West German Federal States but between all Federal States. These are due to demographic processes that differ from one Federal State to the other. The report’s main focus is on an analysis of the birth rate, mortality and migration. It can thereby be ascertained that in all the Old Federal States – with a generally low but stable birth and fertility rate (whereby differences exist between the individual Federal States) – the migration processes across state borders have had a decisive influence on population development, slowing the pace of the aging process. Within the hierarchy of the Old Federal States, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria show the most favourable population development.

As far as the New Federal States are concerned, it is fair to say that the drastic decrease in the birth rate, combined with high internal migration losses, have been the main causes of the aging process since the re-unification. There are, however, regional differences within the New Federal States themselves. In recent years, the State of Brandenburg has experienced comparably favourable population development due to high migration gains from the surrounding regions.

* Original title: Die demographische Lage in Deutschland 1999 mit dem Teil B „Die demographische Entwicklung in den Bundesländern – ein Vergleich“ (full text in German only)

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