Germany: Only three large cities were able to grow in 2020

The corona pandemic has slowed the growth of large cities in Germany. This is the assessment made by researchers at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) after evaluating population registration data from the 15 largest German cities. Less immigration, fewer births and more deaths in the first Corona year 2020 are responsible for this, write the researchers led by Professor Dieter Rink in a discussion paper. For 2021, too, the scientists see rather negative omens.

The scientists looked at the population development in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden, Hanover, Düsseldorf, Essen, Bremen, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Dortmund and Duisburg. At the end of the 2010s, these cities grew almost without exception, by an average of half a percent (0.55) between 2017 and 2018. In 2019, growth was 0.36 percent. In 2020, however, there was an average minus of 0.18 percent. With Leipzig, Hamburg and Munich, only three of the cities could have recorded small or moderate growth.

Background to the stunted growth

For the big cities, immigration – from abroad as well as from rural areas – has recently been of great importance. In 2020 there were burglaries. In terms of immigration, there was a minus of almost 17 percent across all municipalities, while outflows fell by 9 percent. The ratio of births to deaths was also unfavorable last year: a 2.5 percent decline in the birth rate in the cities contrasted with an increase in deaths of just under 5 percent.

“It looks like long-term trends in population development in Germany’s 15 largest cities were slowed down or interrupted in the first Corona year 2020,” write the UFZ researchers in their discussion paper. They expect the population to continue to decline in 2021. It can be assumed that “only low growth rates, stagnation and increased shrinkage can be observed”.

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