Germany: Over a Quarter of Population Has Immigrant Roots

July 28, 2020 Updated: July 28, 2020

BERLIN—More than a quarter of Germany’s inhabitants are immigrants or have immigrant roots, according to official data for 2019 released Tuesday.

Some 21.2 million, or 26 percent of the total population, have a “migrant background,” according to figures from a 2019 microcensus, the Federal Statistical Office said. That is an increase of 2.1 percent compared to a year earlier—the smallest percentage increase since 2011, the office said.

The largest single group, some 13 percent of all people who have a migrant background, are originally from Turkey or with roots there, the office said. People with origins or roots from Poland and Russia followed. Overall, 65 percent of all immigrants have European roots.

Oktoberfest 2018: Opening Day
Scenes from Oktoberfest in Munich. (Alexandra Beier/Getty Images)

In Germany, somebody is considered to have a “migrant background” if they, or at least one of their parents, were born a non-German citizen. Some 11.1 million people, or 51 percent of the total with a migrant background, were born as German citizens.

There is still a big difference between the numbers of immigrants living in western and eastern Germany. The northwestern city-state of Bremen has the highest immigration-rooted population—36.5 percent of the total population—while in the eastern state of Thuringia the figure is only 7.8 percent.

Following the division of Germany into east and west after World War II, West Germany invited millions of so-called guest workers to help rebuild the country, many of whom stayed for good.

Relatively few foreigners were allowed to live and work in communist East Germany. Thirty years after German unification in 1990, these differences are still visible.

The new figures also show that people with immigrant roots are still over-represented in low-paying jobs and underrepresented in professions that require an academic training. They account for more than half, or 55 percent, of cleaning workers and 30 percent of geriatric care workers, but only 11 percent of teachers.