There are four groups considered "national minorities," which means their ancestors lived in their regions for many centuries. These groups are the Sorbs, Danes, Frisians, and the Roma and Sinti. There are about 50,000 Danes in the northernmost region of Germany. The Sorbs, who are a Slavic people, live in the Lusatia region. There are large populations of Frisians in Lower Saxony and the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein.
About 3.4 million Germans are living abroad.
Germany Religion, Economy and Politics
The majority of Germans are Christian, either Roman Catholic (29.9%) or Protestant (29.8%), although 1.3% of the population are also Orthodox Christians. Islam is the second largest religion in Germany, with an estimated 6.1% of the population according to a 2017 Pew Research Survey. Germany has the second largest Muslim population in Europe, at nearly 5 million, and is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades.
The largest single group, however, is non-believers, who make up 34% of the population. The number of atheists and agnostics is far higher in Eastern Germany than in Western Germany, largely because of the Communist East German state's general policy of discouraging religious belief.
German Population History
Censuses have only been intermittently conducted in Germany, and the last one took place in 1987. Instead, the German Government relies on extrapolations from sample data collected from a small percentage (around 1%) of the population. Still, Germany did participate in the EU-wide census in 2011, which gave much-needed insight into the country's population.
Of all the 27 European Union states, Germany has the highest percentage of immigrants in its population. Over 10 million people living in Germany today were born outside of Germany -- that's about 12% of the German population. Most immigrants come from other European countries, particularly from Turkey, Russia, Poland and Italy. Germany is the second most popular destination for immigrants in the world after the United States.
The German Government has been keen to encourage immigration over the past fifty years -- partly to address longer term demographic problems in Germany, such as its low birth rate, and partly to address shorter term labor shortages.
Germany Population Growth
The country is now spending about $265 million every year on family subsidies in an attempt to reverse a declining population, with little success. Germany has many issues to overcome in order to address this issue, including attitudes in the country toward working women with children who are dubbed "raven mothers" with an implication of neglectfulness or abandonment; additionally, immigrants are not always welcomed with open arms.
Some experts worry that the country has waited too long to try to address its population problem, and raising fertility rates has proven difficult. Giving money to families and tax breaks for stay-at-home mothers and married couples has done little, and demographers believe expanding after-school and daycare programs would be a better investment for the country.
The country will also need to start bringing in more immigrants to fill hundreds of thousands of vacant skilled jobs.
Germany is a representation of the declining fertility rates Europe has seen over the past few decades, and Germany found that it had lost 1.5 million people in its most recent census. This news was a bit of a surprise to the country, which had not conducted a single census since its reunification, even after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. It seems Germany missed this population loss because its people value privacy, and the last census in 1987 was very strongly opposed, and the one in 2011 was only done because it was required by the European Union.
Most of the 1.5 million who disappeared were migrants, who apparently did not deregister when they left the country, and thus lived on in records. Germany was found to have 1.1 million fewer foreigners than it thought, and 428,000 fewer Germans.