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Germany's declining population gets sudden immigration boost

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Thomas Peter/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Refugees shout slogans during a protest of asylum seekers calling for fairer treatment by the authorities in Berlin this past October. German immigration is picking up as the economies of other European nations lose steam.

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For years, Germany had slightly negative population growth, due mainly or entirely to negative natural population growth due to a too low birth rate, but also due to the lack of net immigration.

2012 numbers on births and deaths in Germany aren't yet available, but the German statistics bureau has now released migration numbers(auf Deutsch). It showed that net immigration has increased dramatically, to 369,000, or about 0.45% of the current population. Immigration has increased particularly dramatically from countries like Spain and Greece, but is still small compared with immigration from Poland, from which more immigrants (176,000) arrived than from Spain (29,000), Portugal (14,000), Italy (42,000) and Greece (33,000) combined.

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With the German labor market continuing to strengthen while the Southern Europe's continues to deteriorate, the now still modest inflow from Southern Europe is likely to increase further in 2013. With more than 6 million unemployed, the mere 29,000 inflow from Spain in particular is, despite the 45% gain compared with 2011, still remarkably and surprisingly low. This likely reflects that Spaniards in particular are reluctant to move away from homes whose values are now far below what they bought them for and often well below the size of their mortgage loans. In all countries, unemployment benefits and the language barrier also limit emigration.

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German immigration statistics has a separate category for migration of ethnic Germans, and for that category, there was actually net emigration, most likely to even richer (and even lower unemployment) German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.