Germany’s latest national census, the first since reunification in 1990 shows there were fewer people living in the country than previously thought in 2011 – although it remained Europe’s most populous nation with 80.2 million.
In particular, there were far fewer foreigners: in a nation where immigration is a sensitive topic, the survey found there were 6.2 million, 1.1 million fewer than had been estimated.
The head of statistics in one state in southwestern Germany suggested it could be down to people leaving the country without de-registering with the authorities – echoing speculation in the press.
“If someone moves abroad for example and did not de-register, then he remains in a register of residents but is no longer present,” said Carmina Brenner, President of the statistical office in Baden-Württemberg.
More recent data shows there is no current trend of foreigners leaving; in 2012 immigration rose faster than it had for 20 years.
Although it has expressed concern over integration, the government has called for more skilled immigrants to offset an ageing population.