Census finds 15 percent fewer foreigners in Germany than thought

Fri May 31, 2013 11:39am EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's latest census shows the country has nearly 15 percent fewer foreigners than previously believed, the Federal Statistics Office said on Friday.

Immigration is a hot topic in Germany, where the government has called for more highly skilled immigrants to offset an ageing population while also expressing concerns over how to integrate foreigners into German society.

The 2011 census, which also scaled the number of Germans down by 428,000, showed there were 6.2 million foreigners living in Germany, 1.1 million fewer than previously estimated, bringing the country's total population to 80.2 million.

The head of the Statistics Office Roderich Egeler had no explanation for the difference in numbers of foreigners but German media reports speculated it could be down to people leaving without deregistering with German authorities.

More recent data has shown there is not a current trend of foreigners leaving Germany, however - immigration surged at its fastest pace in nearly two decades in 2012.

The census also showed that around 15 million people in Germany - nearly one fifth of all inhabitants - had a "migration background". This group includes both foreigners and Germans who immigrated after 1955 or who have at least one parent who immigrated after 1955.

This percentage of inhabitants with a "migrant background" was significantly lower in the states of formerly communist eastern Germany, at under 5 percent. The northern port city of Hamburg was the city with the highest share of inhabitants with a migration background, at 27.5 percent.

The average age of people in Germany was relatively high, according to the census. More than 21 percent of inhabitants were over 65 years old, and 17 percent were under 18.

(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)