Germany has been making false assumptions for decades -- at least when it comes to the number of the country's residents, foreigners and dwellings.
These are the main results of a census conducted on May 9, 2011 and released Friday in Berlin. They represent the first concrete figures on a number of demographic issues available since German reunification in 1990. The last census in the former West Germany was in 1987, while the last one in the former East Germany dates back to 1981.
Whereas Germany's population was previously estimated to be 81.7 million, the census lowers this figure to 80.2 million, a difference of 1.5 million people, or some 1.8 percent of the population.
The lion's share of this difference comes from a correction in the number of foreign citizens living in Germany, with the term denoting inhabitants who do not hold German passports. The census lowers this figure from 7.3 million to 6.2 million, a 14.9 percent drop.
The census also found that almost one-fifth (or 19 percent) of German inhabitants have foreign roots, or what Germans call "immigration background." The census defines these 15 million (at the time of the census) individuals as "all Germans who have immigrated to today's territory of the Federal Republic of Germany after 1955 or who have at least one parent who immigrated (to Germany) after 1955," according to a press release by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).
In comparing Germany's 16 federal states, the census found that the highest proportions of the population with a foreign roots were in the city-states of Hamburg (27.5 percent) and Berlin (23.9 percent), while the average in the five so-called "new federal states," which previously made up communist East Germany, was below 5 percent.
Homes and Families
Another surprise came in terms of the number of dwellings in Germany, with the census boosting the estimated figure by 500,000, to reach almost 41.3 million. As with any census, many of the statistics seem rather dry on first glance, such as a declining proportion (about 52 percent) of Germans who are renters or that almost one in 20 dwellings (4.5 percent) is unoccupied.
But there were also plenty of intriguing home-related findings. For example, the census found that 680,000 dwellings (1.7 percent) lack either a toilet or bathing facilities (shower or bath), and that almost 200,000 homes are without heating. Meanwhile, almost 2.5 million dwellings are heated by "ovens," a category including night storage heaters and excluding heaters using gas or oil.
The census also shed light on changes in German family life. It found that, in May 2011, there were just under 34,000 registered same-sex partnerships, of which 60 percent were male couples. Some 5,700 children were also living in such families, though most of them (86 percent) were in female same-sex partnerships.