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Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

Germany’s population shrank for the first time in a decade after the coronavirus pandemic triggered a sharp drop in immigration this year, intensifying a recent demographic slowdown.

The number of people living in Germany fell by 40,000 in the first six months of this year to 83.1m, which the federal statistics agency said on Tuesday was the first decline in the population of Europe’s largest economy since the second half of 2010.

The main cause of the drop in German inhabitants was a sharp drop in arrivals from other countries since the pandemic started in March.

In the first six months of the year, there was a 29 per cent decline in the number of immigrants arriving in Germany to 529,000, while those emigrating fell 22 per cent to 455,000.

That means Germany had net immigration of 74,000 people in the first half of this year – less than half the net immigration of 167,000 in the same period last year.

“Just like the slump in migration across Germany’s borders, the decline in population in the first half of 2020 is concentrated in the months from March to May,” the statistics agency said. It added that in June, after the national lockdown was lifted, the population rose again by 4,000, but this was still below the 14,000 increase in June 2019.

For several years, the natural demographic decline caused by Germany’s low birth rate has been more than offset by large numbers of immigrants.

However, Germany’s birth rate has fallen for the past couple of years, while net immigration has been slowing recently, adding to the downward demographic trend.

The statistics agency warned that the disruption of the pandemic might have caused a “delayed recording of migration cases”.

It added: “It cannot therefore be ruled out that there will be catch-up effects in the recording of immigrant residents.”

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