The German population is currently estimated at 82m. A full census has not been taken since 1987 (1981 in the eastern part of the country), and population trends since have been based on estimates supported by a continual micro census. The next full census is planned for 2011 as part of an EU-wide project.
In contrast to other western European countries, the population has risen over the past decade due to immigration, which up to now has generally more than compensated for the excess of deaths over live births. However, this trend has now ceased and the general assumption is that of a long-term movement towards a reduced and aging population: official estimates suggest that the population will fall to between 65 and 70 million by 2060 - depending on immigration levels.
Germany is more densely populated than either of her two largest neighbors, France and Poland. The population density is greatest in the traditionally industrial areas of the Ruhr and parts of the Saar, the commercial centres of Cologne/Düsseldorf, the Rhine-Main area of Frankfurt / Wiesbaden, Berlin, and on a smaller scale in and around the other larger cities. Few areas can be described as under-populated. There Is no significant tendency on the part of the population to emigrate, although all residents are free to do so, and to take all their assets with them.
There is still a certain amount of migration within Germany itself, generally from east to west, although this trend is now slowing as living standards and costs in the east rise towards the national average. The German population does not have a tradition of mobility within the country. Movement is hampered by cultural differences and by other factors, such as the decentralised education system with a different syllabus for the schools of each province. There are only two indigenous national minorities, a small Danish minority in northern Schleswig-Holstein and a small Sorb population living in the general area to the south east of Berlin.
However, the foreign population numbers some 7.2m (nearly 9% of the total), of which Turkish citizens form by far the largest single national group, numbering 1.7m. Other significant groups are Italians, Poles, Serbs, Greeks and Croats.
From the early 1950s to the early 1970s, the then West German state actively encouraged the recruitment of foreign labour, particularly in other European countries with high unemployment, to live and work in Germany for a temporary period. This policy was reversed in 1973 to one of restriction, with the general aim of reducing or at least containing the number of non-EU citizens working in Germany. The restriction gave foreign workers already resident a considerable inducement to remain if they possibly could, so the foreign population tended to become permanently, rather then temporarily, resident. Indeed, by now, at least half the foreigners living in Germany have been here for more than ten years and many of the younger individuals are second or third generation residents who have never lived anywhere else.