Germany’s major cities are shrinking – but Cologne particularly so

The fastest growing city: Leipzig

Only four major cities have grown: Leipzig the most, followed by Berlin. Hanover and Hamburg also had more inhabitants in 2021 than in 2020. In Munich, the number of inhabitants remained almost constant.

Taken together, the population change was down 0.18 percent. This corresponds exactly to the value measured in 2020. By 2019, on the other hand, almost all of the cities had grown, albeit with less momentum.

More deaths, many departures

“Overall, the picture is very mixed,” write the researchers in their discussion paper. And this despite the fact that the number of births rose by 2.4 percent across all major cities surveyed. However, there were also more deaths than in 2020, namely 3.1 percent more.

The reasons for the shrinkage: more deaths than births, more people moving away.
The reasons for the shrinkage: more deaths, more emigration. (What: UFZ)

The combined consideration of immigration and emigration also shows “that Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Stuttgart and Nuremberg in particular show a clearly negative balance in 2021,” the researchers continue. These are exactly the cities that already had a clearly negative migration balance in the first Corona year 2020.

And why is it? Even if it is currently difficult to determine the exact share that the pandemic has in urban development, Corona is definitely a trend amplifier, said Professor Rink.

Tensed housing markets, high rents

His forecast for the future is cautious: “We are currently experiencing a high level of refugee immigration from Ukraine as a result of the war. We expect further immigration to the big cities in the near future, but it will be at a lower level than before the pandemic move and be selective.”

At the same time, tight housing markets and high rents in most major cities hampered growth.