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Germany's aging population: Births up, deaths down in 2016

In 2016, Germany saw 7.4 percent more births and 1.5 percent fewer deaths than in the previous year. But hopes this will translate into a younger population are misplaced.

Germany's birthrate jumped at the same time its death rate fell, official figures for 2016 show, but not by enough to reverse the trend of an aging population.

Preliminary data published by the Federal Statistical Agency have revealed 792,000 babies were born in Germany during 2016 — a 7.4 percent increase on the previous year.

That coincided with 911,000 deaths, representing a 1.5 percent drop from 2015 figures.

Read more - Germany is not shrinking

Statisticians warned that the increase in births and decrease in deaths does not mean that demographic change in the country has stopped.

"The decades of imbalances in the age structure of the population remain," the Federal Statistical Agency said on Wednesday, referring to a death rate that has outweighed annual births since 1972.

Germany's sluggish demographics have prompted fears that its working-age population will not be able to provide adequate social security for its fast-growing generation of pensioners.

With 82 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous country in the European Union. But its 2015 fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman is slightly below the EU average of 1.58 — and well below the so-called "replacement rate" of 2.1 required for a stable population.

Though the preliminary data released on Wednesday did not include a breakdown by nationality, researchers suggest the increase in births last year came from both immigrant and German parents. In particular, the increasing numbers of children can be partially explained by the number of women between the ages of 26 and 35 years old.

"Since 2008, the number of women at this age has stabilized and even increased, which could positively influence the number of births for some years more," said the statisticians. "After 2020, however, the number of women at this age is expected to shrink significantly. Then a new birth low could come about."

AfD Election poster showing a pregnant white woman lying on her back with the caption: New Germans? We'll make them ourselves.

This Alternative for Germany (AfD) poster received accusations of sexism and xenophobia

Growing concern over low birthrates in Germany has had an impact on political decisions, including Chancellor Angela Merkel's willingness to take in young asylum seekers during the refugee crisis.

Read more - German organization prepares refugees to care for the elderly

More than 1 million newcomers have entered Germany since 2015, when Merkel largely opened the country's borders to refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and parts of Africa. At the end of 2015, the influx of young migrants brought the average age in Germany down for the first time since reunification.

Far-right groups have entered the debate too. During the 2017 parliamentary elections, populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) put up controversial posters of a pregnant white woman lying prostrate in a field, with the caption: "New Germans? We'll make them ourselves."

The posters were criticized for carrying both xenophobic and sexist overtones.

an/sms (dpa, epd, KNA)

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