With some 82.6 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous nation in the European Union. The modern, cosmopolitan country has developed into an important immigration country. A good 18.6 million people in Germany have a migratory background. Germany is now among those nations with the most liberal immigration rules. According to a 2017 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it is the most popular immigration country after the USA.
Most people in Germany have a high standard of living, on an international comparison, and the corresponding freedom to shape their own lives. The United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) 2016 ranks Germany fourth of 188 countries. In the Nation Brands Index 2017, an international survey on the image of 50 countries, Germany tops the scale – also owing to its high values in the areas of quality of life and social justice. Germany considers itself a welfare state, whose primary task is to protect all its citizens.
German society is shaped by a pluralism of lifestyles and ethno-cultural diversity. New ways of life and everyday realities are changing daily life in society. Immigrants enrich the country with new perspectives and experiences. There is great social openness and acceptance as regards alternative ways of life and different sexual orientations. Advances are being made in terms of gender equality and traditional gender role assignments are no longer rigid. People with disabilities are taking an ever greater role in social life.
In future, demographic change is set to shape Germany more than virtually any other development. The birth rate has recently edged up, but is still a comparatively modest 1.5 children per woman. Life expectancy is at the same time rising. By 2060 the population in Germany is estimated to shrink – depending on the scale of immigration to as low as 67.6 million according to the German Federal Statistical Office. At the same time, the growing number of elderly people is presenting social welfare systems with new challenges.
Socioeconomic change in Germany in recent years has led to the emergence of new social risks and stronger social diversification according to economic living conditions. Although in 2017 unemployment was at the same low level as in 1991 (on average 2.5 million), almost one in five in Germany is at risk of poverty, particularly young people and single parents. Moreover, social differences continue to exist between east and west.