1.6.2013 | Von:
Thorsten Nieberg


Emigration of German citizens

The number of German citizens moving away from Germany has nearly tripled over the last three decades. While in the 1970s there was an annual average of some 50,000 Germans moving away from then West-Germany, this figure continuously went up in the years to follow. It reached its all-time high in 2008 with some 175,000 recorded movements from unified Germany,[1] and amounted to 140,132 cases in 2011.[2] In 2005, Germany experienced its first net loss in a long time in terms of German citizens moving back into the country and those moving away from it. This initially small loss was reported to have quadrupled to a minus of some 66,000 in only three years until 2008.[3] Most recent data indicates that this loss has eased to a minus of around 24,000 in 2011.[4]

Focus and outline of this policy brief

This policy brief is related to the above outlined developments. It analyzes aspects of concern of German citizens living abroad with regard to their security and well-being. The article has the following structure:

The first part deals with estimates concerning the number of Germans living abroad. Then, the term "expatriate" or "expat" is defined. This is followed by an exemplary look at characteristics of German expats in China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (hereafter, Hong Kong) and Thailand as well as at their concerns and needs. In this context, the concept of human security is introduced which provides a useful framework to discuss the concerns and needs of Germans abroad. The final section tries to shortly answer the question why the German government should deal with the concerns of German citizens living abroad.

The article draws on this author’s research on German expats in Hong Kong and Thailand. Both locales, Hong Kong and Thailand, are part of a wider geopolitical unit known as the Asia-Pacific which has evolved to become one of the world’s currently most-attractive regions[5] because of its increasing economic importance. It holds enormous market potential for German companies. At the same time, the region attracts so-called lifestyle migrants who settle there in the hope of a better quality of life. It is thus not surprising that the number of Germans moving to this region has almost quadrupled over the last two decades—from some 4,000 in 1990 to nearly 16,000 in 2010. [6]

This text is part of the policy brief on "Germans Abroad".


Ette/Sauer (2010a), p. 7.
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (2013), p. 2.
Ette/Sauer (2010b), p. 11.
Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (2013), p. 2.
See, e.g., Ali (2008); also Steans/Pettiford (2005), p. 3.
See statistical yearbook for the Federal Republic of Germany, various editions since 1990. Available: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Publikationen/StatistischesJahrbuch/StatistischesJahrbuch_AeltereAusgaben.html (accessed 2-5-2012).
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