Employment statistics in Germany since mid-19th century

Employment statistics in Germany since mid-19th century

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What is the most reliable source of employment statistics in Germany? I am interested in the time period starting from mid-19th century all the way to present days.

U.S. Employment - Statistics & Facts

There are a multitude of reasons why members of the general population are outside of the civilian labor force. Some of these reasons are desirable, such as early retirement, while others are unavoidable, such as long-term illness or caring for others. However, the proportion of the population who are unemployed so long they lose hope or the desire to continue searching for a job is of great concern to policymakers. This phenomenon has prompted economists and concerned members of the public to raise awareness that the long-term unemployment rate in the United States is actually higher than government statistics suggest.

Like many countries around the world, the United States is struggling with youth unemployment rates higher than the national unemployment rate. In February 2021, the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 was 10.9 percent. In contrast, the national figure in the same month was 6.2 percent.

Looking to the future, young people may look towards training in industries where job numbers are projected to increase. The 20 industries with the largest expected employment growth from 2018 to 2028 suggests that construction and food services might be the way to go. Following similar logic, it may be the time for some people to reconsider their dream career with wired telecommunications.

This text provides general information. Statista assumes no liability for the information given being complete or correct. Due to varying update cycles, statistics can display more up-to-date data than referenced in the text.

U.S. Railroad Employment & Productivity Statistics

Railroad industry employment has declined significantly in the United States since World War II. Factors contributing to this decline include increased productivity, industry consolidation, new technologies, and the significant reduction in passenger and local freight service. Between the years of 1951 and 1972, industry employment declined by an average of more than 40,000 jobs per year.

After decades of declining headcounts, railroad employment stabilized in the mid-to-late 1990s. Investor pressure to operate more efficiently, coupled with baby boomer retirement, left some freight railroads unprepared for the surge in demand since 2003. Aside from contraction during the global recession of 2008, railroad employment is expanding to meet growing demand.

The chart below shows annual U.S. railroad industry employment compared to Class I railroad operating revenues. Data is sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Association of American Railroads (AAR), with calculations and analysis by RailServe.com. Note that these labor statistics reflect direct railroad employment and exclude related industries such as railcar manufacturing. Revenue figures in the table have not been adjusted for inflation. When adjusting for inflation, 2014 revenue is approximately 16% lower than 1947 revenue, while 2014 revenue per employee is approximately 5.4 times that of 1947.

For a breakdown of rail jobs by occupation, please see the Railroad Occupations, Wages & Salaries Page. For current job postings and a guide to employment opportunities in the railroad industry, please see the Railroad Jobs & Employment section.



Located in central Europe, Germany is made up of the North German Plain, the Central German Uplands (Mittelgebirge), and the Southern German Highlands. The Bavarian plateau in the southwest averages 1,600 ft (488 m) above sea level, but it reaches 9,721 ft (2,962 m) in the Zugspitze Mountains, the highest point in the country. Germany's major rivers are the Danube, the Elbe, the Oder, the Weser, and the Rhine. Germany is about the size of Montana.


The Celts are believed to have been the first inhabitants of Germany. They were followed by German tribes at the end of the 2nd century B.C. German invasions destroyed the declining Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. One of the tribes, the Franks, attained supremacy in western Europe under Charlemagne, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800. By the Treaty of Verdun (843), Charlemagne's lands east of the Rhine were ceded to the German Prince Louis. Additional territory acquired by the Treaty of Mersen (870) gave Germany approximately the area it maintained throughout the Middle Ages. For several centuries after Otto the Great was crowned king in 936, German rulers were also usually heads of the Holy Roman Empire.

By the 14th century, the Holy Roman Empire was little more than a loose federation of the German princes who elected the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1438, Albert of Hapsburg became emperor, and for the next several centuries the Hapsburg line ruled the Holy Roman Empire until its decline in 1806. Relations between state and church were changed by the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther's 95 theses, and came to a head in 1547, when Charles V scattered the forces of the Protestant League at Mhlberg. The Counter-Reformation followed. A dispute over the succession to the Bohemian throne brought on the Thirty Years' War (1618?1648), which devastated Germany and left the empire divided into hundreds of small principalities virtually independent of the emperor.

The Rise of Bismarck and the Birth of the Second German Reich

Meanwhile, Prussia was developing into a state of considerable strength. Frederick the Great (1740?1786) reorganized the Prussian army and defeated Maria Theresa of Austria in a struggle over Silesia. After the defeat of Napolon at Waterloo (1815), the struggle between Austria and Prussia for supremacy in Germany continued, reaching its climax in the defeat of Austria in the Seven Weeks' War (1866) and the formation of the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation (1867). The architect of this new German unity was Otto von Bismarck, a conservative, monarchist, and militaristic Prussian prime minister. He unified all of Germany in a series of three wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870?1871). On Jan. 18, 1871, King Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed German emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The North German Confederation was abolished, and the Second German Reich, consisting of the North and South German states, was born. With a powerful army, an efficient bureaucracy, and a loyal bourgeoisie, Chancellor Bismarck consolidated a powerful centralized state.

Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in 1890 and embarked upon a ?New Course,? stressing an intensified colonialism and a powerful navy. His chaotic foreign policy culminated in the diplomatic isolation of Germany and the disastrous defeat in World War I (1914?1918). The Second German Empire collapsed following the defeat of the German armies in 1918, the naval mutiny at Kiel, and the flight of the kaiser to the Netherlands. The Social Democrats, led by Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann, crushed the Communists and established a moderate state, known as the Weimar Republic, with Ebert as president. President Ebert died on Feb. 28, 1925, and on April 26, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected president. The majority of Germans regarded the Weimar Republic as a child of defeat, imposed on a Germany whose legitimate aspirations to world leadership had been thwarted by a worldwide conspiracy. Added to this were a crippling currency debacle, a tremendous burden of reparations, and acute economic distress.

Adolf Hitler and WWII

Adolf Hitler, an Austrian war veteran and a fanatical nationalist, fanned discontent by promising a Greater Germany, abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, restoration of Germany's lost colonies, and the destruction of the Jews, whom he scapegoated as the reason for Germany's downfall and depressed economy. When the Social Democrats and the Communists refused to combine against the Nazi threat, President von Hindenburg made Hitler the chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. With the death of von Hindenburg on Aug. 2, 1934, Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and began full-scale rearmament. In 1935, he withdrew Germany from the League of Nations, and the next year he reoccupied the Rhineland and signed the Anti-Comintern pact with Japan, at the same time strengthening relations with Italy. Austria was annexed in March 1938. By the Munich agreement in Sept. 1938, he gained the Czech Sudetenland, and in violation of this agreement he completed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. His invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, precipitated World War II.

Hitler established death camps to carry out ?the final solution to the Jewish question.? By the end of the war, Hitler's Holocaust had killed 6 million Jews, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, the handicapped, and others not fitting the Aryan ideal. After some dazzling initial successes in 1939?1942, Germany surrendered unconditionally to Allied and Soviet military commanders on May 8, 1945. On June 5 the four-nation Allied Control Council became the de facto government of Germany.

(For details of World War II and of the Holocaust, see Headline History, World War II .)

Post-War Germany Is Disarmed, Demilitarized, and Divided

At the Berlin (or Potsdam) Conference (July 17?Aug. 2, 1945) President Truman, Premier Stalin, and Prime Minister Clement Attlee of Britain set forth the guiding principles of the Allied Control Council: Germany's complete disarmament and demilitarization, destruction of its war potential, rigid control of industry, and decentralization of the political and economic structure. Pending final determination of territorial questions at a peace conference, the three victors agreed to the ultimate transfer of the city of Knigsberg (now Kaliningrad) and its adjacent area to the USSR and to the administration by Poland of former German territories lying generally east of the Oder-Neisse Line. For purposes of control, Germany was divided into four national occupation zones.

The Western powers were unable to agree with the USSR on any fundamental issues. Work of the Allied Control Council was hamstrung by repeated Soviet vetoes and finally, on March 20, 1948, Russia walked out of the council. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Britain had taken steps to merge their zones economically (Bizone) on May 31, 1948, the U.S., Britain, France, and the Benelux countries agreed to set up a German state comprising the three Western zones. The USSR reacted by clamping a blockade on all ground communications between the Western zones and West Berlin, an enclave in the Soviet zone. The Western allies countered by organizing a gigantic airlift to fly supplies into the beleaguered city. The USSR was finally forced to lift the blockade on May 12, 1949.

Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany was proclaimed on May 23, 1949, with its capital at Bonn. In free elections, West German voters gave a majority in the constituent assembly to the Christian Democrats, with the Social Democrats largely making up the opposition. Konrad Adenauer became chancellor, and Theodor Heuss of the Free Democrats was elected the first president.

Democratic Republic of Germany

The East German states adopted a more centralized constitution for the Democratic Republic of Germany, put into effect on Oct. 7, 1949. The USSR thereupon dissolved its occupation zone but Soviet troops remained. The Western allies declared that the East German Republic was a Soviet creation undertaken without self-determination and refused to recognize it. Soviet forces created a state controlled by the secret police with a single party, the Socialist Unity (Communist) Party.

Agreements in Paris in 1954 giving the Federal Republic full independence and complete sovereignty came into force on May 5, 1955. Under the agreement, West Germany and Italy became members of the Brussels treaty organization created in 1948 and renamed the Western European Union. West Germany also became a member of NATO. In 1955, the USSR recognized the Federal Republic. The Saar territory, under an agreement between France and West Germany, held a plebiscite, and despite economic links to France, elected to rejoin West Germany on Jan. 1, 1957.

The division between West Germany and East Germany was intensified when the Communists erected the Berlin Wall in 1961. In 1968, the East German Communist leader, Walter Ulbricht, imposed restrictions on West German movements into West Berlin. The Soviet-bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia in Aug. 1968 added to the tension. West Germany signed a treaty with Poland in 1970, renouncing force and setting Poland's western border at the Oder-Neisse Line. It subsequently resumed formal relations with Czechoslovakia in a pact that ?voided? the Munich treaty that gave Nazi Germany the Sudetenland. By 1973, normal relations were established between East and West Germany and the two states entered the United Nations.

West German chancellor Willy Brandt, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize for his foreign policies, was forced to resign in 1974 when an East German spy was discovered to be one of his top staff members. Succeeding him was a moderate Social Democrat, Helmut Schmidt. Schmidt staunchly backed U.S. military strategy in Europe, staking his political fate on placing U.S. nuclear missiles in Germany unless the Soviet Union reduced its arsenal of intermediate missiles. He also strongly opposed nuclear-freeze proposals.

Berlin Wall Falls, Germany Reunifies

Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democrat Party became chancellor in 1982. An economic upswing in 1986 led to Kohl's reelection. The fall of the Communist government in East Germany left only Soviet objections to German reunification to be dealt with. On the night of Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, making reunification all but inevitable. In July 1990, Kohl asked Soviet leader Gorbachev to drop his objections in exchange for financial aid from (West) Germany. Gorbachev agreed, and on Oct. 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic acceded to the Federal Republic, and Germany became a united and sovereign state for the first time since 1945.

A reunited Berlin serves as the official capital of unified Germany, although the government continued to have administrative functions in Bonn during the 12-year transition period. The issues of the cost of reunification and the modernization of the former East Germany were serious considerations facing the reunified nation.

Centrist Gerhard Schroder Elected Chancellor

In its most important election in decades, on Sept. 27, 1998, Germans chose Social Democrat Gerhard Schrder as chancellor over Christian Democrat incumbent Helmut Kohl, ending a 16-year-long rule that oversaw the reunification of Germany and symbolized the end of the cold war in Europe. A centrist, Schrder campaigned for ?the new middle? and promised to rectify Germany's high unemployment rate of 10.6%.

Tension between the old-style left-wing and the more pro-business pragmatists within Schrder's government came to a head with the abrupt resignation of finance minister Oskar Lafontaine in March 1999, who was also chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party. Lafontaine's plans to raise taxes?already nearly the highest in the world?on industry and on German wages went against the more centrist policies of Schrder. Hans Eichel was chosen to become the next finance minister.

Germany joined the other NATO allies in the military conflict in Kosovo in 1999. Before the Kosovo crisis, Germans had not participated in an armed conflict since World War II. Germany agreed to take 40,000 Kosovar refugees, the most of any NATO country.

In Dec. 1999, former chancellor Helmut Kohl and other high officials in the Christian Democrat Party (CDU) admitted accepting tens of millions of dollars in illegal donations during the 1980s and 1990s. The enormity of the scandal led to the virtual dismemberment of the CDU in early 2000, a party that had long been a stable conservative force in German politics.

In July 2000, Schrder managed to pass significant tax reforms that would lower the top income-tax rate from 51% to 42% by 2005. He also eliminated the capital-gains tax on companies selling shares in other companies, a measure that was expected to spur mergers. In May 2001, the German Parliament authorized the payment of $4.4 billion in compensation to 1.2 million surviving Nazi-era slave laborers.

Schrder was narrowly reelected in Sept. 2002, defeating conservative businessman Edmund Stoiber. Schrder's Social Democrats and coalition partner, the Greens, won a razor-thin majority in Parliament. Schrder's deft handling of Germany's catastrophic floods in August and his tough stance against U.S. plans for a preemptive attack on Iraq buoyed him in the weeks leading up to the election. Germany's continued reluctance to support the U.S. call for military action against Iraq severely strained its relations with Washington.

Germany's Unemployment Rate Reaches 12%

Germany's recession continued in 2003: for the previous three years, Europe's biggest economy had the lowest growth rate among EU countries. In Aug. 2003, Schrder unfurled an ambitious fiscal-reform package and called his proposal ?the most significant set of structural reforms in the social history of Germany.? Schrder's reforms, however, did little to rejuvenate the economy and angered many Germans, accustomed to their country's generous social welfare programs. His reforms reduced national health insurance and cut unemployment benefits at a time when unemployment had reached an alarming 12%.

National elections in Sept. 2005 ended in a deadlock: the conservative CDU/CSU and its leader, Angela Merkel, received 35.2% and Gerhard Schrder's SPD garnered 34.3%. After weeks of wrangling to form a governing coalition, the first left-right ?grand coalition? in Germany in 36 years was cobbled together, and on Nov. 22, Merkel became Germany's first female chancellor. During her first year, Merkel showed strong leadership in international relations, but her domestic economic reform agenda has stalled. Her first major initiative, reforming the health care system, was widely viewed as ineffectual.

Germany Takes Major Role in Managing Euro Debt Crisis

Germany was hit hard by the global financial crisis in late 2008 and 2009. In October 2008, the government financed a $68 billion bailout of one of the country's largest banks, Hypo Real Estate, to prevent it from collapse. That was followed in February 2009 with a $63 billion stimulus package to help lift the battered economy out of recession.

Merkel earned another four-year term as chancellor in September 2009 elections. Her party, the Christian Democrats, formed a governing coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats. President Kohler was reelected in 2009. He resigned in May 2010 after his statement that a country of Germany's size sometimes must justify troop deployment abroad to protect its economic interests sparked controversy and outrage. He was replaced by Christian Wulff.

Germany learned during the debt crisis of 2010 and 2011 that responsibility comes with holding the mantle as Europe's largest economy. Indeed, Merkel faced criticism in early 2010 for her delay in seeking parliamentary approval of a bailout package for Greece, which was teetering on the brink of financial collapse. International observers remarked that she should have acted sooner she was criticized by voters for coming to the rescue of another country. Nevertheless, parliament approved a 22.4 billion euro bailout for Greece in May 2010. Voters expressed their displeasure with Germany's contribution at the polls?Merkel lost her majority in the upper house of parliament in May when her coalition lost regional elections in North-Rhine Westphalia. That defeat was followed by another in March 2011 in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Germany's parliament approved a plan to increase the euro-zone's bail-out fund in September 2011, and that was followed in late October with the agreement by the leaders of the euro zone of a wider package meant to bring Europe's debt crisis under control.

Christian Wulff resigned as president in February 2012 to face a corruption inquiry. Despite objections by Merkel, Parliament approved Joachim Gauck, a Lutheran pastor from East Germany, as his successor. Gauck was the preferred candidate of the opposition and one of Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democratic Party. His election was seen as a rebuke to the chancellor.

New Island Emerges Off the Coast

A new island has emerged from the North Sea, off the coast of Germany, located sixteen miles from the German state, Schleswig Holstein. The 34 acre island has been named Norderoogsand, but it is being referred to as Bird Island because many birds, including sea gulls, grey geese, ducks, and peregrine falcons have been found there nesting or feeding. Forty-nine plant species have also been found on the island.

The island appeared slowly over a ten year period from 2003 through 2013. The land mass emerged due to tidal action, not global warming. The island?s appearance surprised scientists because that area of the North Sea has strong winds and shifting tides.

Merkel Elected to a Third Term Spying Scandals Sour Relationship with U.S.

Angela Merkel
Source: Amel Emric for Associated Press

Merkel was elected to a third four-year term in September 2013. Her performance at the polls exceeded expectations. Her center-right Christian Democrats and sister party Christian Social Union in Bavaria won 311 seats out of 630 in the lower house of parliament?the best showing since unification. The resounding victory confirmed Merkel's position as the strongest leader in Europe. Another coalition partner, the Free Democrats, however, was ousted from parliament, garnering less than 5% of the vote. After five weeks of talks, the chancellor's Christian Democrats formed a grand coalition with the center-left Social Democrats in November. Together they will hold 80% of the seats. As part of the negotiations, the Christian Democrats adopted policies to the left of the party's. For example, they agreed to lower the retirement age from 67 to 63 for some workers and implement the country's first national minimum wage of ?8.50 ($11.50). Germany had allowed unions and companies negotiate and set wages by industry.

In October, NSA documents leaked to the media by Edward Snowden revealed that the agency had tapped Merkel's cellphone for about 10 years, beginning in 2002. Outraged, she called U.S. president Barack Obama, who apologized and promised that such activity would not continue. The incident soured the relationship between the normally close allies. Ties were further strained in July 2104, amid reports that the U.S. hired a clerk at Germany's intelligence agency to steal hundreds of documents. Days later, German officials announced they believe they had uncovered a second spy working for the U.S. In response, Germany expelled the CIA station chief from Berlin.

The tables were turned in August 2014, when news reports said Germany has made a practice of spying on Turkey. Turkey demanded an explanation. Germany neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.

Germany: Immigration in Transition

Since the 1990s, analysts have pointed to Germany's ongoing need for immigrants to bolster economic development and maintain a dynamic workforce, given the rapid aging of the country's population. However, a process of policy review that began in 2001 with a government commission's report on immigration and integration policy only recently overcame legislative gridlock. An immigration law based on the report's recommendations, prepared by the governing Social Democrat and Green coalition, passed both houses of the German Parliament and was subsequently signed by President Johannes Rau in March 2002. However, it was procedurally contested by the country's conservative coalition, which successfully filed a lawsuit with the Federal Court. Since then, government and opposition negotiators have been trying to reach a compromise. Only recently, after difficult, long-running negotiations, have the government and opposition agreed on an immigration law, which was passed by the lower and upper chambers in June/July 2004. The law will take effect on January 1, 2005, setting the stage for how Germany will deal with labor migration, newcomers, and resident migrants in the years to come.

Many business, labor, and religious organizations welcomed the 2002 effort to pass an immigration law, but the deadlock that followed until recently could be interpreted as ongoing resistance to formally opening Germany as a country of immigration. This is despite the fact that the country's foreign population has exceeded seven million people for each of the last 10 years, not counting those migrants who have acquired German citizenship. Meanwhile, other factors, such as the accession to the European Union of 10 new countries in May 2004, promise new challenges for Northern Europe's economic powerhouse.

In the 19th century, Germany was a country of emigration. This changed somewhat at the turn of the century, when larger numbers of Polish workers were imported to work in the mining sector. The next wave of foreign workers was counted in the millions, as able-bodied men from Nazi Germany's occupied territories were forced to work in the German heavy manufacturing sector during World War II. Since the mid-1950s, Germany has become one of the most important destination countries for immigrants. In this sense, it has been similar to other industrialized countries such as the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.

Germany's post-World War II immigration history is distinguished by the nature of its parallel flows: one of ethnic Germans returning from abroad, and another of foreigners with no German ancestry. At different times, immigration laws have made the distinction less or more important, especially in terms of the privileges granted to ethnic Germans.

Ethnic German Inflows

Between 1945 and 1949, nearly 12 million German refugees and expellees flocked to the territory of today's Germany. They were either German nationals who had lived in areas intermittently under German jurisdiction prior to 1945, or ethnic Germans from other parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. About two-thirds of these returnees settled in the western part of the country. Their acceptance and integration was eased by two factors: their ethnic origin, and the post-war economic boom.

Between 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, 3.8 million Germans moved from East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR) to West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG). In fact, obstacles like the wall failed to completely stem this flow, and migration from the GDR totaled nearly 400,000 between 1961 and 1988. This immigration was welcomed economically by the FRG's expanding industrial sector and politically as a rejection of the GDR's communist political and economic system.

At the end of the 1980s, the immigration of Aussiedler (ethnic Germans, as distinct from East Germans) from places beyond Eastern Europe rose dramatically. Up to that point, virtually all Aussiedler had come from Eastern Europe, where they had managed to stay despite systematic expulsions in the aftermath of World War II. Between 1950 and 1987, about 1.4 million such Aussiedler immigrated to West Germany. Most of them came from Poland (848,000), while another 206,000 arrived from Romania, and 110,000 immigrated from the Soviet Union following the German-USSR rapprochement of the late 1970s and 1980s.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of travel restrictions from the former Eastern Bloc countries, an additional three million ethnic Germans returned to Germany between 1988 and 2003. Almost 2.2 million of these arrived from the former territory of the Soviet Union, with Poland (575,000) and Romania (220,000) providing the remaining flows.

The number of these arrivals peaked at 400,000 in 1990. However, by the early 1990s, after the initial euphoria of the end of the Cold War and German reunification, the government had begun to take measures to moderate the returns. These included aid to ethnic German communities in countries of origin to improve their living standards and entice them to remain there. In addition, the government established a quota system. From 1993 to 1999 the quota was set at 225,000 people per year this was subsequently reduced to 103,000. As a result, in 2000 and 2001, the immigration of ethnic Germans hovered at roughly 100,000 per year. In the following years, the number further declined and amounted to 91,000 in 2002. In 2003, the number was still much lower, when 73,000 immigrated to their ancestral homeland. Germany's Ministry of Interior estimates the number of remaining ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe and the territories of the former Soviet Union at around 1.5 million.

Besides affecting numbers, the government measures also affected the composition of the countries of origin. Since 1993, more than 90 percent of the total Aussiedler immigration has come from the territory of the former Soviet Union. The remaining Aussiedler from other Eastern European countries, meanwhile, have had to prove that they face discrimination because of their German ethnic origins in order to immigrate to their ancestral homeland.

Compared to other immigrants, Aussiedler enjoy certain privileges that are thought to foster their integration into society and the labor market. These privileges include assistance with language training, employment, and welfare. Nevertheless, Aussiedler, especially those who came since mid-1990s, continue to face severe economic and social integration problems. One reason is their poor knowledge of German. In 2003, only 20 percent of the immigrants admitted under the Aussiedler quota were ethnic German. The remaining 80 percent were dependent family members. Unlike their ethnic German relatives, the immigrating family members do not have to prove sufficient knowledge of German. In 1993, the composition of ethnic Germans and dependent family members was nearly reversed, when only 25 percent were family members and 75 percent ethnic Germans.

In political and public debates about immigration and integration, however, the Aussiedler attract much less attention than other immigrants, as they are viewed primarily as Germans and not as foreigners. This is also reflected in how most statistics about them are reported. Aussiedler are not categorized separately. Rather, they are simply collapsed into native-born German categories, which holds true for naturalized migrants as well.

Post-War "Guest Worker" Boom

Inflows of immigrants with non-German ancestry began in a serious way in the second half of the 1950s. In response to a labor shortage prompted by economic recovery, Germany signed a series of bilateral recruitment agreements, first with Italy in 1955, then with Spain (1960), Greece (1960), Turkey (1961), Portugal (1964), and Yugoslavia (1968).

The core of these agreements included the recruitment of Gastarbeiter (guest workers), almost exclusively in the industrial sector, for jobs that required few qualifications. Under the so-called rotation principle, mostly male migrants entered Germany for a period of one to two years and were then required to return home to make room for other guest workers. This policy had a double rationale: preventing settlement and exposing to industrial work the largest possible number of workers from sending countries. In 1960, the number of foreigners already stood at 686,000, or 1.2 percent of the total German population. At that point, the most important country of origin was Italy.

After the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the consequent reduction of the number of German migrants from the GDR, West Germany intensified its recruitment of guest workers. Up until 1973, when recruitment was halted, foreigners increased in terms of both numbers and their share of the labor force.

At the same time, the dominant source countries also changed. The number of foreigners now amounted to four million, and their share of the population reached 6.7 percent of Germany's total population. Some 2.6 million foreigners were employed — a level which has not been seen since then. By 1973, the most important country of origin was no longer Italy, but rather Turkey, which accounted for 23 percent of all foreigners. Other countries of origin included Yugoslavia (17 percent), Italy (16 percent), Greece (10 percent), and Spain (7 percent).

Halting Guest Worker Recruitment

The demand for foreign workers fell off in 1973, when Germany entered a period of economic recession, fueled in part by that year's "oil shock." The government declared a ban on the recruitment of foreign workers, and began to wrestle with how to deal with the still-increasing number of foreigners in the country.

A large proportion of earlier guest workers had already acquired residence permits of a longer or permanent duration, attesting to the limits of the rotation principle. In addition, Italians now had the right to free cross-border movement, a right extended to all member states of the European Community in 1968. With the rotation model a distant memory, it was clear that many foreigners were now planning a longer or even permanent stay in Germany.

While many guest workers were leaving, high levels of immigration persisted due to family reunification of the remaining workers. The number of foreigners thus stayed more or less constant throughout the 1980s at between 4 and 4.5 million. The labor force participation of immigrants, however, decreased.

In 1988, the 4.5 million foreigners in Germany accounted for 7.3 percent of the population as a whole. Some 1.6 million of them were wage and salary earners another 140,000 were self-employed. The most important countries of origin remained the former recruitment countries. Greece held special status in terms of freedom of movement due to its full membership in the European Community — a status that would also be achieved by Spain and Portugal in 1992.

By this time, a growing share of the foreign population was being born in Germany, the so-called second generation. Unlike in the United States and elsewhere, these children were not granted German citizenship at birth and were treated as foreigners in a legal sense.

Asylum Seekers and "Safe Countries"

By the end of the 1980s, Aussiedler were not the only immigrants whose numbers had increased. Changing geopolitics and numerous crises within continental Europe led to dramatic increases in the number of people seeking asylum in Germany. Whereas in 1987, 57,400 individuals applied for asylum, between 1988 and 1992 a total of 1.1 million asylum applications were lodged. The peak was reached in 1992, when nearly 440,000 asylum seekers filed applications.

This growth coincided with an intensification of xenophobia, which resulted in sometimes lethal violence against foreigners and asylum seekers. This volatile situation led to a heated debate in the public and parliament.

In the political arena, the Christian Democrats, who were the senior partners in the ruling coalition, set reducing the number of people applying for asylum as their primary goal. Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democrats and many among the Free Democrats (the ruling coalition's junior partners) argued for broader and more "progressive" measures concerning immigration, integration, and citizenship. The final outcome was a 1993 inter-party agreement to make the asylum law more restrictive by amending the FRG's "Basic Law," or interim Constitution.

One key provision of the new agreement designated scores of nations as "safe" countries of origin and/or transit. Would-be asylum seekers entering Germany from or through one of these safe countries were prohibited from applying for asylum and were returned to their place of origin/transit, and "frivolous" applications were discouraged. The change spread throughout the European Union and had a dramatic effect on asylum applications. In the following years, the number of asylum seekers declined steadily. In 2002, asylum applications totaled to 71,127 and markedly declined to 50,563 in 2003. The countries of origin accounting for the largest numbers of applications were Turkey (6,301), Serbia/Montenegro (4,909), Iraq (3,850), and Russian Federation (3,383).

In addition to the asylum seekers, Germany offered protection to 345,000 refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early to mid-1990s. However, this was on a temporary basis, and by the end of 2002 more than 90 percent of them had returned home.

The Re-emergence of Temporary Labor Programs

Soon after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Germany once again entered the temporary labor market. This time, the geographic focus was exclusively on countries from Central and Eastern Europe, among them Yugoslavia (1988), Hungary (1989), and Poland (1990). The sending countries were chosen partly out of pragmatism, partly for geopolitical and long-term economic reasons.

On the one hand, the German government hoped to capture some of the migration potential in the region and to channel it into labor-hungry sectors, while also advancing long-term foreign and economic policy objectives in the region. On the other hand, the remittances and experiences of the returning workers were expected to help the fledgling economies of the sending countries. Guest workers in several categories, such as trainees, contract, and seasonal work, received temporary residence and work permits ranging from three months for seasonal workers to a maximum of two years for contract workers. Contract workers generally came to work on a larger project directed by their firm, e.g., construction projects. In 2002, a total of 374,000 temporary work permits were granted. Of these, 45,000 were for contract workers, about 50 percent of whom came from Poland. Some 298,000 permits were issued for seasonal workers, 85 percent of them Polish citizens.

Some of the sending countries of temporary workers, like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, became members of the European Union on May 1, 2004. In principle, citizens of European member states have the right to work in any other member state. Prior to the EU expansion, this prompted fears of a wave of new EU citizens swamping Germany's labor market and straining social welfare systems.

Responding to these domestic fears, Germany, like many other "original" EU states, enacted exceptional measures restricting access to their labor market until 2006. Temporary work permits for citizens of the new member states will be required at least up until that time. After assessments of the labor market situation, which are planned for 2006 and 2009, it is possible that the period of exceptional measures will be extended. Starting in 2011, free movement for workers from the new member states is guaranteed.

In 2003, the number of legally resident foreigners in Germany was 7.3 million, which comprised 8.9 percent of the total population. Citizens of the former guest worker countries continue to make up the largest share of this number, which notably included 1.9 million Turkish citizens, of whom 654,000 were born in Germany. Another 575,000 Turks have been naturalized since 1972 and do not show up in statistics of the foreign population.

The foreign population also included 1,050,000 people from the former Yugoslavia, 600,000 Italians, and 355,000 Greeks. Other important countries of origin included Poland (325,000) and Austria (190,000). About 25 percent of the total foreign population was from countries of the European Union, and an additional 55 percent came from other western and eastern European countries like Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, and Hungary. Overall, 80 percent of the foreigners came from Europe, while almost 12 percent were Asians.

Since the asylum law was tightened in 1993, illegal immigration has been growing. However, there are no reliable estimates on the number of illegal migrants staying in Germany. In contrast with countries like the U.S., Greece, or Italy, a legalization program for undocumented immigrants has not been carried out, or even seriously discussed in political circles.

In 2001, the government also counted an estimated 1.1 million refugees in the legal foreign population of 7.3 million. This included 301,000 recognized asylum seekers and their family members, along with another 164,000 refugees whose applications for asylum were still being processed. There were also 416,000 de facto refugees and foreigners whose deportation was suspended — those who either did not apply for asylum but enjoyed temporary protected status, or whose application was not accepted but could not be returned to their home countries for a variety of reasons and therefore received a temporary residence permit. Another 173,000 of the 1.1 million refugees are Jews from the former Soviet Union who have come to Germany since reunification. This last group is not required to prove that they, as individuals, have been persecuted in order to immigrate to Germany.

Key Policy Developments

Since 1998, when a coalition of Social Democrats and the Green Party came to power, several immigration-related bills have become law, with far-reaching consequences for immigrants.

In 2000, a new citizenship law came into force, the first such measure in nearly 90 years. For the very first time, children born to foreigners in Germany automatically receive German citizenship, provided one parent has been a legal resident for at least eight years. Children can also hold the nationality of their parents, but must decide to be citizens of one country or the other before age 23. This provision became necessary when the German conservative opposition to the ruling coalition did not accept dual citizenship. Therefore, it is generally granted only in exceptional cases, e.g., temporarily or if the applicant's country of origin impedes the process of releasing him or her from citizenship. However, the latest figures on naturalization show that dual citizenship is significant. In 2002, 43 percent of those who became German citizens could retain their original nationality, while in 2001 the share was even higher at 48 percent.

The demographic effects of the new citizens have already become visible. In 2000, 41,300 children born of parents with non-German citizenship became German by birth in 2001 the figure was 38,600. Without the new rule, these children would have appeared among the statistics on the foreign population and therefore would have increased the number of foreigners by about 80,000.

In August 2000, Germany introduced a "green card" system to help satisfy the demand for highly qualified information technology experts. In contrast with the American green card, which allows for permanent residency, the German version limits residency to a maximum of five years.

Through this new immigration program, about 9,614 highly skilled workers have entered Germany through December 2002, with 2,008 Indians accounting for the largest group, followed by Romanians (771) and citizens of the Russian Federation (695). While 8,678 of these highly skilled individuals immigrated from abroad, 936 had completed their university studies in Germany and were allowed to stay and work for five years under the provisions of the green card program. Without the green card, they would have had to leave.

Structuring Immigration, Fostering Integration

Despite Germany's long history of recruiting foreign workers, the turn toward a more organized and focused recruitment of highly skilled labor in 2000 marks a watershed. This change, coupled with a demographic shift toward a more elderly population and a continuing low total fertility rate (now at 1.4) led to a broader discussion about a formal immigration policy that takes these factors into account.

Supporters of new legislation pointed to demographic deficits and growing shortages of qualified personnel. Opponents countered by spotlighting a persistently high unemployment rate, which in 2000 stood at nine percent for the total working population, but hit 16 percent for foreigners. Opponents also questioned the German society's capacity to integrate more foreigners. Both groups, nevertheless, agreed on the need to improve the integration of foreigners — especially those from former recruitment countries.

In 2000, the government appointed a commission to work out proposals for an immigration and integration policy. In July 2001, the commission presented a report titled "Structuring Immigration, Fostering Integration." It highlighted well-known demographic developments, such as increasing life expectancy, low birth rates, and a workforce that is shrinking due to an aging population. In light of such developments, the commission argued for initiating a controlled immigration program for foreigners with favorable characteristics for integration into both the labor market and society. They proposed the implementation of a point system as a tool for selecting 20,000 immigrants per year based on criteria of education, age, and language skills. In the event of urgent labor shortages, another 20,000 immigrants should be let into the country on a five-year basis. By that time, the authorities will have gathered some experience, and changes and improvements can be made.

Furthermore, the commission recommended certain measures to speed up the asylum procedure and make it more difficult for fraudulent applications to succeed, while rejecting proposals to eliminate the "fundamental right of political asylum" guaranteed by the Constitution.

Finally, the commission report calls for serious efforts to foster the integration of immigrants, citing knowledge of the German language as a crucial point.

A bill introduced to parliament in November 2001 by the ruling Social Democrat and Green coalition picked up on several commission recommendations, including highly qualified migration and integration. The immigration of those who plan to establish a business was also welcomed, and there was no cap on the numbers of such entrepreneurs. However, companies could only hire temporary migrant workers outside of the categories outlined above if there were no Germans (or foreigners such as EU nationals, who are legally treated as Germans) available for the work. The legislation also provided for language classes for immigrants in the future — with failure to attend possibly translating into difficulties in extending residence permits.

The bill arrived at a time when immigration itself was in transition. In a trend that could be seen across many developed countries, low-skilled laborers, recruited to feed an economic boom, were (and still are) giving way to a generation of skilled workers who are more carefully selected to meet the needs of the information age.

Despite vocal criticism by the opposition, the bill was passed by both chambers of parliament. It was subsequently signed by President Johannes Rau in March 2002 and was set to take effect on January 1, 2003. However, it was procedurally contested by the country's conservative opposition, which successfully filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court. In December 2002, the court blocked the immigration law.

In January 2003, the government re-introduced the unchanged bill, since the court objected only to procedural failings in how it had been passed. In May 2003, the bill again passed the lower house of parliament. However, a month later it was voted down in the upper chamber, where the federal states are represented and the opposition parties have a majority. Subsequently, difficult negotiations between government and opposition failed to achieve a compromise – until recently.

In June 2004, the long-running and difficult negotiations finally led to a compromise. The agreed-upon legislation picks up several recommendations submitted in the 2001 report of the government-appointed commission, and parts of that year’s proposed immigration bill including sections on labor migration and integration. However, the core of the law, the innovative point system for selecting immigrants, has been eliminated at the demand of the opposition Christian Democrats, who have the majority in the upper house.

The law, which finally passed both chambers in early July, will allow highly qualified non-EU-workers such as scientists or top-level managers to obtain a residence permit of unlimited duration at the outset. However, companies can only hire non-EU workers if there are no Germans (or foreigners such as EU nationals, who are legally treated as Germans) available for the job. In addition, the immigration of those who plan to establish a business will also be welcomed. There will be no cap on the numbers of such entrepreneurs, but they will be required to invest at least a million euros in their project and add at least 10 new jobs.

Under other provisions of the legislation, foreign students will be allowed to stay in Germany for a year after finishing their studies to look for a job. At present they have to leave Germany. The legislation also provides for the establishment of language classes for immigrants — with failure to attend possibly translating into difficulties in extending residence permits. Finally, asylum seekers who are persecuted because of their sex will be recognized as refugees.

For their part, the Christian Democrats negotiated to obtain provisions that facilitate the deportation of foreigners for reasons of national security. This appears to be connected to security concerns that dominated negotiations in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, and later the terrorist attacks in Spain on March 11, 2004. Besides allowing the deportation of foreigners on the basis of a “threat prognosis” supported by factual evidence, the new law will make it easier to deport religious extremists.

The expansion of the European Union by 10 states means another challenge to Germany in terms of migration. Germany was a major supporter of the Eastern European countries that applied for membership however, at the same time, it feared massive immigration from that region. In the negotiations leading to the May 1, 2004 expansion, Germany succeeded in limiting the right of free movement for nationals of the new members in order to limit their access to the German labor market.

The EU enlargement also appears likely to relieve migration pressure on Germany's eastern border. As a result of negotiations with the prospective member states, Poland has beefed up patrols on its border with Ukraine, Belarus, and the primarily ethnic Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, with support from the EU and Germany. Thus, unauthorized migrants can be picked up by the Polish Border Police and thereby barred from entering Germany. After full implementation of the Schengen Agreement (presumably until 2007/2008) by Poland and the other new member states, this trend towards even tighter border controls could become stronger.

However, the potential for migration from Eastern Europe is declining. The birth rate in many of the new member states has been low since political transformation at the beginning of the 1990s. As in Western Europe, a decreasing number of people will be of working age. Therefore, it seems that Germany will not be "swamped" by migrants from the new member states – though at the same time, this means those migrants may not be available to solve the demographic problems of Germany's aging population. Either way, there is still a need for highly qualified workers in Germany. The initial closure of the labor market to citizens of the new EU states and non-EU citizens, which will be changed little by the immigration law, is likely to channel them to traditional immigration countries such as the United States, Canada, or Australia.

It remains to be seen if the new immigration law will help attract highly qualified migrants to Germany - one of the main goals of the legislation from the beginning. Many analysts are skeptical about what it will accomplish in this regard, since the point system that was widely touted as the best way of reaching this goal has been eliminated. However, the true test of a new approach would not only be how well an immigration law helps Germany meet its need for workers, but also how successfully it eases the handling of domestic concerns about integration and national identity. The current heated debates about Islamic education at public schools, and especially about the headscarf issue (see related article), show that integration and identity will loom large in public and political debates to come.

Aleinikoff, T. Alexander and Douglas Klusmeyer, eds. 2001. Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer, eds. 2000. From Migrants to Citizens: Membership in a Changing World. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Klusmeyer, Douglas and Demetri Papdemetriou. 2003 (forthcoming). Germany's Immigrant Integration Challenge. Washington, DC: MPI.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Continuous Reporting System on Migration (SOPEMI). Trends in International Migration (various editions). Paris: OECD Publications.

The Independent Commission on Migration to Germany. "Structuring Immigration, Fostering Integration," July 2001. Available online.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Current Chancellor Angela Merkel was a physicist and economic reformer from East Germany. She won the 2005 election by promising reform to lower the 11.5% unemployment rate.

The recession allowed Merkel to successfully push through stimulus efforts and tax cuts. This increased Germany's budget deficit to 3.3%, violating the EU's 3% debt-to-GDP ratio. Merkel had to impose austerity measures such as a sales tax increase and higher taxes on the wealthy. That's why she pushed for similar measures to resolve the Greek debt crisis. Opposition to her leadership delayed resolution, which resulted in its expansion to a eurozone debt crisis.

Germany in the EU

European Parliament

There are 96 members of the European Parliament from Germany. Find out who these MEPs are.

Council of the EU

In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the German government, depending on the policy area being addressed.

Presidency of the Council of the EU

The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.

During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.

Dates of German presidencies:

Jul-Dec 1958 | Jul-Dec 1961 | Jul-Dec 1964 | Jul-Dec 1967 | Jul-Dec 1970 | Jan-Jun 1974 | Jul-Dec 1978 | Jan-Jun 1983 | Jan-Jun 1988 | Jul-Dec 1994 | Jan-Jun 2007 | July-Dec 2020

The following link is a redirection to an external website Current presidency of the Council of the EU

European Commission

The President of the European Commission is Ursula von der Leyen, from Germany.

The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".

European Economic & Social Committee

Germany has 24 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.

European Committee of the Regions

Germany has 23 representatives on the European Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.

Permanent representation to the EU

Germany also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As Germany's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.

Data Sources

CIA Factbook

  • Data: Literacy rate for the entire population
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: 2011 or most recent earlier estimate (in some cases going back several decades)
  • Available here


  • Data: Literacy rate (for youths (15-24), adults (15+) and the elderly population (65+))
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: Since 1975 – scattered and far from annual data
  • Available at: It is online here, and it is visualized here.
  • The UNDP’s Human Development Report data is here, and UNICEF publishes data on literacy rate here.
  • Older older publications including data on literacy rates are:
    UNESCO (2002) – Estimated Illiteracy Rate and Illiterate Population Aged 15 Years and Older by Country, 1970�, Paris.
    UNESCO (1970) – Literacy 1967� Progress Achieved in Literacy Throughout the World. Paris (1970)
    UNESCO (1957) – World illiteracy at mid-century – A Statistical Study, Paris.
    UNESCO (1953) – Progress of literacy in various countries – A Preliminary Statistical Study of Available Census Data since 1900, Paris.

World Bank – World Development Indicators

  • Data: Literacy rate
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country (not by region). There are almost no data for rich industrialized countries – only for developing countries.
  • Time span: Since 1975 – scattered
  • Available at:
    • Annual data on ‘Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)‘ – going back to 1975
    • Annual data on ‘Literacy rate, youth total (% of people ages 15-24)‘ – going back to 1975 (this data is also published for males and females separately)

    Peter Flora’s data

    • Data: Literacy rate
    • Geographical coverage: Mostly Western Europe
    • Time span: 19th and 20th century
    • Available at: Two important publications are: Peter Flora (1983 & 1987) – State, Economy, and Society in Western Europe 1815�: A Data Handbook in two Volumes. Frankfurt, New York: Campus London: Macmillan Press Chicago: St. James Press and Peter Flora (1973) – Historical processes of social mobilization: urbanization and literacy, 1850�. In S.N. Eisenstadt, S. Rokkan (Eds.), Building States and Nations: Models and Data Resources, Sage, London, pp. 213�.

    OxLAD – Oxford Latin American Economic History Data Base

    • Data: Illiteracy rate (percent of adult population)
    • Geographical coverage: Latin American countries
    • Time span: Since 1900
    • Available at: Online here

    OECD Skills Outlook

    • Data: Measures of numeracy and literacy competence
    • Geographical coverage: 24 OECD countries
    • Time span: no time series dimension – only 2012
    • Available at: Online here
    • Presents the initial results of the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)


    According to the OECD report “How Was Life? Global Well-being since 1820” Literacy rate in 1900: 21% Literacy rate in 1960: 42% According to the World Bank: Literacy rate in 2015: 86%

    An overview of the academic literature on the historical origins and spread of literacy can be found in Easton, P. (2014). Sustaining Literacy in Africa: Developing a Literate Environment. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Paris, France.

    The graph is based on Clark (2008) who in turn relies on the sources indicated in the chart. Gregory Clark (2008). A farewell to alms: a brief economic history of the world. Princeton University Press.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics. From the original source we have excluded some years to have equal time differences on the x-axis (and interpolated the values for 1950), but the data is shown at the linked source.

    The data is taken from the UNESCO statistics. The data refers to both genders and to the latest available data in the time between 2000 and 2012.

    The LAMP tests three skill domains: reading continuous texts (prose), reading non-continuous texts (documents), and numeracy skills. Each skills domain is divided into three performance levels the top 30% of respondents at Level 3, the middle 40% of respondents correspondingly at Level 2, and the bottom 30% of respondents at Level 1. The LAMP tests have only recently been field tested. The LAMP structure in these pilots (implemented in Jordan, Mongolia, Palestine, and Paraguay) is as follows:
    Background questionnaire: collects information on the respondent’s educational attainment, self-reported literacy, literacy use in and outside of work, and occupation, amongst other information.
    Filter test: Booklet with 17 items to determine if respondent takes Module A (for low performers) or Module B (for high performers)
    Module A: Testing prose, document, and numeracy items.
    Module B: Respondent is randomly assigned Booklet 1 or Booklet 2, both testing prose, document, and numeracy skills for high performers of the filter test.

    The World Bank’s STEP Skills Measurement Program also provides a direct assessment of reading proficiency and related competencies scored on the same scale as the OECD’s PIAAC. This adds another 11 countries to the coverage of PIAAC tests. You can read more about it here: http://microdata.worldbank.org/index.php/catalog/step/about

    The OECD report relies on a number of underlying sources. For the period before 1950, the underlying source is the UNESCO report on the Progress of Literacy in Various Countries Since 1900 (about 30 countries). For the mid-20th century, the underlying source is the UNESCO report on Illiteracy at Mid-Century (about 36 additional countries). And up to 1970, the source is UNESCO statistical yearbooks.

    Since estimates of signed documents tend to rely on small samples (e.g. parish documents from specific towns), researchers often rely on additional assumptions to extrapolate estimates to the national level. For example, Bob Allen provides estimates of the evolution of literacy in Europe between 1500 and 1800 using data on urbanization rates. For more details see Allen, R. C. (2003). Progress and poverty in early modern Europe. The Economic History Review, 56(3), 403-443.

    They use a demand equation that links book consumption to a number of factors, including literacy and book prices. For more details see Buringh, E. and Van Zanden, J.L., 2009. Charting the “Rise of the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, a long-term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries. The Journal of Economic History, 69(2), pp.409-445.

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    The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. We will always indicate the original source of the data in our documentation, so you should always check the license of any such third-party data before use and redistribution.


    Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the underlying data sources. This entry can be cited as:

    Meat and poultry plants employed about a third of U.S. food and beverage manufacturing employees in 2019

    In 2019, the U.S. food and beverage manufacturing sector employed 1.7 million people, or just over 1.1 percent of all U.S. nonfarm employment. In thousands of food and beverage manufacturing plants located throughout the country, these employees were engaged in transforming raw agricultural materials into products for intermediate or final consumption. Meat and poultry plants employed the largest percentage of food and beverage manufacturing workers, followed by bakeries, and beverage plants.

    Tourism industries - employment

    This article presents recent statistics on employment in the tourism industries in the European Union (EU). Tourism statistics focus on either the accommodation sector (data collected from hotels, campsites, etc.) or on tourism demand (data collected from households), and relate mainly to physical flows (arrivals or nights spent in tourist accommodation or trips made by a country’s residents). However, this analysis of employment in tourism is based on data from other areas of official statistics, in particular structural business statistics (SBS), the labour force survey (LFS), the structure of earnings survey (SES) and the labour cost survey (LCS).

    The creation of jobs and growth is a key priority of the Commission. This article analyses the tourism sector with a focus on its contribution to the labour market in the EU and its potential to create jobs for economically less advantaged socio-demographic groups or regions.

    The tourism industries employ over 13 million people in the EU

    Economic activities related to tourism (but not necessarily relying only on tourism — see the section "Data sources" for further details) employ over 13 million people in the European Union (see Table 1). Nearly 8 million of these people work in the food and beverage industry, while 2 million are employed in transport. The accommodation sector (not including real estate) accounts for 2.7 million jobs in the EU travel agencies and tour operators account for just over half a million. The three industries that rely almost entirely on tourism (accommodation, travel agencies/tour operators, air transport) employ 3.6 million people in the EU. These three industries will from now on be referred to as the "selected tourism industries".

    The tourism industries account for 21 % of people employed in the services sector. When looking at the total non-financial business economy, the tourism industries account for 9 % of people employed. Among the Member States, Greece recorded the highest share (23.9 % or nearly one in four people employed) followed by Cyprus and Malta with respectively one in five and nearly one in six people employed working in the tourism sector (see Figure 1).

    In absolute terms, Germany had the highest employment in the tourism industries (2.5 million people), followed by the United Kingdom (2.3 million), Italy (1.5 million), Spain (1.4 million) and France (1.1 million). These five Member States account for 66 % of employment in the tourism industries across the EU.

    In the selected tourism industries, 23 % of people work in micro-enterprises that employ fewer than 10 people, which is significantly lower than the 29 % observed for the total non-financial business economy (see Figure 2). Looking at the three selected tourism industries separately, over one-third of employment in travel agencies and tour operators is in micro-enterprises (34 %) for the accommodation sector this figure is 24 %. Not surprisingly, small and medium-sized enterprises (< 250 staff) are of minor importance in air transport, with 89 % of people employed in the sector working in companies employing 250 people or more.

    The economic crisis led to a fall in total employment which started recovering in 2014 and reached the before crisis levels in 2016 (see Figure 3). However, this was not the case for the services sector, including the selected core tourism industries, which has had an average annual growth rate of +1.5 % since 2008. More specifically, the tourist accommodation sector registered an average annual growth of +1.9 % since 2008, resulting to a total increase of +18 % in 2017 compared with 2008. This shows the tourism industry’s potential as a growth sector, even in times of economic turmoil that significantly affect other sectors of the economy.

    Characteristics of jobs in tourism industries

    Tourism creates jobs for women

    The tourism industry is a major employer of women (see Table 2, Figure 4 and Table 2A in the excel file). Compared with the total non-financial business economy, where 36 % of people employed are female, the labour force of the tourism industries includes more female workers (59 %) than male workers. The highest proportions are seen in accommodation (61 %), and in travel agencies and tour operators (64 %). Even though nearly one in three women working in the tourism industries works part-time (compared with one in seven men), women working full-time still represent the biggest share of employment (41 %, see Figure 4). Female employment accounts for less than 50 % of tourism industry employment in only two Member States (Luxembourg and Malta) for the accommodation sector this is the case only in Malta. In Slovenia, Estonia, Austria, Poland and Lithuania, more than two out of three people employed in tourism are women. In Slovenia, the proportion of female employment in the tourism industries is nearly twice as high as in the economy as a whole (70 % versus 37 %).

    Part-time employment significantly higher in the tourism industries

    The proportion of part-time employment in the tourism industries (24 %) is significantly higher than in the total non-financial business economy (17 %) and is comparable to the figure for the services sector as a whole (22 %) (see Table 2, Figures 4 and 5, and Table 2B in the excel file). Within the three selected tourism industries, the proportion of part-time employment is highest in the accommodation sector (26 %), followed by travel agencies and tour operators (22 %). In air transport, 18 % of staff work on a part-time basis. In most Member States for which data is available, the tourism industries have a higher proportion of part-time employment than the rest of the economy. This is not the case for the popular tourism destinations of Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Spain where the proportion of part-time work is lower in the tourism industries than in the rest of the economy. In Czechia as well as in Iceland, the proportion of part-time workers in tourism is at least twice as high as it is in the economy as a whole.

    Tourism attracts a young labour force

    Figure 6 shows that, with 13 % of workers aged 15 to 24 compared with 9% for services or for the non-financial business economy, the tourism industries have a particularly young labour force, as these industries can make it easy to enter the job market. In Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom, the proportion of employed people aged 15 to 24 exceeds 20 % (see Table 2 and Table 2C in the excel file) and in all four countries is significantly above the proportion seen in the economy as a whole. In the accommodation sector, the proportion of young workers stands at 15 % in the EU, while in the four above mentioned countries, more than one out of four persons employed in this sector is aged 15 to 24.

    The tourist accommodation sector gives more opportunities to lower educated workers

    The previous sections showed that tourism employs more female workers and young workers. People with a lower educational level (those who have not finished upper secondary schooling) are equally represented on the labour market as a whole and in the tourism sector (around 20 % for both) — see Table 2, Figure 7 and Table 2D in the excel file. However, in the subsector of accommodation, one in four people employed has a lower educational level. In Malta, Spain and Portugal more than two out of five people employed in tourist accommodation belong to this group. However in these three countries lower educated people are more represented in the whole labour force compared with the rest of EU countries.

    Nearly one in six people employed in tourism are foreign citizens

    Many foreign citizens work in tourism-related industries (see Table 2, Figure 8 and and Table 2E in the excel file). On average, they account for 16 % of the labour force in tourism industries (of which 9 % are from other EU Member States and 7 % are from non-EU countries). In the services sector as a whole, the proportion of foreign citizens employed is 11 %, and in the total non-financial business economy it is 9 %. Looking at this in more detail, we see that foreign workers make up 8 % of the workforce in air transport and 10 % in travel agencies or tour operators, but 18% of the workforce in accommodation (i.e. more than one in six people employed in this sub-sector is a foreign citizen).

    In four EU Member States, more than one in four people employed in the selected tourism industries are foreign citizens: Cyprus (26 %), Ireland (29 %), Austria (29 %) and Luxembourg (61 %).

    Jobs are less stable in tourism than in the rest of the economy

    Since tourism tends to attract a young labour force, often at the start of their professional life (see above, Table 2 and Figure 6), certain key characteristics of employment in this sector are slightly less advantageous than in other sectors of the economy.

    The likelihood of occupying a temporary job is significantly higher in tourism than in the total non-financial business economy (23% versus 14 % of people employed) – see Table 2, Figure 9 and Table 2F in the excel file. There are big differences across the European Union (ranging from 5 % of temporary contracts in tourism in Malta to 45 % in Greece). In all countries for which data is available except Malta and Finland, fewer people have a permanent job in tourism than in the economy on average. In some countries, the proportion of temporary workers is three to four times higher in tourism than in the non-financial business economy as a whole (in particular in Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria). In the accommodation sector, more than one in four people employed do not have a permanent contract.

    Similarly, the likelihood of an employee holding their current job for less than one year (see Table 2, Figure 10 and Table 2G in the excel file) is also significantly higher in tourism than in the non-financial business economy as a whole (23 % versus 15 %). In the economy on average, three out of four employees (75 %) have worked with the same employer for two years or more, while in tourism this is the case for less than two out of three people employed (65 %). Air transport tends to offer more stable jobs, with only 12 % of employees having job seniority of less than one year, compared with 26 % in accommodation and 14 % for people employed by travel agencies or tour operators. More than half of the workforce in the accommodation sector has held their job for less than one year in Cyprus and for less than two years in Denmark and Sweden.

    Seasonality and regional issues in tourism activities

    High seasonality in tourism activities is only partly reflected in tourism employment

    Tourism demand varies strongly in the course of the year (see article on ‘Seasonality in tourism demand’). Tourist accommodation has the highest occupancy rate in the summer months (see article on ‘Seasonality in the tourist accommodation sector’).

    Table 3 shows that, in the EU on average, the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation is three times higher in the third quarter of the year (the peak quarter) than in the first quarter (the lowest quarter). The peak quarter records more than double the number of nights than the lowest quarter in all but six Member States (Finland, Slovakia, Malta, Estonia, Czechia and Austria). In Croatia, nearly 38 times more nights are spent in tourist accommodation between July and September than in the first three months of the year.

    These seasonal fluctuations in tourist accommodation, are only partly translated into seasonal fluctuations in employment. Employment in tourism in the peak quarter is only 1.1 times higher than in the lowest quarter (see Table 3 and Figure 11). The accommodation sector is the most affected by seasonality (peak quarter employment is 19.8 % higher than the annual average), then air transport (3.5 % higher) and travel agencies and tour operators (2.2 % higher).

    Figure 12 shows the different seasonal patterns for full-time and part-time jobs. The lowest season (the first quarter of the year) seems to have a similar impact on both types of employment, while throughout the rest of the year the impact of seasonality is more important for full-time jobs.

    Regions with high tourist activity tend to have lower unemployment rates

    Tourist activity can have a negative impact on the quality of life of the local population in popular tourist areas. However, the influx of tourists can also boost the local economy and labour market.

    Comparing regional data on tourism intensity (e.g. the annual number of nights spent by tourists per capita of local population) with regional unemployment rates or their deviation from the national average unemployment rate, we see that 21 of the 30 regions with the highest tourism intensity have an unemployment rate below the national average.

    Table 4 lists the regions with a tourism intensity over 20 (tourism nights per local inhabitant). In all but three of these 18 regions, the unemployment rate lies below the national average. Two of the three regions where this does not hold true, the Canary Islands and Madeira, are island regions relatively remote from the mainland (and the mainland’s economy).

    Earnings and labour costs in the tourism industries

    Hourly earnings and labour costs in the accommodation sub-sector are below the average for the economy as a whole

    Besides employment rates, another important feature of labour market analysis concerns labour costs for employers and earnings for employees. This section takes a look at hourly labour costs and hourly gross earnings, both in the economy as a whole and in the selected tourism industries.

    In the EU-28 as a whole, labour costs and earnings tend to be significantly lower in the tourism industries than they are in the total economy. In the economy, the average hourly labour cost was €26.0 in 2016 and average hourly earnings were €15.2 in 2014. In the three selected tourism industries (air transport, accommodation, travel agencies & tour operators) the average hourly labour cost was €23.6 in 2016 and the average gross hourly earnings amounted to €13.0 in 2014 (see Table 5 and Figure 13).

    Given the characteristics of tourism jobs outlined above, this observation does not come as a surprise: a relatively young labour force (see Figure 6) with a higher proportion of temporary contracts (see Figure 9) and lower job seniority (see Figure 10) has a comparative disadvantage on the labour market, which leads to lower labour costs and earnings. For the accommodation sector — which employs more people with a lower educational level and more part-timers — the differences are even higher. In 2014, for people employed in the accommodation sub-sector, gross hourly earnings were €10.2. For air transport, they were €25.9 (well above the average for the economy as a whole), and for travel agencies and tour operators they were €15.1.

    Gross hourly earnings in tourism are highest in Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland, but these countries are also among the top five countries with highest average hourly earnings in the total economy (see Table 5 and Figure 14).

    In 2016 only seven EU Member States had higher hourly labour costs in tourism than the total economy: Portugal, Estonia, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria (see Table 5 and Figure 15) for gross hourly earnings, this was the case for three out of the 28 EU countries. Comparing the accommodation subsector with the economy as a whole, both hourly average labour costs and earnings were lower for those employed in accommodation, and this was true across the EU (see Figure 16).

    Source data for tables and graphs

    Data sources

    This article includes data from four different sources:

    This data is available at a detailed level of economic activity, which makes it possible to identify and select industries that are part of the tourism sector.

    For Eurostat, tourism industries (total) include the following NACE Rev.2 classes:

    • H4910 — Passenger rail transport, interurban
    • H4932 — Taxi operation
    • H4939 — Other passenger land transport n.e.c
    • H5010 — Sea and coastal passenger water transport
    • H5030 — Inland passenger water transport
    • H5110 — Passenger air transport
    • I5510 — Hotels and similar accommodation
    • I5520 — Holiday and other short-stay accommodation
    • I5530 — Camping grounds, recreational vehicle parks and trailer parks
    • I5610 — Restaurants and mobile food service activities
    • I5630 — Beverage serving activities
    • N7710 — Renting and leasing of motor vehicles
    • N7721 — Renting and leasing of recreational and sports goods
    • NACE division N79 — Travel agency, tour operator reservation service and related activities.

    However, many of these activities provide services to both tourists and non-tourists – typical examples include restaurants catering to tourists but also to locals and rail transport being used by tourists as well as by commuters. For this reason, this publication focuses on the following selected tourism industries which rely almost entirely on tourism:

    • H51 — Air transport (including H512 ‘Freight air transport’ which accounts for 6.0 % of employment in H51).
    • I55 — Accommodation (including I559 ‘Other accommodation’ which accounts for 1.7 % of employment in I55).
    • N79 — Travel agency, tour operator reservation service and related activities (including N799 ‘Other reservation service and related activities’ which accounts for 12.9 % of employment in N79).


    According to a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) publication titled "Tourism highlights", the EU is a major tourist destination, with five of its Member States among the world’s top 10 destinations in 2017. Tourism has the potential to contribute towards employment and economic growth, as well as to development in rural, peripheral or less-developed areas. These characteristics drive the demand for reliable and harmonised statistics within this field, as well as within the wider context of regional policy and sustainable development policy areas.

    Tourism can play a significant role in the development of European regions. Infrastructure created for tourism purposes contributes to local development, while jobs that are created or maintained can help counteract industrial or rural decline. Sustainable tourism involves the preservation and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage, ranging from the arts to local gastronomy or the preservation of biodiversity.

    In 2006, the European Commission adopted a Communication titled "A renewed EU tourism policy: towards a stronger partnership for European tourism" (COM(2006) 134 final). It addressed a range of challenges that will shape tourism in the coming years, including Europe’s ageing population, growing external competition, consumer demand for more specialised tourism, and the need to develop more sustainable and environmentally-friendly tourism practices. It argued that more competitive tourism supply and sustainable destinations would help raise tourist satisfaction and secure Europe’s position as the world’s leading tourist destination. It was followed in October 2007 by another Communication, titled "Agenda for a sustainable and competitive European tourism" (COM(2007) 621 final), which proposed actions in relation to the sustainable management of destinations, the integration of sustainability concerns by businesses, and the awareness of sustainability issues among tourists.

    The Lisbon Treaty acknowledged the importance of tourism — outlining a specific competence for the EU in this field and allowing for decisions to be taken by a qualified majority. An article within the Treaty specifies that the EU "shall complement the action of the Member States in the tourism sector, in particular by promoting the competitiveness of Union undertakings in that sector". "Europe, the world’s Noف tourist destination — a new political framework for tourism in Europe" (COM(2010) 352 final) was adopted by the European Commission in June 2010. This Communication seeks to encourage a coordinated approach for initiatives linked to tourism and defined a new framework for actions to increase the competitiveness of tourism and its capacity for sustainable growth. It proposed a number of European or multinational initiatives — including a consolidation of the socioeconomic knowledge base for tourism — aimed at achieving these objectives.


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