Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

The Growth of Germany’s Muslim Population

Between 2010 and 2016, the number of Muslims living in Germany rose from 3.3 million (4.1% of the population) to nearly 5 million (6.1%), while the rest of the population shrank modestly from 77.1 million to 76.5 million. Immigration has been a major factor in the growth of Germany’s Muslim population. But, even if there is no more immigration, Muslims will continue to increase as a share of Germany’s population in future decades because German Muslims, on average, are much younger and have more babies than Germans as a whole.

These findings come from demographic models built by Pew Research Center to show how Europe’s population is changing. It is impossible to predict future migration flows, so we modeled three different scenarios with varying levels of migration to project what could happen by the year 2050. Without any more migration, Germany’s aging population would be expected to decline about 15% by 2050. But if recent migration patterns continue, its overall population is projected to hold steady or even increase by the middle of the 21st century, in large part due to the arrival of Muslim immigrants.

These patterns are similar to trends across Europe (defined in our new report as the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland). As the most populous country and the biggest economy in the EU, Germany often sets the tone for policies among the EU’s 28 member states. Under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has opened its borders to large numbers of migrants, including many Muslim refugees seeking asylum from war and unrest in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 11: People pulling suitcases arrive at the Central Registration Office for Asylum Seekers (Zentrale Aufnahmestelle fuer Fluechtlinge, or ZAA) of the State Office for Health and Social Services (Landesamt fuer Gesundheit und Soziales, or LAGeSo), which is the registration office for refugees and migrants arriving in Berlin who are seeking asylum in Germany, on March 11, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Germany, which registered over 200,000 refugees in 2014, is expecting even more in 2015 and many cities and towns are reeling under the burden of having to accommodate them. The main countries of origin of the refugees include Syria, Serbia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Albania. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
People pulling suitcases arrive at Germany’s Central Registration Office for Asylum Seekers in Berlin in March 2015. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Between mid-2010 and mid-2016, Germany accepted an estimated 670,000 refugees, roughly 86% of whom are Muslims. In addition, 680,000 “regular” migrants from outside the EU (non-refugees who moved for economic, family or other reasons) have come to Germany between mid-2010 and mid-2016, although a smaller percentage of these migrants (40%) are Muslims. Altogether, Germany received a total of about 1.35 million migrants during this period – including an estimated 850,000 Muslims. This figure excludes an additional 540,000 asylum seekers whose applications for asylum have been rejected or are expected to be rejected, based on past approval rates.

Similar patterns are expected in the future. Even if all migration to and from Germany were to stop as of the middle of 2016, Germany’s Muslim population would be projected to increase by about 1 million, from just under 5 million (6.1% of the 2016 population) to 6 million in 2050 (8.7% of a shrinking overall population). This is because Muslims in Germany are considerably younger than non-Muslims – with median ages of 31 and 47, respectively, in 2016 – and because Muslim women have more children (1.9, on average) than non-Muslims in Germany (1.4).

In a “medium” migration scenario – which envisions regular migration continuing, but all refugee flows coming to a stop as of mid-2016 – Muslims would number 8.5 million and make up 10.8% of Germany’s population in 2050. This is smaller than the projected Muslim populations in this scenario in the United Kingdom (13.1 million) and France (12.6 million), because the UK and France have tended to receive more regular Muslim migrants than Germany, while far more Muslim refugees have arrived in Germany.

Alternatively, in a “high” migration scenario in which both regular migration and the heavy flows of refugees from the Middle East were to continue indefinitely into the future, Germany’s Muslim population would be expected to more than triple by 2050, growing from 4.9 million (6.0%) to 17.5 million (19.7%). In this scenario, Germany would have the largest Muslim population in Europe at midcentury.

The high migration scenario perhaps best corresponds to the last year in Germany, because a large volume of applications for asylum continued to arrive after mid-2016 (the end of the time period analyzed in this report). However, recent policy shifts have made the high scenario less realistic in the future; an EU agreement with Turkey has slowed the influx of refugees to mainland Europe, and the German government has taken steps to limit future flows. After a September 2017 election gave the far-right Alternative for Germany party a presence in parliament for the first time, Merkel signaled openness to limiting the number of asylum seekers entering Germany to 200,000 per year. These conflicting factors may put Germany’s current course somewhere in between the medium and high scenarios.

FUCHSOEDT, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 17: Migrants who had arrived via buses chartered by Austrian authorities walk towards the border to Germany on October 17, 2015 near Fuchsoedt, Austria. According to a German police spokesman approximately 6,000 migrants are arriving daily over the Austrian border just in the area of southeastern Bavaria near the city of Passau. Most arrive via the Balkan route and once in Austria are transported by Austrian authorities to locations near the border to Germany. Germany has reportedly registered over 800,000 migrants this year, 400,000 in September alone. The migrants include many refugees from countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Germany is struggling to accommodate the many migrants, most of whom will apply for asylum. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Migrants who had arrived via buses chartered by Austrian authorities walk toward the border with Germany near Fuchsoedt, Austria, in October 2015. According to a German police spokesman, approximately 6,000 migrants were arriving daily at the time, just in the area of southeastern Bavaria near the city of Passau. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In opinion polls, the German public expresses ambivalent attitudes toward refugees. On the one hand, a majority of German adults (61%) think refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism. But most do not see this as an acute threat: About seven-in-ten say the arrival of large numbers of refugees from countries like Iraq and Syria represents either a “minor threat” (49%) or no threat at all (22%). Only about three-in-ten (28%) say these refugees are a “major threat” to Germany. People in several other European countries – including Greece, Hungary and Poland – are more inclined to see refugees from Iraq and Syria as a major threat.

In general, Germans express positive views of refugees, with most saying they make Germany stronger because of their hard work and talents (59%), rather than being a burden by taking jobs and social benefits (31%). Most Germans also see Muslims in their country in a positive light: Roughly two-thirds say they have a “very favorable” (10%) or “mostly favorable” (55%) view of Muslims, compared with about three-in-ten who express a mostly (23%) or very (6%) unfavorable opinion. At the same time, there is widespread uncertainty about integration. A majority of Germans (61%) believe most Muslims in Germany “want to be distinct from the larger German society,” rather than adopting “Germany’s customs and way of life.”

BERLIN - JULY 07: Two young Muslim women walk by a pub draped in a German flag in the Arab and Turkish-heavy neighborhood of Neukoellsn during the FIFA 2010 World Cup match between Germany and Spain on July 7, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Many immigrants in Germany identify strongly with the German national team, in part because many of the team's members have African, Arab, Turkish or East European roots. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Two young Muslim women walk by a pub draped in a German flag in Berlin’s Arab- and Turkish-heavy neighborhood of Neukoelln during the FIFA 2010 World Cup match between Germany and Spain. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

For more on Europe’s growing Muslim population, see this full report.