More than 3 million German emigrants in OECD countries


01/06/2015 - Germany is both the OECD’s second-largest country of immigration and one of the main origin countries of emigrants: 3.4 million people born in Germany were living in another OECD country in 2011, says a new OECD report Talent Abroad: A Review of German Emigrants. This number corresponds to the population of Berlin. It places the German diaspora fifth after Mexico and the United Kingdom, and only slightly behind China and India. The largest groups of German emigrants live in the United States (1.1 million), the United Kingdom and Switzerland (270 000 each). Large numbers are also counted in France, Italy and Spain.


At about 140 000 per annum, emigration flows from Germany have been stable but high in recent years. Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands were the main destinations of German emigrants in recent years. Between 2001 and 2013, three times as many German emigrants have moved to European OECD countries as have moved to OECD countries outside Europe.


The education level of German emigrants is high and keeps rising. 1.4 million possess an upper secondary or vocational education and 1.2 million hold a university degree. The number of tertiary-educated German emigrants rose by 40% in the past decade, mainly driven by increasing numbers of tertiary-educated women. In Switzerland alone, the number of tertiary-educated German emigrants doubled between 2001 and 2011, reaching 150 000. About 46 000 German emigrants even hold a qualification at the doctoral level.


Germany is also the OECD country which has the most students studying abroad, in absolute terms. Their number increased by 14 percent between 2010 and 2012, reaching 140 000. Their primary destination countries are Austria (31 000), the Netherlands (25 000), the United Kingdom (16 000) and Switzerland (12 000). Thirty percent of German students abroad are enrolled in engineering, medicine, natural sciences and mathematics.


Close to two million Germans work abroad, often in more high-skill occupations than their peers in Germany. One-third of German emigrants in non-European OECD countries work as professionals, and another 13 percent work as senior officials and managers. Emigrating Germans more often possess a tertiary education than those who return. Similarly, those leaving Germany are more likely to have previously been in employment than those returning.  While job prospects are also crucial for German emigrants who return, family and friends are the most important reason for return.


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