Although Germany’s population is expected to decline by around one percent before 2040, the number of private households could keep going up until then. This is the outcome of a recent forecast compiled by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). According to their figures, the statisticians assume that there will be 42.6 million private households in Germany 20 years hence, an increase by around three percent compared to 2018 (41.4 million) (source: destatis.de).
In some cases, however, the regional differences are considerable. In Berlin and Hamburg, for instance, the number of private households is predicted to grow by around 6.5 and 5 percent, respectively. Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse are also likely to see fast growth, whereas the trend in most East German states is more or less negative. The only East German state expected to see a modest increase is Brandenburg, which can probably be traced back to the gravitational pull of Berlin more than anything else (source: destatis.de).
That the number of households is expected to increase at a time of demographic decline is explained specifically by the projected increase in the number of single-person households. Their share of all households is poised to climb to 24 percent by 2040, up from 21 percent in 2018. In absolute figures, this implies that Germany will move from 17.3 million to 19.3 million single-person households. The trend follows in wake of a 46-percent increase in the number of single-person households between 1991 and 2018. The number of two-person households, by the way, is also expected to keep growing, albeit at a very modest pace, from 14.0 million in 2018 to 14.1 million by 2040.
Conversely, the number of larger households will decline over the next 20 years. Households of three persons will decrease by 11 percent down to 4.4 million and those of four persons by 7 percent to 4.8 million. All of these changes are, of course, driven by Germany’s demographic development. Although the trend toward smaller households has been slowed by higher birth rates and the inflow of families for the time being, the trend is ultimately irreversible because of the growing share of elderly people. By 2040, the number of persons per household will be 1.9 on average. This is down from 2.0 persons per household in 2018, and down from 2.3 persons as recently as 1991.
Interesting to note is that the forecast released by the Statistics Office expects even Berlin and Hamburg to see an increase in the number of single-person households between now and 2040. The forecast is at odds with the observation of a reverse trend in the “Big Seven” cities that the Federal Statistical Office published in late 2019 in response to the dwindling supply of residential accommodation in these cities.
It noted at the time that the share of single-person households in Germany’s seven Class A cities had dropped from 51 to 45 percent between 2010 and 2018. During the same period of time, the share of households with three or more persons was said to have increased from 19 to 22 percent (source: destatis.de).