Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is a federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe. It includes 16 constituent states, covers an area of 357,021 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With about 82 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous member state of the European Union.
After the United States, it is the second most popular immigration destination in the world. Germany’s capital and largest metropolis is Berlin, while its largest conurbation is the Ruhr (main centres: Dortmund and Essen). The country’s other major cities are Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Bremen, Dresden, Hannover and Nuremberg.
Various Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before 100 AD. During the Migration Period the Germanic tribes expanded southward. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation.
In 1871, Germany became a nation state when most of the German states unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The establishment of the national socialist dictatorship in 1933 led to World War II and the Holocaust.
After a period of Allied occupation, two German states were founded: the Federal Republic of Germany (commonly known as West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (commonly known as East Germany). In 1990, the country was reunified.
In the 21st century, Germany is a great power and has the world’s fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, as well as the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of goods. Germany is a developed country with a very high standard of living sustained by a skilled and productive society. It upholds a social security and universal health care system, environmental protection and a tuition-free university education.
Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the European Union in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and became a co-founder of the Eurozone in 1999. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G8, the G20, and the OECD. The national military expenditure is the 9th highest in the world. Known for its rich cultural history, Germany has been continuously the home of influential and successful artists, philosophers, musicians, sportspeople, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and inventors.
Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labour force, a large capital stock, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. It is the world’s third largest exporter of goods, and has the largest national economy in Europe which is also the world’s fourth largest by nominal GDP and the fifth one by PPP.
The service sector contributes approximately 71% of the total GDP (including information technology), industry 28%, and agriculture 1%. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat amounts to 4.7% in January 2015, which is the lowest rate of all 28 EU member states. With 7.1% Germany also has the lowest youth unemployment rate of all EU member states. According to the OECD Germany has one of the highest labour productivity levels in the world.
Germany is part of the European single market which represents more than 508 million consumers. Several domestic commercial policies are determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. Germany introduced the common European currency, the Euro in 2002. It is a member of the Eurozone which represents around 338 million citizens.
Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank, which is headquartered in Frankfurt, the financial centre of continental Europe.
Being home to the modern car, the automotive industry in Germany is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world, and is the fourth largest by production.
The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipments, pharmaceuticals, transport equipments, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics. Germany is the world’s third-largest arms exporter.
Of the world’s 500 largest stock-market-listed companies measured by revenue in 2014, the Fortune Global 500, 28 are headquartered in Germany. 30 Germany-based companies are included in the DAX, the German stock market index. Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, SAP, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, Porsche, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank and Bosch.
Germany is recognised for its large portion of specialised small and medium enterprises, known as the Mittelstand model. Around 1,000 of these companies are global market leaders in their segment and are labelled hidden champions. Berlin developed a thriving, cosmopolitan hub for startup companies and became a leading location for venture capital funded firms in the European Union.
With a population of 80.2 million according to the 2011 census, rising to 81.5 million as at 30 June 2015 and to at least 81.9 million as at 31 December 2015, Germany is the most populous country in the European Union, the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and ranks as the 16th most populous country in the world. Its population density stands at 227 inhabitants per square kilometre (588 per square mile).
The overall life expectancy in Germany at birth is 80.19 years (77.93 years for males and 82.58 years for females). The fertility rate of 1.41 children born per woman (2011 estimates), or 8.33 births per 1000 inhabitants, is one of the lowest in the world. Since the 1970s, Germany’s death rate has exceeded its birth rate. However, Germany is witnessing increased birth rates and migration rates since the beginning of the 2010s, particularly a rise in the number of well-educated migrants.
Four sizable groups of people are referred to as “national minorities” because their ancestors have lived in their respective regions for centuries. There is a Danish minority (about 50,000) in the northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein. The Sorbs, a Slavic population of about 60,000, are in the Lusatia region of Saxony and Brandenburg. The Roma and Sinti live throughout the whole federal territory and the Frisians live on Schleswig-Holstein’s western coast, and in the north-western part of Lower Saxony. Approximately 5 million Germans live abroad.
German is the official and predominant spoken language in Germany. Standard German is a West Germanic language and is closely related to and classified alongside Low German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Frisian and English. To a lesser extent, it is also related to the North Germanic languages. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and most recently English (known as Denglisch).
German is written using the Latin alphabet. German dialects, traditional local varieties traced back to the Germanic tribes, are distinguished from varieties of standard German by their lexicon, phonology, and syntax. It is one of 24 official and working languages of the European Union, and one of the three working languages of the European Commission. German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union, with around 100 million native speakers.
Recognised native minority languages in Germany are Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany, and Frisian; they are officially protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The most used immigrant languages are Turkish, Kurdish, Polish, the Balkan languages, and Russian. Germans are typically multilingual: 67% of German citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language and 27% in at least two.