The number of babies born in Germany sank to a record low in 2011, official statistics showed Monday, but a surge in immigration to Europe's top economy led its population to grow.
Last year around 663,000 children were born in Germany, down 2.2% from 2010, according to preliminary data released by the federal statistics office Destatis.
It was the lowest number recorded in Germany since 1946 and around half as many babies as were born in West and East Germany in 1964, at the height of the post-war baby boom.
In 2011 around 852,000 people died in Germany, 0.7% fewer than the previous year.
As in all years since 1972, more people died than children were born, Destatis said in a statement. In 2011 the difference reached about 190,000 in 2010 and 181,000 in 2010.
However Destatis expert Reinhold Zahn told local news agency DPA that the number of people in Germany nevertheless rose last year as about 279,000 more people moved to the country as left it -- the highest number in a decade.
The strong influx, driven in part by Germany's status as a refuge from the debt crisis engulfing stricken countries, led the country's population to rise by nearly 100,000 people.
However the long-term trend points to the German population shrinking, figures show. It has around 82 million today but statistics indicate it could be home to as many as 17 million fewer people in 50 years' time.
Like other advanced economies, Germany is facing a snowballing population crisis, leaving the country short of workers and adding to the strain on already stretched public coffers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is childless, has introduced a raft of measures aimed at boosting the birth rate, including generous parental leave allowances and an increase in the number of kindergarten places.