Many of the millions of east Germans who flocked to the west of the country to take jobs after the Berlin Wall fell are now returning home, a study to be published Thursday showed.

In 2010 alone more than 40,000 people born in communist East Germany who had moved west went back to the region, according to research conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in the eastern city of Leipzig.

"Many east Germans left to find work but are coming back because of their family and friends," the study's author Thilo Lang told the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, which is to publish the results Thursday.

Between 1989 and 2010, some 4.1 million east Germans moved to the west, according to the federal statistics office. During the same period some 2.1 million westerners moved east.

Three-quarters of those who left east Germany after 1990, the year of national unification, could imagine returning to the region, according to surveys among "several hundred" east Germans.

And 43 percent have made specific plans for such a move.

The head of the Federal Labour Agency, Frank-Juergen Weise, told Die Zeit that the reversal in the migration trend could create major headaches for companies in the west.

"Bavaria (in former West Germany) is already suffering from a lack of young apprentices from Thuringia," he said, referring to an eastern state.

The research found that most of those going back to the east did not do so out of frustration but rather due to a sense of longing for home.

Unemployment soared and the birth rate plummeted in east Germany in the years after the fall of communism but living conditions are gradually reaching western standards, particularly in successful states such as Saxony.

Lang could not be reached for comment but a spokesman for the research centre confirmed the findings as presented by Die Zeit.