A little unity

Blooming landscapes? Even 30 years after reunification, the east is still behind economically. But some things are going better than in the west.

At least in front of the ruins of the Rudelsburg near Bad Kösen in Saxony-Anhalt, Helmut Kohl's “blooming landscapes” have already worked.

Et is a ray of hope, even if only a small one: When it comes to the disposable income of households, at least the Brandenburgers and the Saxons have now caught up with the West German rear light, the Saarland. Overall, however, even 30 years after German reunification, eastern Germany is economically weaker.

The average economic power per inhabitant was most recently 79.1 percent of the overall German level, according to the new annual report on German unity. The Federal Government’s Eastern Commissioner Marco Wanderwitz (CDU) nevertheless drew a “predominantly positive balance” on Wednesday.

The extra-thick 284-page report for the anniversary year provides various reasons for the continued economic gap. One of them is the small-scale nature of the economy, i.e. the lack of corporate headquarters and large family businesses. The waves of emigration also play an important role, the first after 1990 and the second at the turn of the millennium. It is true that today more people are moving to the East than they are moving away from there. However, it is more the older ones. Among the 18 to 29 year olds, emigrants still slightly predominate.

The east needs immigration

Economists have long warned that there is not so much a shortage of jobs in the East, but primarily of workers to fill the vacancies. Wanderwitz made it clear that the existing structures could only be maintained through more immigration from abroad. “But that requires a cosmopolitan outlook and a welcoming culture.”

Both the German Trade Union Federation and Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU), on the other hand, see the problem primarily in what they consider to be too low wages.

Brandenburg has a locational advantage when it comes to recruiting skilled workers. There, companies such as the American electric car manufacturer Tesla are speculating that they will be able to attract employees residing in Berlin as well as commuters from Poland. On the other hand, Lusatia in the south of Brandenburg and east of Saxony is a problem child, where the last 8,000 jobs in this industry will be lost with the German coal phase-out in the coming years.

More authorities for the new federal states

Both federal and state politics are therefore trying to locate more jobs in authorities in the east. This is how the new Federal Highway Authority is located in Leipzig. The Federal Agency for Civic Education is to have a branch in Gera, also with a view to right-wing extremist tendencies in East Germany. However, the battery research factory of Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) is getting a city near her constituency: Münster.

Wanderwitz didn’t want to say so much about this decision. All the more clearly, he rejected the criticism of the Thuringian left leader, who is bothered by the fact that the Haenel company from Suhl is supposed to manufacture the Bundeswehr’s new assault rifle. “It’s nice that it is produced in Thuringia and not in North Rhine-Westphalia,” said Wanderwitz.

The German Institute for Economic Research pointed out on Wednesday that there was a different kind of economic alignment: the employment rates of West German mothers had approached those of East German mothers, with the latter still more often working full-time. And with a view to the Corona crisis, the East is in a better position: According to the forecast of the Institute for Economic Research in Halle, the gross domestic product is expected to drop by “only” 3.0 percent this year. Calculated across Germany, the minus is likely to be almost twice as high. The low export orientation of the East German companies is an advantage there for once.