East Germany Rearguard
Only investments in education will lead to a further catch-up
In a nutshell
The East German economic convergence process is hardly progressing. The economic performance of East Germany stagnates between 70 and 80% of West Germany's level, depending on the statistical figure used. The productivity gap between East German companies and equivalent groups in the west remains even if firms of the same size of workforce and the same industry are compared.
Politicians' and economists' explanations for this development differ: While politicians are more likely to argue with the start-up difficulties, the lack of large-scale research firms and the break-up of the East German markets, scientists have brought lack of investment in education and research, the lack of internationality and insufficient innovations – and thus future-oriented arguments – to the forefront.
In the first half of the 1990's, policy focused on the build-up of physical infrastructure. East Germany's economic performance increased substantially. “This process benefited from transfers from West Germany, which is why productivity advanced faster compared to other transition countries such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic,” says Oliver Holtemöller, IWH Vice President. Today, the East-German physical infrastructure is on the same level as West Germany. However, the fact that the catch-up process has remained slow thus far, also in terms of the employment structure in East Germany, has other causes.
While the population in West Germany had been stagnating since the turn of the millennium and recently even increased, East Germany suffers a decline in population of about 15% since 2000 since many people left East Germany after the German unification. “On the one hand, the decline can be explained by natural demographic development. On the other hand, people still have better economic perspectives elsewhere and therefore move,” Oliver Holtemöller points out. Indeed, in 2015, the population increased in East Germany as well. But this is mainly due to the extraordinary influx of refugees who are distributed to the federal states of Germany according to a fixed ratio.
Insufficient investment in education and research
To improve the economic situation, it is essential to invest in education and research – from early childhood development to academic training. Education does not only enable people to participate in the labour market with equal chances but also fights poverty and unemployment, which is far more sustainable, for example, than the widespread minimum wage. Education is the key to innovation and productivity. The same is true for investments in research and development. In 2012, for example, Saxony-Anhalt spent just 1.5% in relation to GDP, which was the lowest number among all 16 German federal states.
Lack of internationality
The German economy is strongly oriented toward international markets. Here Saxony-Anhalt has a long way to go as an East German state – foreign sales as a percentage of the total sales the manufacturing sectors is about 30%, well below the national average of 45%.
“The partial manifestation of xenophobia aggravates the situation,” says Holtemöller. On the one hand, this is a negative location factor: For example, in Saxony-Anhalt, the number of right-wing criminal offenses is twelve times higher than in Hesse. This makes it extremely difficult to attract qualified specialists from foreign countries to settle in East Germany.
“A one-sided orientation toward physical capital and technology will not help to bring East Germany forward. The key future drivers are human capital, creativity and open-mindedness,” summarises the Vice President.
Publications on "East Germany"
Does Low-pay Persist across Different Regimes? Evidence from the German Unification
in: The Economics of Transition, forthcomingread publication
East Germany Three Decades After the Wall Came Down: What has Been Achieved and What Should Economic Policy Do?
in: Wirtschaftsdienst, forthcoming
The persistent difference in productivity between East and West Germany not only results from the relative absence of large firms based in the East as many believe. Companies of all sizes exhibit an East-West productivity gap. The gap is larger in urban regions. Scarcity of skilled labour has emerged as the new barrier to business development. In order to boost productivity, economic policy should avoid additional subsidies that are conditional on creating jobs. Additionally, the potential of East German urban areas should be better explored. Mitigating the shortage in qualified workers requires in-migration of skilled labour from abroad, supported by an open mindset and environment.
Innovation Cooperation in East and West Germany: A Study on the Regional and Technological Impact
in: International Journal of Computational Economics and Econometrics, forthcoming
In this paper, we investigate the impact of regional and technological innovation systems on innovation cooperation. We develop an indicator applicable to regions, which demonstrates the relative regional impact on innovation cooperation. Applying this method to German patent data, we find that regional differences in the degree of innovation cooperation do not only depend on the technology structure of a region but also on specific regional effects. High-tech oriented regions, whether east or west, are not automatically highly cooperative regions. East German regions have experienced a dynamic development of innovation cooperation since re-unification in 1990. Their cooperation intensity remains higher than in West German regions.
Aktuelle Trends: Ostdeutschland macht im Jahr 2019 im Ost-West-Vergleich in puncto Produktivität einen weiteren Schritt nach vorn
in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 2, 2020
Ostdeutschland konnte laut Daten des Arbeitskreises „Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnungen der Länder“, die Ende März 2020 veröffentlicht wurden, im Jahr 2019 in puncto Produktivität im Vergleich zu Westdeutschland einen weiteren Schritt nach vorn gehen.
Ostdeutschland - Eine Bilanz
in: One-off Publications, 2020
Anlass dieser Festschrift ist die Verabschiedung von Dr. Gerhard Heimpold, dem stellvertretenden Leiter der Abteilung Strukturwandel und Produktivität am Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung Halle (IWH), aus dem aktiven Berufsleben in den wohlverdienten Ruhestand. Gerhard Heimpold forschte am IWH zu Aspekten der Regionalentwicklung Ostdeutschlands unter Beachtung des politischen und wirtschaftlichen Transformationsprozesses. Er gehört heute zu den wenigen Experten in Deutschland, die umfassende ökonomische Kenntnis über den gesamten Verlauf des Transformationsprozesses der ostdeutschen Wirtschaft seit Mitte der 1980er Jahre vorweisen können. Gerhard Heimpold hat im Laufe seiner akademischen Ausbildung und seiner ersten wissenschaftlichen Tätigkeit tiefe Einblicke in die Ausgestaltung und Funktionsweise der sozialistischen Planwirtschaft der DDR erhalten und konnte dieses Wissen nach dem Mauerfall 1989 in wichtige wissenschaftliche Beiträge auf dem Gebiet der internationalen Transformationsforschung einbringen.