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.

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All experts, press releases, publications and events on "East Germany"


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.

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Publications on "East Germany"


East Germany Three Decades After the Wall Came Down: What has Been Achieved and What Should Economic Policy Do?

Reint E. Gropp Gerhard Heimpold

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.

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Innovation Cooperation in East and West Germany: A Study on the Regional and Technological Impact

U. Cantner Alexander Giebler Jutta Günther Maria Kristalova Andreas Meder

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.

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Nowcasting East German GDP Growth: a MIDAS Approach

João Carlos Claudio Katja Heinisch Oliver Holtemöller

in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 24, 2019


Economic forecasts are an important element of rational economic policy both on the federal and on the local or regional level. Solid budgetary plans for government expenditures and revenues rely on efficient macroeconomic projections. However, official data on quarterly regional GDP in Germany are not available, and hence, regional GDP forecasts do not play an important role in public budget planning. We provide a new quarterly time series for East German GDP and develop a forecasting approach for East German GDP that takes data availability in real time and regional economic indicators into account. Overall, we find that mixed-data sampling model forecasts for East German GDP in combination with model averaging outperform regional forecast models that only rely on aggregate national information.

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Aktuelle Trends: Fachkräftemangel hat in den letzten zehn Jahren in Ost und West stark zugenommen

Steffen Müller

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 3, 2019


Vor dem Hintergrund sinkender Arbeitslosenzahlen und einer alternden Bevölkerung – vor allem im Osten Deutschlands – ist der immer schwieriger zu deckende Bedarf der Betriebe an Fachkräften in den letzten Jahren zu einem zentralen Thema in der öffentlichen und politischen Arbeitsmarktdebatte geworden. Fachkräfteengpass herrscht, wenn Betriebe Probleme haben bei der Besetzung von Stellen für qualifizierte Tätigkeiten, die eine Berufsausbildung, vergleichbare Berufserfahrung oder einen Hochschulabschluss erfordern. Wie hoch der Anteil der nicht besetzten Stellen an den insgesamt angebotenen Stellen ist, wird durch die Nichtbesetzungsquote angegeben. Sie kann damit als Indikator für einen Fachkräfteengpass interpretiert werden.

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Zur Wirtschaftskraft deutscher Regionen aus langfristiger Perspektive: Alte Muster werden in Ostdeutschland langsam wieder sichtbar

Axel Lindner

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 3, 2019


Kann der Osten Deutschlands in Zukunft noch wesentlich aufholen, oder haben die 40 Jahre Zentralplanwirtschaft dauerhafte Spuren in der Raumstruktur der deutschen Volkswirtschaft hinterlassen? Dieser Beitrag vergleicht die Raumstruktur der deutschen Volkswirtschaft im Jahr 1925, vor den politischen Umbrüchen des 20. Jahrhunderts, mit ihrer Entwicklung nach der Vereinigung. Es zeigen sich folgende Punkte: Gewinner der historischen Umbrüche war eher Süd- als Westdeutschland. Berlin konnte sein Hauptstadt-Potenzial lange nicht ausspielen, beginnt dies aber nun nachzuholen. Die Wirtschaftskraft ostdeutscher Flächenländer war 1925 breit gestreut und dabei teils höher, teils niedriger als die Deutschlands. Seit 1990 ist sie dagegen viel niedriger als im gesamtdeutschen Durchschnitt und liegt eng beieinander. Zwar holten die ostdeutschen Flächenländer in den Jahren nach 1990 zügig auf, nach dem Jahr 2000 aber nur noch langsam. Die Streuung nimmt erst seit 2010 wieder ein wenig zu. Aus historischer Perspektive sehen manche Tendenzen, etwa der Berlin-Boom und die höhere Wachstumsdynamik in Sachsen, wie eine Normalisierung aus, die sich mit einiger Wahrscheinlichkeit fortsetzen dürfte.

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