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"


Aktuelle Trends: Ostdeutschland macht im Jahr 2019 im Ost-West-Vergleich in puncto Produktivität einen weiteren Schritt nach vorn

Gerhard Heimpold Mirko Titze

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.

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The Effects of German Regional Policy – Evidence at the Establishment Level

Matthias Brachert Hans-Ulrich Brautzsch Eva Dettmann Alexander Giebler Lutz Schneider Mirko Titze

in: IWH Online, No. 5, 2020


The “Joint Task ‘Improving Regional Economic Structures’ (GRW)” represents the most important regional policy scheme in Germany. The program provides non-repayable grants as a share of total investment costs to establishments (and municipalities) in structurally weak regions. The definition of eligible areas is based on i) a composite indicator measuring regional structural weakness and ii) a threshold determined by the European Union consisting of the population share of the respective country that lives in assisted regions. Responsible for the selection of the supported projects is the respective Federal State in which the GRW project is applied for.

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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.

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Was wurde aus den industriellen Kernen der ehemaligen DDR? Einige Fallbeispiele

Gerhard Heimpold

in: Transformation einer Volkswirtschaft. Neue Forschungen zur Geschichte der Treuhandanstalt, 2020


Das öffentliche Urteil über die Treuhandanstalt ist in Deutschland nach wie vor einhellig negativ. Die damit verbundenen Deutungen sind aber nicht neu, sondern gehen bis in die 1990er Jahre zurück, als die Behörde mit der Privatisierung der Volkseigenen Betriebe der ehemaligen DDR beauftragt war. Die Öffnung der Treuhandakten ermöglicht jedoch einen differenzierten Blick und neue Erkenntnisse. Die Beiträge des vorliegenden Bandes thematisieren verschiedene Aspekte der Transformation der ostdeutschen Wirtschaft von der Plan- zur Marktwirtschaft und leisten so einen Beitrag zur Historisierung der Treuhandanstalt und ihrer Arbeitsweise.

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Does Low-pay Persist across Different Regimes? Evidence from the German Unification

André Diegmann Nicole Gürtzgen

in: Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, No. 3, 2020

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