East Germany Rearguard

Only investments in education will lead to a further catch-up

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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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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.

Demography

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"

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Spatial Development Patterns in East Germany and the Policy to Maintain “Industrial Cores”

Gerhard Heimpold

in: H.-G. Jeong, G. Heimpold (Hrsg.), Economic Development after German Unification and Implications for Korea. Policy References 18-08. Sejong: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, 2018

Abstract

This paper investigates the intra-regional development patterns in East Germany with particular reference to the manufacturing sector. When East Germany’s economy was ruled by the central planning regime, the share of industrial workforce in total employment was the greatest in entire Europe. It exceeded the respective value in the Soviet Union at that time. When the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy occurred, the East German manufacturing sector faced the greatest challenges.

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Decision Making by the Treuhandanstalt on Privatization, Restructuring, or Liquidation of Former State-owned Firms in East Germany

Gerhard Heimpold

in: H.-G. Jeong, G. Heimpold (Hrsg.), Economic Development after German Unification and Implications for Korea. Policy References 18-08. Sejong: Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, 2018

Abstract

Subject to this paper is the decision making by Treuhandanstalt on privatization, restructuring, or liquidation of former state-owned firms in East Germany. To explain: the Treuhandanstalt was the agency at the Federal level tasked with the privatization of the former state-owned firms of the GDR. All former state-owned firms were assigned to the Treuhandanstalt in mid-1990. The notion of Treuhand firms (“Treuhandfirmen”) will be used to characterize this type of firms.

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Aktuelle Trends: Betriebliche Lohnungleichheit wieder rückläufig

Eva Dettmann Steffen Müller

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 5, 2018

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Effekte der Einführung des gesetzlichen Mindestlohns: Eine Fallstudie für das Handwerk in Sachsen-Anhalt

Hans-Ulrich Brautzsch Birgit Schultz

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 5, 2018

Abstract

Knapp 8% der Beschäftigten in den Handwerksbetrieben Sachsen-Anhalts verdienten vor der Einführung des gesetzlichen Mindestlohns zu Beginn des Jahres 2015 brutto weniger als 8,50 Euro je Stunde. Allerdings differiert die Betroffenheit stark. In den besonders betroffenen Gewerken war zu befürchten, dass die durch den Mindestlohn induzierte Kostensteigerung zu einem spürbaren Beschäftigungsabbau führt. In diesem Kontext werden drei Fragen untersucht: (1) Wie hoch war die Mindestlohnbetroffenheit im Handwerk in Sachsen-Anhalt? (2) Welche – über die Lohnkostenerhöhung hinausgehenden – Effekte hatte die Mindestlohneinführung in den Handwerksbetrieben? (3) Welche Ausweichreaktionen haben die Handwerksbetriebe unternommen, um die höhere Kostenbelastung zu bewältigen? Die Untersuchungen basieren auf den von den Handwerkskammern Halle und Magdeburg durchgeführten Konjunkturumfragen, die in Kooperation mit dem IWH um zusätzliche Fragen zur Mindestlohneinführung erweitert wurden. Die Ergebnisse der Schätzungen zeigen keine signifikanten Beschäftigungseffekte infolge der Einführung des gesetzlichen Mindestlohns. Vielmehr haben die Handwerksbetriebe vor allem mit Preiserhöhungen reagiert.

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The Privatisation Activities of the Treuhandanstalt and the Transformation of the East German Corporate Landscape: A New Dataset for First Explorations

Alexander Giebler Michael Wyrwich

in: IWH Technical Reports, No. 1, 2018

Abstract

Even nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the privatisation and transformation of East Germany's business landscape is controversially discussed in the media and politics. The privatisation process led to enormous structural changes, which were associated with massive job losses. In particular, the stagnating regional development of East Germany is often blamed on the “long shadow” of the privatisation activities of the Treuhandanstalt (THA). From a scientific perspective, however, there are hardly any contributions dealing with the effects of privatisation activities. The IWH-Treuhand Privatisation Micro Database introduced in this technical report is novel as such that it provides comprehensive information on employment and turnover figures for formerly state-owned enterprises for the early 1990s.

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