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"


Ostdeutscher Produktivitätsrückstand und Betriebsgröße

Steffen Müller Georg Neuschäffer

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 3, 2019


Auch 30 Jahre nach dem Mauerfall ist die Produktivität der ostdeutschen Wirtschaft um 20% geringer als die der westdeutschen. Vielfach wird dies dadurch erklärt, dass westdeutsche Betriebe größer sind – denn größere Betriebe sind meist produktiver. Berechnungen auf Basis einzelbetrieblicher Daten bringen jedoch zum Vorschein, dass die Produktivitätslücke sich selbst dann nicht schließt, wenn Betriebe ähnlicher Größe verglichen werden, die zudem noch der gleichen Branche angehören und Ähnlichkeiten in weiteren für die Produktivität relevanten Merkmalen wie der Kapitalintensität, der Exporttätigkeit und dem Anteil qualifizierten Personals aufweisen.

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Industrial Cores in East Germany and Its Interaction with the Surrounding Territories—Findings from Four Case Studies

Gerhard Heimpold

in: List Forum für Wirtschafts- und Finanzpolitik, No. 2, 2019


Subject to this article is how four cases of so called industrial cores have developed in East Germany since 1990. Industrial cores represent former state-owned firms which were regarded as economically viable by the Treuhand. But there was no chance to privatize them in the short run. The case studies show the development prior to and after privatization. A special focus is laid on the interaction between the respective firm and its spatial environment. To sum up: All four firms are still existent. They provide competitive goods and services. Nonetheless, the interaction with the surrounding region differs from case to case. There were spin-offs in all cases. Organizational units previously belonging to the former state owned firms were split up, and became independent firms. In addition, new firms were established. Partly the establishment of new firms was supported directly by—de facto—structural policy measures implemented by the core firms. Partly the new establishments were simply cases of co-location resulting from a prospering regional environment. Taking the four cases, urban areas obviously formed a particularly fertile economic environment.

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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, No. 7, 2019


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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Kommentar: Stadt, Land, Frust

Reint E. Gropp

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 1, 2019


Der Titel ist nüchtern, das Echo grell. „Vereintes Land – drei Jahrzehnte nach dem Mauerfall“ heißt die Publikation, die das Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung Halle (IWH) heute vor einem Monat veröffentlicht hat. Wir analysieren darin die Entwicklungsunterschiede im heutigen Deutschland. Ob Wirtschaftsleistung oder Löhne, Zuwanderung oder Bildung: In vielerlei Hinsicht zeichnen die regionalen Muster beständig die einstige Teilung zwischen DDR und alter Bundesrepublik nach. Das zeigen wir sehr anschaulich und überlegen, wie sich die Unterschiede verkleinern ließen. Und die Reaktionen aus Teilen der Politik? Entrüstung, Diskreditierung von Forschung und Versuche, Wissenschaftler persönlich herabzusetzen.

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Aktuelle Trends: Durchschnittsalter der Bevölkerung: Deutliches Ost-West-Gefälle

Hans-Ulrich Brautzsch

in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 1, 2019


Das Durchschnittsalter der Bevölkerung[1] hat in Deutschland kontinuierlich zugenommen. In Ostdeutschland ist es zwischen Ende 1990 und Ende 2017 von 37,9 auf 46,3 Jahre gestiegen.[2] In Westdeutschland nahm das Durchschnittsalter von 39,6 auf 44,1 Jahre zu. Die Zunahme des Durchschnittsalters war damit in Westdeutschland mit 4,5 Jahren nur etwa halb so hoch wie in Ostdeutschland (8,4 Jahre). Beeinflusst wurde diese Entwicklung in Ostdeutschland durch das hohe Geburtendefizit sowie die Wanderungsverluste.

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