Friday, August 31, 2007

Germany: East Feels Poor

Have you heard this post-socialist joke, told by an immigrant from the former Eastern bloc? "Everything they told us about socialism was a lie. Worse, everything they told us about capitalism is true." That's exactly what East Germans have found out since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Iain Rogers of Reuters reports ("Growth Spurt No Mask for Eastern German Problems," 12 August 2007):
At 14.9 percent in July unemployment remains almost twice as high as in western Germany and particularly affects younger people. Emigration and a low birth rate are shrinking the population, social problems are rife and right-wing extremism has been on the rise.

The number of people living in the east has dropped by 12 percent since 1988 and the region still relies on massive transfers from the federal government -- some 1.5 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion) since unification and running at around 90 billion euros annually.

. . . The gross annual wage per worker in the so-called "new states" in the east was 21,340 euros (about $29,400) in 2006 -- well below the level in the "old states" in the west of 27,615 euros.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A Forsa poll for television station n-tv published earlier this month showed 60 percent of Germans think easterners and westerners are yet to become one "Volk", or people.

And the share of easterners who think they are better off now than under communism has fallen to just 31 percent from 66 percent in 1995, n-tv said.
Persistent unemployment in East Germany has become a fertile ground for the growth of Neo-Nazis targeting people of color. See Victor Grossman, "Neo-Nazis in Germany, or Déjà Vu?," MRZine, 31 August 2007.

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