From salaries to trust in political leaders and public institutions, the differences between West and East Germans remain significant. “We hope that 30 years after reunification we will be much more advanced on this path than we actually are,” said Marco Wanderwitz, lead author and head of the federal government’s eastern state affairs.
The labor market shows some of the biggest variations between the former communist East and West Germany. While GDP per capita in eastern Germany is 4 times higher than it was in 1990, the average wage in the east is only 88.8% of the average wage in West Germany, and the economic power of the Länder part of communist Germany represents only 73% of that of the western states. Moreover, the eastern area has a higher unemployment rate, lower land prices and a lower tax collection capacity.
The federal government’s report raises concerns about the “general dissatisfaction” of East Germans with politics and political representatives. While 91% of West Germans believe that democracy is the best form of government, only 78% of East Germans share this view. The popularity of far-right parties is much higher in eastern Germany, where the far-right populist party Alternative for Germany, the Bundestag’s main opposition party, has gained ground in recent years.
“Hate and extremism are easier to find in Eastern states, and in some cases, trust in public institutions is at a shockingly low level,” Wanderwitz said, adding that the trend is extremely worrying.
Even if the emigration of young people from East Germany, a phenomenon that has reduced the population by 2.2 million people, shows signs of having stopped, the fact that the eastern states have an aging population is, according to Wanderwitz, one of the biggest challenges for the future.
“Despite many successes in the unification process, the old division is still felt in the lives of people in the East and West,” said Susanne Dähner, a researcher at the Berlin Institute for Population and Development and author of the study Diversity Unification. She explained that four out of ten East Germans feel treated as second-class citizens, and that they come from the East play a greater role in their lives and identities than belonging to West Germans, “even in the West. within the generation of those born in a united Germany, who learned about the two German states only from books and stories ”.
“Their lives have been changed by reunification, their biographies have been interrupted and many people have had to reorient themselves in life,” she added.