Due to German history, Eastern Germany is considered as less dynamic and less prosperous than its Western counterpart. With the socialist regime, East Germany developed in a different manner: the state was almost entirely controlling the development of the country, its regions and cities. Significant differences between both parts can still be observed today:
1. Population development
- Population density 1995-2010
As shown in the following map, population density in West Germany, especially around the Ruhr area, was rather high in 1995. Due to the existence of natural resources, industrialisation processes influenced this area and lead to a high population density Despite deindustrialisation processes the overall high population density could still be observed in 1995 despit. In comparison to West Germany, East Germany showed a lower density overall. Nevertheless Saxony and especially the Leipzig-Dresden-axis showed a relatively high density as most of the industries during the socialist regime was concentrated around both cities. In 2010 these pattern remained overall. Saxony lost population due to migrations and thus its density decreased relatively to other regions since 1995.
- Migration Balance
In the 1990s suburbanisation processes and urban sprawl did not only affect the more developed Western part of Germany, but did also influence migration patterns in the East. At that time almost every major centre experienced population losses. In 2010 one can define various growth poles in Germany, among them Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin and partly the Ruhrarea. In Saxony Leipzig and Dresden function as such. The following video visualises population development in Saxony and especially in Leipzig:
In the mid-1990s after the reunion of Germany, the city of Leipzig experienced severe population losses for the benefit of its suburban areas and West Germany. Since the Millenium the city of Leipzig is again increasing in terms of population, while the peripheral and rural areas in Saxony are challenged by re-urbanisation processes and west-ward migrations. Having a closer look on migration patterns, one can observe significant differences according to age groups. In the 1990s both young as well as elderly people left Leipzig as a city and often also left Saxony and migrated elsewhere. Especially pensioners migrated to other, more attractive surrounding West German provinces. Although Leipzig shows a slightly positive migration balance of people above 65 years in 2010, the regions Sächsische Schweiz and Erzgebirge attract a higher proportion of this age group. Due to the numbers given, Leipzig as well as Dresden are especially attractive for young people between 18-35 years. This is due to job opportunities, central infrastructure and attractive city centre as well as the presence of univiersities and other education facilities.
2. Socio-economic indicators
Gross Domestic Product
Since the last decade, the overall level of gross domestic product increased in Germany. In the mid-1990s the economy in East Germany was less productive than in West Germany due to the longterm effects of the socialist regime. The main economic activities were centred around Munich, Wiesbaden/Frankfurt a. Main, Düsseldorf/Cologne and Hamburg. Until 2009, economic activities increased partly in East Germany as a result of governmental programmes, subsidies and investments in infrastructure, such as the construction of highways and highspeed railway tracks.
According to the unemployment rate, Germany’s East-West-divide is being strengthened. Regionwide Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg show the lowest rates with unemployment which are below 4%. In all former East-German provinces the unemployment rate is above 10%, which is due to various reasons: a long phase of industrialisation and unflexible economic policies make it difficult to compete in a globalised and market-driven economy.
Considering long-term unemployment rates, East Germany and Saxony show one of the highest rates, but nevertheless, that also other provinces experience the same problem. The East-West divide is turned mainly into one of a North-South divide with growth poles in the Southern and Northern parts of Germany. High rates of long-term unemployment are especially found in Middle Germany. This spatial pattern derives from the former economic orientation of these area sand – in the meantime – the relatively high age of former factory workes, which makes it particular difficult to bring them back into labour.
In terms of income no signifcant differences could be observed within Saxony in 1995 due to the socialist regime and centralist structures. On a national scale East Germany lacked behind West Germany. Until 2009 polarisation worsened, but the overall level of income and wealth increased at the same time. Only single counties around Berlin could increase the inhabitants’ income relatively to West Germany.
Besides the Ruhr area, East Germany shows the highest proportion of young people graduating from school with a “Allgemeine Hochschulreife”, which is the highest highschool degree in Germany and enables pupils to study at universities. Regionwide in Berlin and its surrounding province Brandenburg more than 36,8% of graduating pupils were qualified for attending universities in 2010. In Saxony and Leipzig this proportion is less, but with an amount of 31,4%-36,8% still more than one third of young people were qualified for higher education. Despite this relatively high number, the level of education is not displayed in the region’s income. Further it is important to notice that the overall level of pupils graduating with a “Allgemeine Hochschulreife” might even be the same in the provinces of Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, but to show this one should look on the overall performance of the provinces.
Concluding it seems important to highlight that an assimilation of both parts of Germany has occured during the last two decades. Although the level of income in East Germany is still lower than in West Germany, a relative increase in welfare is notable. In Saxony especially the corridor between Leipzig and Dresden is the most effective and vital in terms of economic activities. Due to the migration balances, Leipzig and Dresden clearly function as the main growth poles in the province, whereas Leipzig shows a higher dynamic than Dresden due to its more vital surrounding districts. Both cities are especially attractive for young people, which is crucial for the their future development.