A nation devastated by wars and their repercussions, some self-created and others consequential; Germany has a long tale to tell. Treated as a buffer state by its different allies and the USSR, the country has seen both, ideological differences as well as more visible disparities like East-West Divide and the Berlin Wall.
World War II proved to be detrimental for the Germans as they were practically at the mercy of foreign powers, with the country divided into 4 sections, each ruled by the American, British, French and the Soviet
. 26 years after the Reunification of Germany, you can still find differences between East and West, the roots of which can be traced to USSR and its communism in the East, and the
capitalistic nature of western allies exerted on West Germany.
With the ushering of capitalist system in West Germany, that part of the country was able to recuperate from the major losses incurred during WW2. However, due to the non-bending hostility from the USSR towards capitalism and in general, the western super-powers; East Germany was evidently on the losing end, as the Soviets refused to accept the Marshall Plan, wherein the USA attempted to rebuild war-torn countries of Europe by providing economic aid. The German economy suffered tremendously post-reunification, as it had to pay for all the reconstruction, which wasn’t done by the communists.
Speaking of today, differences do not seem to exist on the surface level. However, a comparison of some aspects is sure to shed some light about growth in the country, or the lack of it, in certain parts of the same.
The former western states of Germany remain largely wealthier as compared to their eastern counterparts. According to The Guardian, out of 500 richest Germans, only 21 hail from the East, and 14 of them are from Berlin itself. In addition to this, out of the 20 most prosperous cities, only 1 is from East Germany. On an average the net wealth of a Westerner would be $153,200, whereas, in East Germany, a person whose net wealth is $110,000 would be considered among the richest 10% of adults. In the west, $240,000 would be minimum.
According to a report by Washington Post named ‘Legacy of Communism’, it was said that the Easterners had very little time to get accustomed with the already existing Capitalism, and that many companies went into bankruptcy, whereas some never recovered from the shock, resulting in lower income levels, perhaps a kind of stagnation. IWH Halle, in its economic research report states that the Eastern belt is industrially weak , as it lacks in owning any large corporations or headquarters.
The Communist USSR, shipped back whatever they could in the name of war-reparations. Eastern Germany therefore, leaned on agriculture for creating an economic base. This explains the lower income levels, lower pensions and seasonal unemployment. Post-reunification, the German government levied a peculiar form of taxation to help bring up the eastern states, wherein the tax payers would pay an additional 5.5% of their annual tax bill towards ‘Solidarity Tax’. This is set to expire in the year 2019, however, there are some who want it to continue, not just for the poor Eastern states, but also for the weaker Western states.
Since the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’, East Germany lost more than 2 million inhabitants as they migrated towards the West, for better work opportunities as well as a higher standard of living. This created a void in jobs and no skilled labour to fill these positions. In the East, migrant population is between 4-9% and in the West, it could be around 25%. It is however noteworthy that Germany has hit a record-breaking low with respect to unemployment this year. The unemployment rate in February 2016 was 4.3%. According to Bloomberg, in West Germany, the number of people without work fell to 6000, whereas, in the East, it fell to 8000
This is one area where Eastern Germany has always been more or less stable; reason being, the high priority given to education of children, by the USSR, right from 6 years to 17 years. Even their kindergartens had special facilities for imparting education. There were state-run schools, vocational training centres and universities meant for compulsory education. Today, Germany as a whole, is a leader in scientific research, and has kept up its name in the academic sphere.
Apart from the above, there are several other factors to measure growth and disparity between East and West Germany, however, they have in general, attained a commendable amount of development in just a few decades. Whether the differences can always be pushed upon the communist regime, is questionable; as the failure to bring about equality could well be attributed to the failure in economic policies after the reunification.
Germany’s progress has catapulted the rise of international cooperation between many nations, including India. This has inturn boosted various other industries. German translators in India facilitate vital business arrangements as we have around 1500 German Companies in India, which are likely to shoot up in the coming years.
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