Sunday 26 February 2017

Germany's East and West miles apart after 25 years

Madeline Chambers in Berlin

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on November 11, 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square.
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on November 11, 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square.

Gaping differences between Germans in the former communist East and the West still persist after almost 25 years of reunification, a new study has revealed.

Many don't even like each other, with a third of East Germans viewing westerners as arrogant.

The authors of the study, the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, said it would take another generation for Germany to grow together.

"The results surprised us," Reiner Klingholz, director of the Berlin Institute, told reporters.

"Now, as then (in 1990), the two parts of Germany are astonishingly different."

A mix of factors, including outdated economic structures and a way of life imposed on citizens by communist rule, have hampered real integration.

"Unity is not a political act of will, but a long process," added Mr Klingholz.

Booming

Although economic differences are narrowing and the flow of people moving westwards has largely dried up, the study showed East German workers earn, on average, a quarter less than their western counterparts, work longer and have lower productivity.

While a few cities in the east, such as Dresden and Leipzig, were booming, property there was worth only half as much as that in the west, said the study.

Ahead of celebrations to mark 25 years of unity on October 3, perhaps the most striking rifts are in attitudes.

Roughly three-quarters of East Germans do not belong to a religious community, whereas the situation is virtually the reverse in the West.

Around 30pc of West Germans believe that it is better for men to work full-time and for women to stay at home, about double the proportion in East Germany.

Some 19 million Germans - just under a quarter of the population - have been born in the past 25 years and the report estimated that share would rise to more than half by 2040, when Germany celebrates 50 years of togetherness. "By then, at the latest, we will have a new Germany," said Mr Klingholz.

Irish Independent

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