25 years after reunification, skilled women leave Germany in droves
A quarter-century after Germany reunited, a general exodus from the former communist East is finally slowing and some cities are attracting new blood.
However, the countryside is losing women, creating a demographic imbalance that is most acute among the young.
In many affected communities only around 40pc of residents in the 18-29 age group are female. In some areas its even lower.
Skilled, ambitious young women are heading out of Germany's east in search of jobs with good prospects, leaving behind a body of often demoralised young men with fewer educational qualifications.
"This is not just a demographic problem, but rather a cultural, social and economic disaster, blocking potential for development desperately needed to solve eastern Germany's economic problems and lack of innovation," said Professor Raj Kollmorgen, a sociologist.
Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the union of the two German states, separated throughout the Cold War and for 21 years by a wall.
Between 1991 and 2013, 3.3 million easterners went west, while 2.1 million moved the other way, the Federal Statistics Office reports.
Behind the overall figures, the female brain drain from the countryside continues unabated.
One example is 26-year-old Jennifer Walter. Born in the small village of Schoenfeld in northeastern Germany, she originally moved to Cologne to study business management.
"I soon realised that even after finishing university there were no opportunities for me back home, I could never earn as much and work in the field I want," said Ms Walter.
Worried local authorities have tasked Zittau/Goerlitz College in the eastern state of Saxony with investigating the reasons behind the exodus of women.
After 25 years, unemployment across the east is higher than in the West.
In the state of Saxony-Anhalt, the rate is 16.7pc, two-and-a-half times more than the German average.
Wages in the east lag those in the west by a third and local social workers describe a culture of emigration in poorer communities, with parents, teachers and friends encouraging young women to leave if they want to achieve something in life.
Professionals worry about those left behind. (Reuters)