Life in Germany's ex-communist east never better: report

Life in Germany's ex-communist east never better: report
General view taken during the central celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the German reunification on October 3, 2010 in front of the town hall of the northern German city of Bremen. Several hundred thousand people were expected in the northern city of Bremen for a series of street parties and official events led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself brought up in East Germany.

BERLIN - Falling unemployment, higher birthrates and heavy investment in education have created the best living standards in Germany's ex-communist east since the fall of the Berlin Wall, an upcoming government report said.

Excerpts from the official study published in Sunday's Bild am Sonntag newspaper said the sunnier outlook in a region long plagued by grim economic conditions had largely halted a brain drain of easterners to the west.

In the report, to be presented by Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich on Wednesday, the authors said that the east was now catching up to the west by many measures of success.

"Nearly a generation after reunification (in 1990), economic living standards in the eastern and western states, particularly in terms of material prosperity, have clearly improved," they wrote.

"In recent years, the erstwhile planned economy has turned into an industrial region with increasingly competitive companies."

The jobless rate has sunk to 10.7 per cent from 18.7 per cent in 2005 in the east, against 6.5 per cent in Germany as a whole currently.

According to the findings, the number of easterners returning home from the west nearly matched the number of easterners moving west in 2012 for the first time since reunification.

Also helping to staunch the drop in population is a gradual rise in the birthrate in the east to a slightly higher level than in the west. Bild did not provide figures ahead of the report's publication.

Manufacturing has begun to boom again in the eastern states, while generous support for education, research and development has also nurtured economic growth, the report found.

Unemployment soared and the birthrate plummeted in east Germany in the years after the fall of communism, leading to widespread disillusionment with the promises of reunification.

Between 1989 and 2010, some 4.1 million east Germans moved to the west, according to the federal statistics office, most seeking work. During the same period some 2.1 million westerners moved east.

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