• Germany's news in English
Finally: East Germany turns migration corner
A bustling cafe in Leipzig's city centre. Photo: DPA

Finally: East Germany turns migration corner

The Local · 26 Jan 2016, 17:38

Published: 26 Jan 2016 17:38 GMT+01:00

After reunification in 1990 East Germany may have thrown off the cold hand of communism, but that was just the beginning of its problems.

A collapsing economy and crumbling infrastructure pushed many young people to pack up their belongings and start a new life in the west.

Over the first two decades after the 1990 reunification the five states that make up former east Germany lost 1.8 million inhabitants.

But a study published on Tuesday by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development shows that this depressing trend - like a malfunctioning Trabi - has finally been put into reverse.

In 2012 close to 150,000 people moved to the “new states” from west Germany or abroad, meaning it was the first year when the former east experienced net migration, the new figures show.

But the story isn’t a wholly positive one. The study shows a huge disparity between urban and rural areas, with only 15 percent of local governments reporting net inward migration.

The growth is driven by the major cities of Leipzig, Dresden, Erfurt and Potsdam.

Leipzig in particular has won a reputation as an artistic utopia in recent years, wresting the mantle of 'Germany’s coolest city' from Berlin.

The historic Saxon town saw a population increase of 44,000 between 2008 and 2013. In 2013 it grew at a rate of 2 percent a year, making it one of the fastest growing cities in Germany as a whole.

Revitalized towns

Thuringian capital Erfurt's town centre. Photo: DPA

During the communist era the once beautiful inner cities were left to crumble, as the government moved people into more modern high rises on the edge of the main cities.

In the 1990s many people decided to leave these somewhat soulless buildings behind and moved to the country to find a more balanced life, the report notes.

But as huge amounts of money have been poured into restoring the architectural gems of inner Erfurt, Dresden and Leipzig, they have once again become attractive places to live.

Add to that affordability, good universities and increasing job prospects for graduates, and the reasons become clear as to why these cities are now attracting young people from the pricier west and encouraging them to stay, the report argues.

Story continues below…

But the flip side is that these revitalized metropolises are also attracting many young people from the east German countryside.

With few young people left, rural communities are struggling to raise finances to fund infrastructure projects that could make them attractive once more to young families.

The result is a vicious circle in which young people have less desire to stay and so communities have ever less money with which to rebuild themselves, the study notes.

The situation is now so desperate that even people of retirement age are starting to leave rural areas so they have better access to healthcare.

The report recommends that taking in refugees could be an answer to this problem. Not only would this inject youth into aging populations but rural regions would also provide refugees with smoother integration than large anonymous cities, the report's authors argue,


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

German broadcaster sues Turkey over confiscated video
Akif Cagatay Kilic. Photo: DPA

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Monday it had filed a civil complaint after a Turkish minister's office confiscated a taped video interview with him.

Germany's 'James Bond' goes on trial over tax evasion
Werner Mauss. Photo: DPA.

Germany's former top spy, Werner Mauss, went on trial on Monday accused of hiding millions of euros from authorities.

Germany holds first national 'mermaiding' championship
Photo: DPA

Ariel would be proud.

15 pics that prove Germany is totally enchanting in autumn
The Max-Eyth-See in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

As summer fades into a distant memory and you start to begrudge trading Birkenstocks for boots, these pictures may help change your perspective on the new chill in the air.

Left politician who smuggled refugee could lose immunity
Diether Dehm. Photo: DPA.

Die Linke (Left Party) politician Diether Dehm could lose his immunity as an elected official after he admitted to smuggling a refugee into Germany.

Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record in Berlin marathon win
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd