Why there's never been a better time to find a job in Berlin
The German capital has long been known for its stagnant job market. But that's changing in Berlin and the whole of former East Germany, new figures show.
“There has been sustained economic growth. The situation is looking good,” said Bernd Becking, head of the employment agency in Berlin and Brandenburg, on Tuesday.
In the German capital and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, there are currently 46,000 jobs available, he pointed out.
“The new year offers many good chances to find work.”
In fact, all the figures for the German capital look positive.
Compared to December 2015, joblessness dropped by 0.9 percent in December 2016 to 9.2 percent.
While that might not look fantastic compared to a national average of 5.8 percent for December, it was the best joblessness rate in the capital since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
And it isn't just the formerly divided capital that can be optimistic about the future. The whole of former East Germany could be on the brink of a job explosion, some experts believe.
“There is about to be an incredible amount of jobs here taken by middle class people. Former East Germany is becoming a region that offers a quick career path,” argues Michael Behr from the employment ministry in Thuringia.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created in the past decade in the region between the Baltic and the Ore Mountains. The unemployment rate, once twice as high as in the West, is now a few percentage points above it.
In Thuringia, the leader of the pack of former Eastern German states, joblessness is now lower than in the former Western states of Hamburg, Bremen, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia. In the south of the state, meanwhile, almost no one is out of work.
In all the other states of the former East, the jobless rate is also falling.
But Kay Senius, head of the employment office in Saxony-Anhalt, warns that the numbers mask deeper problems.
“If you just look at the joblessness rate, we’ve had huge success,” he says. “But it would be wrong to conclude that there are no problems. There are big, big risks.”
The biggest problem of all is an aging population. After German reunification, the east German economy imploded and young people moved in droves into the west.
Almost one in three people in employment in the east is now over 50. In Thuringia the number of people of working age will shrink by 29 percent by 2035 if current trends continue.
The question is, can the east attract young people to replace its aging workforce?
Twice as many training positions in the east remain unfilled as in the west, and lower wages remain a deterrent to young graduates looking for jobs, says Senius.
But Behr is optimistic that this is changing.
Wages are rising, promotion opportunities are more plentiful, and above all the east offers a better work life balance, he argues.
“There are better opportunities to put you child into daycare and relatively good chances of buying a house.”