Stark divide in wages between east and west Germany persists 30 years on

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Stark divide in wages between east and west Germany persists 30 years on
Employees at the BMW plant in Leipzig earlier this year. Photo: DPA

Almost 30 years after reunification, employees in east Germany earn significantly less than employees in western Germany, even with the same qualifications.


Wages for employees of the same gender, occupation and level of work experience stand at 16.9 percent higher in the west than in the east, according to a study by the Hans Böckler Foundation, which works closely with trade unions. 

The foundation’s Institute of Economics and Social Sciences (WSI) evaluated almost 175,000 data sets comparing wages across various professions and levels of training in 2018. 

In addition to differences in economic strength, the WSI researchers believe that the lower number of collective agreements in eastern Germany accounts for lower pay.

READ ALSO: Working in Germany: Should you join a trade union?

Full-time employees in eastern Germany still earned around 16 percent less per month than those in west Germany, according to the report.

However, the wage gap between east and west is becoming smaller: in 2017, wages were on average 19 percent higher in the western states. 

A gap between eastern states

There is also a gap in wages between the eastern German states themselves, according to the WSI report.

In Brandenburg, likely due to its neighbouring proximity to more prosperous Berlin, the gap of 13.9 percent was the smallest in comparison to the west.

A recent report found that the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is where employees earn the least in Germany (on average €2,496 per month).

It was followed by the eastern states of Thuringia (€2,553), Saxony (€2,587), Brandenburg (€2,593) and Saxony-Anhalt (€2,595).

READ ALSO: Here's where employees earn the most (and least) in Germany

According to the WSI study, the wage arrears are particularly large among employees who have completed a commercial training or a further technical qualification following an in-company training. 

Here, employees in eastern Germany earned 18.4 percent less than in the west. In the case of jobs for which a university degree is generally required, however, the gap stood at 15.4 percent.


study - (die) Untersuchung

evaluated/analyzed - ausgewertet

wage gap - (das) Lohnabstand

arrear - (der) Rückstand

In-company training - betriebliche Ausbildung

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