INTERVIEW: Why racism is prompting a skilled worker exodus from eastern Germany

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
INTERVIEW: Why racism is prompting a skilled worker exodus from eastern Germany
A huge crowd of people with banners and placards against racism and farright politics take part in a protest against right extremism and the policy of Germany's far-right the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, a demonstration called by the initiative 'Stand up Against Racism', on January 17, 2024 in front of the main city hall of Berlin. (Photo by CHRISTIAN MANG / AFP)

German career coach Chris Pyak says he and other career coaches have noticed an upward trend in skilled professionals looking to leave eastern Germany due to racism.


Pyak says he – and other career coaches he knows – have been getting more calls from foreigners working in Saxony and Thuringia in particular. Many are from India or African countries like Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, and work as researchers or scientists in Dresden or in universities based in eastern Germany.

Many enjoy their jobs and experience very little racism at work or from public authorities. But what happens out on the street is a different matter.

Pyak tells The Local of clients of his who have been insulted or even spit on in eastern German streets, of people coming up to busses his clients were riding and banging their fists on the window. Many say they don’t feel safe to go out with their children after dark.

That’s led Pyak to advise clients in these situations to do one simple thing. To leave.

“You cannot live your life hiding in your own four walls.”

While many like their jobs and colleagues – or at least have no clear workplace-related reason to go, Pyak says the racism found in eastern Germany is making working there untenable for many foreigners of colour. The situation is so bad in some cases that Pyak cautions some foreigners from taking up job offers based in eastern Germany at all.

ANALYSIS: Are far-right sentiments growing in eastern Germany?


Clients who contact Pyak or other career coaches often want to stay in Germany – but would rather head to western cities or to Berlin. Some go to Switzerland, the Netherlands, or even the UK.

Pyak says the good news for people looking to leave eastern Germany is that the country’s current skilled labour shortage typically means plenty of posts are available – and that getting a new job might be the first step, but it need not be the most difficult one.

“No job is worth putting yourself in danger, putting your family in danger or getting humiliated constantly. If people don’t appreciate you, find yourself a job somewhere else. And there are enough jobs for you out there if you’re smart on how to approach the employers,” he advises.

Recruiters like Pyak are often able to help their clients get in touch with hiring managers based in more friendly areas.

Jobs expert Chris Pyak, author of "How to Win Jobs & Influence Germans" advises many foreigners based in eastern Germany to leave. Photo: Chris Pyak

In the meantime, Pyak says he expects widespread racism in eastern Germany to continue to hamper the region’s quest to recruit talent – pointing out that it’s a part of Germany currently experiencing some of the biggest labour shortages – and not just for skilled labour.

“You can’t find anyone anymore. That’s why a lot of barber shops or bars have to close for parts of the week because they simply don’t have any people to handle the work anymore,” he said, arguing that while demographic pressures are everywhere in Germany – they’re particularly pronounced in the east. “They have a much older population and then they drive those few people who are willing to work in their part of the country with their racism.”


Eastern Germany has several towns that are looking at cutting postal services due to a shortage of carriers and others no longer have local supermarkets, doctors, or pharmacies due to labour shortages.

Eastern Germany also continues to be the far-right Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) most important stronghold, with over 30 percent of people in Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Saxony saying they’re prepared to vote for the party in state elections later this year.

EXPLAINED: Could the far-right AfD ever take power in Germany?


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