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Eighteen years after German reunification, the former East Germany is still a troubled place. Only about 60 percent of eastern Germans that are capable of gaining employment are in fact employed and it’s a major liability that costs the German economy €100 billion annually. Migration away from the East continues unabated, especially among young people and a dramatic aging of the population and a dangerous loss of especially well-trained workers and its creative force threaten eastern Germany.

Thuringia is one of the most problematic places of them all. According to an official demographic report of the ministry of construction and commerce of the state of Thuringia, by the year 2020 the state will loss 9.2 percent of its population. In 2050, the report predicts, the state will have only one and a half million residents. Today there are 2.3 million residents in Thuringia. Because of the loss of population the state will be in a vast economic crises. There are less people there to pay taxes, resulting in 600 million Euro less federal money (less people = money), and an aging population receiving pensions and needing more state services like health and social help.1

The report does not discuss what is clear. The population is having very few babies, the young motivated and talented people are leaving the state, old people are living longer and will need to be taken care of, and new people are not settling there. Immigrants are not coming. The xenophobic population is not welcoming and immigrants prefer to go to other places in Germany.

The official unemployment rate in April 2008 was 12%. This is very high, but the reality is even worse. Many of the employed do not make a living wage and cannot have a standard of living like the rest of the Germany. In addition, many are temporary workers with no guarantees of employment in the future.

This situation, which is a homogenous and shrinking population mixed with economic weakness and a bleak future produces a cultural and social despair too.

graph 1
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graph 2
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1  Demographiebericht Thüringen, 20.06.2006

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Shrinking population and a weak economy

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