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Eastern Germany has made great economic leaps, study finds

Nearly 20 years have passed since East and West Germany became one country. A new study has found that East Germany's economic situation has improved dramatically since then, but it still lags behind the West.

The rebuilt Frauenkirche in Dresden

Parts of eastern Germany, like Dresden, have bloomed while others lag economically

A new study has found that the gap between former East German and West German states is narrowing. That is despite disproportionately low wages and high unemployment in the eastern states.

The survey, conducted by the Ifo economic research institute for the magazine Super Illu, found that from 1991 to 2009, the gross domestic product of the eastern German states doubled. In western Germany the GDP grew just 12 percent. The wage gap between the two regions also shrunk in the two decades since reunification. In 1991 the average east German worker earned just 57 percent of the equivalent salary in the western states. Now that figure is 83 percent.

Efficiency has also improved in the east. In 1991 it took 77.2 hours of work to produce 1,000 euros ($1,272) economic output while today it takes just 29 hours.

In some areas the lifestyle in eastern German states has surpassed that of the western states, according to Super Illu. Some 57 percent of all eastern Germans owned a car in 2007 while 51 percent of western Germans did.

Disparities remain

Men work in a factory in the eastern German state of Brandenburg

Productivity is up in the eastern German states since 1991

Commenting on the findings, Brandenburg's state premier, Matthias Platzeck, said the results showed how hard eastern Germans had worked to turn their economy around.

He said he was grateful for the study because it underlined how economically bad off the eastern German states were right after reunification. Today's youth, he said, had no idea what a "frail" economy the GDR had in 1988.

Billions of euros have been transferred eastward since German reunification and Germans still pay a 5.5 percent solidarity tax to help rebuild the infrastructure and economy of the eastern German states. Unemployment remains persistently high in those states, however, currently at almost double the level seen among western Germans.

According to Destasis, the national statistics office, 11.5 percent of eastern Germans were unemployed in August while only 6.6 percent of western Germans were unemployed.

Author: Holly Fox (AFP/dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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