Former German president, Richard von Weizsäcker, has presented the findings of a large online opinion poll which despite divisions show that the majority of Germans believe their country is worth living in.
Living standards in eastern Germany are catching up
The survey provides an insight into the different living standards in Germany’s 16 federal states and regions, and is seen as a barometer of how satisfied people are with their lives. The results show how the gap between western and eastern Germans is beginning to close.
If any opinion poll can ever be called representative, then this is the one. In the course of 2004 and the first quarter of 2005, more than half a million people across Germany took part in the virtual survey, organised jointly by German public television, AOL, and the McKinsey economic counselling group.
Former German President Richard von Weizsäcker
Presenting the results in Berlin, the patron of the initiative, former German president Richard von Weizsäcker (photo), said the vast majority of Germans still believe that their country is worth living in.
High-ranking southern Germany
That said, the findings of the survey show a north-south divide, with greater satisfaction among residents in the southern parts of the country. “Stuttgart and Munich rank among the German cities where inhabitants seem to feel extremely happy, closely followed by Hamburg and the eastern German city of Leipzig," von Weizsäcker said.
He added that there are a couple of other eastern German cities which receive high praise from those living in them. "The gap in living standards genuinely is beginning to narrow," he said. "People prefer cities with very active local authorities and a clear investment policy so that promising industries are promoted and jobs are created which will not disappear a year or so later.”
Temporary contentedness is rife among Germans
While most Germans feel alright at present, only a third of the half million people polled believe that they will feel the same a decade from now. They, rather gloomily, anticipate a decline in living standards and expect the situation on the job market to worsen.
Long-term labor market concerns
The former president said there was a clear trend in both eastern and western parts of the country, which showed how worried ordinary people are about unemployment levels, but he added that there is an increased feeling of confidence that the right reforms could rectify the situation.
Although the necessity of reforms is widely recognised, "Germans are not willing to make personal sacrifices, in terms of less pay or longer working hours, or both," von Weizsäcker said.