Study finds major regional inequalities in Germany
Do you have good reception on your mobile phone? Are there plenty of job opportunities? And good transportation links? Well, according to a new report, it all depends on where in Germany you live - and there are some startling differences.
Report uncovers significant disparities in Germany
The government Commission of Equivalent Living Conditions has laid bare the major regional inequalities in Germany. According to their final report, published this week, there are “significant disparities in regional income and employment opportunities, in the transport and mobile communications and access to basic services and services of general interest.” This division is not always down the East-West fault line but is also apparent between rural and urban areas as well.
The Commission, which was established in July 2018 and comprises a mixture of federal, state, local and umbrella organisations, was tasked with the mission of suggesting how resources and opportunities can be fairly distributed in Germany in the future. Their special mission is to strengthen structurally weak regions and rural areas.
Rich / poor divide in Germany increasing
Despite the economic boom of the past few years, the study found that the gap between rich and poor cities has actually increased. Using the proportion of Hartz IV recipients as an indicator, the report's authors compared the development of Germany's 10 richest and 10 poorest cities. They found that the budget deficit of poor municipalities in the period 2010 to 2017 was close to one billion euros, while rich cities generated a surplus of 3,6 billion euros.
The given poorest cities include cities in the Ruhr area of western Germany, such as Gelsenkirchen, where almost one in four draws unemployment benefit II. In cities like Essen, Herne, Duisberg and Dortmund, the proportion is around one in five. In contrast, in Munich only 4,5 percent of the population is reliant on state aid. Of the 10 richest cities in Germany, eight are in Bavaria and two in Baden-Württemberg.
This impacts the amount of wealth a municipality can generate, as they are dependent on taxation for about 30 percent of their income. In Munich, for example, city authorities collect seven times as much income tax as the district of Mansfeld-Südharz in Saxony-Anhalt.
Money to areas that need it
The study's authors recommend that the government ease the burden of poorer municipalities by taking on a greater share of Hartz IV payments (they currently contribute around 50 percent). In addition, they argue that a more targeted approach to regional support should be adopted: instead of a blunt East-West division, promotional policies should be applied according to an area's "needs".
Another method for easing the inequalities between different regions could be the clearing of the debts owed by many German cities. “There are too many cities in Germany that have almost no room for manoeuvre,” said the Mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung. “They groan under enormous debts.” Clearing these debts would free up capital to allow the cities to invest in their citizens, for example by renovating schools, building swimming pools, or fixing roads.
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