Survey: East Germans are now more satisfied with income and work

The departure of young people in particular, higher unemployment in the East and the resurgence of right-wing movements: Even after three decades in reunified Germany, many problems seem as current as ever. Nevertheless, according to a new survey, satisfaction in both the former Federal Republic and the GDR has increased significantly in some cases. In terms of income, in particular, citizens in the eastern German states are happier than they were 30 years ago.

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This is shown by the evaluation of two representative surveys from 1991 and 2020, which the Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) carried out and which is available to the German Press Agency. The respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction on various aspects on a scale from 1 to 5. The respondents were asked the same questions at both times.

What is particularly striking is the different development in income satisfaction. In eastern Germany around 30 years ago, only one in five respondents said they were satisfied or even very satisfied with their financial situation. This year it was almost half of the participants from eastern German federal states. But in West Germany, on the other hand, the trend is going in the other direction: in 1991 around 60 percent of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied. In 2020, only 55 percent expressed their opinion accordingly.

When it comes to work, the East Germans are much more satisfied these days. The proportion of those who were satisfied or very satisfied with their professional situation rose between 1991 and 2020 from around 36 to almost 55 percent. In western Germany it fell by almost 4 percentage points to around 57 percent over the same period.

“Immediately after reunification, the East was in a transformation shock. Since then, the professional and financial situation of many people there has improved,” said Elmar Brähler, assessing the results. He is professor emeritus for medical psychology and medical sociology at the University of Leipzig and carried out the investigation.

In the West there was an – albeit only slight – increase in satisfaction in the areas of living, friends and acquaintances as well as leisure and hobbies. But there are also areas of life in which satisfaction has decreased over the years. Almost 79 percent of those questioned in East Germany rated their family life as good or very good around 30 years ago. In the more recent survey, this value was only 73 percent. In the west, satisfaction stagnated at around 73 percent over the same period. When it comes to partnerships, too, people in East Germany have become more restrained. In the meantime, around 61 percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied or very satisfied with this topic. 30 years earlier it was more than 71 percent.

The survey this year was carried out by Brähler’s Institute at the University of Leipzig between mid-April and the end of June. Around 2500 people were interviewed directly or by telephone. In 1991 the survey was carried out at the Technical University of Munich. The number of participants was more than 3,000 at the time. The scientists do not report whether the corona pandemic could have influenced the survey results.

There are always studies that deal with the satisfaction of Germans and the associated differences between East and West. One of the most popular is the so-called happiness atlas of the Deutsche Post, according to which life satisfaction in 2019 was at the highest level of the study period from 2004 to 2019. In western Germany, 82 percent were satisfied at the beginning of this year, in eastern Germany 78 percent.

A long-term study published in February on behalf of the CDU-affiliated Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung again looked at the democracy satisfaction of German citizens and came to the conclusion that this is almost twice as high in western Germany with 40 percent as in eastern Germany with 22 percent.


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