Whose economic growth? Growing regional inequality in booming Germany.

by Ares Kalandides

The latest news is that German economy has reached pre-crisis growth levels for the first time and that what we are  experiencing is close to a new Wirtschaftswunder. Indeed that seems to be the case if you only look at the national economy. Yet, the eye of the geographer is trained to distinguish why this is only part of the truth: because it ignores the growing regional (and class) inequality of that growth. Not only has the alleged growing profit of the German industry not been shared among society at large, but it also has a very strong regional concentration. Income in Germany has stagnated for almost 20 years now and the map shows how unequally growth has been shared across space.

This is a common mistake when places are taken for homogeneous entities and it is also the reason why it’s hard to maintain that  something is “good for the place” in general. As soon as you look at different geographical scales, this “good for the place” brakes down into many goods and bads. The above map (published in Der Spiegel) shows how German regions have been dying out in the past years, a trend that continues despite the alleged growth. What is also shocking is how space is capable of reproducing social phenomena and thus of creating continuity in change. The map clearly shows that – contrary to the saga of economic transfer from the West to the East – the main loser of the past decades constantly remains the territory of the former GDR.

This very short comment is just to remind us that when we hear about economic (or other) growth we should aways ask, “whose growth?”.

See the full Spiegel article here:

Half Empty: The Slow, Painful Demise of Rural Germany – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International

For more information (in German) see here: Deutschland anders sehen – Atlas zur Raum- und Stadtentwicklung

About Ares

Ares Kalandides holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Studies from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the founder and CEO of Inpolis, an international consultancy based in Berlin, Germany and has implement several projects around the world. Ares teaches Urban Economics at the Technical University in Berlin and Metropolitan Studies at NYU Berlin.
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One Response to Whose economic growth? Growing regional inequality in booming Germany.

  1. splacing says:

    The map also underscores the importance in politics, economics, and our society not only to think about growth strategies for prosperous regions, but also to sit down and start designing sustainable shrinkage strategies for (already partly abandoned) regions.

    In my German blog, I have discussed the issue with respect to the relationship between people’s origin and the determination of people’s opportunities.
    http://renardteipelke.blogspot.com/2011/02/die-brutalitat-der-geografie.html

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