13 million people live in structurally weak regions

Many cities in Germany are experiencing an economic boom. But millions of people in structurally weak regions have little of it – and that is not just an East German problem.

Structurally weak regions are in a vicious circle, believes the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

WWhile many cities and their surrounding areas are booming nationwide, rural regions in the east or even municipalities in the Ruhr area are struggling with severe structural problems. According to a study published on Tuesday by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is close to the SPD, more than 13 million people live in regions with major structural problems. The dynamic large and medium-sized cities with a strong surrounding area have more than 36 million inhabitants. Large cities in particular are becoming increasingly too expensive for many people.

For the so-called disparity report 2019, the Dortmund Institute for State and Urban Development Research examined data on a total of 20 different indicators. These included salaries, employment rates, municipal debt, rents or the distance to the nearest family doctor. On this basis, the scientists defined five different types to which they assigned all 402 districts and cities in Germany.

According to the study, 22.7 million people live in dynamic large and medium-sized cities such as Munich and Hamburg, but also Jena and Frankfurt an der Oder. The strong surrounding areas of cities number a further 13.7 million. According to the study, around 36.4 million people live in affluent regions, which also includes most of the eastern German cities.

“Prosperity gap” in cities

However, the Ebert Foundation warned of a “prosperity ditch” in cities. Even in economically successful cities, rising rents and living costs threatened middle-income people, families with children and the elderly to slide into poverty. According to the study, the “solid center” of Germany is formed by districts and cities, especially in rural areas of western Germany. These regions have 32.8 million inhabitants.

8.1 million people live in “rural areas in permanent structural crisis”, which are mainly in eastern Germany. But cities in the Ruhr area, regions in Saarland, municipalities in Saarland as well as Bremen and Bremerhaven are also in the throes of crisis. 5.4 million people live there. This means that 13.5 million people live in regions with severe structural problems.

As a consequence, the Ebert Foundation called for debt relief for financially weak cities and communities. “This is the only way to pull weak municipalities out of the vicious circle of debt, emigration and economic contraction,” the foundation explained.