Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

East Germany also had other demographic problems. As the result of the losses of young males during the war, the proportion of men to women was distorted. In addition, many of those who left for the West were young males. People under 24 years of age made up more than 50 percent of the refugees. In consequence, a larger ratio of dependents had to be carried by the remaining labor force than it was the case in West Germany. In both Germanies, the ratio of people over 65 years of age came to 16 percent of the total population. However, West Germany had 60 million inhabitants as opposed to the 17 million East Germans.

Not surprisingly, more women joined the labor force in the East than in the West. By 1969, almost half of all the workers in East Germany were women as compared to 36 percent in West Germany.

Before the erection of the Berlin Wall, East Germany lost about one-third of its university graduates to the West. In addition, the East German armed forces drew a disproportionately large number of skilled workers and technicians away from industrial and rural production. After 1962, service in the armed forces became compulsory, and auxiliary service organized for national emergencies also claimed many hours away from work.

During the early 1970s, East Germany began importing guest workers to make up for labor shortages. Hungarians, Bulgarians, and many other nationalities from neighboring socialist countries worked in East German factories. However, unlike their counterparts in West Germany, these workers were not permitted to bring their families with them and, therefore, their return to their homeland was ensured. Their stay was temporary, its length depending upon the contracts arranged for them by the East German authorities. The agreements had specific time limits and, after they expired, the guest workers were transported back to their home countries at government expense. Sometimes Soviet troops helped out in factories, but their wages were paid to the military authorities.


Bibliography

Leptin Gert, and Melzer Manfred, Economic Reform in East German Industry ( Oxford, 1978); Schneider Eberhard, The GDR: The History, Politics, Economy, and Society of East Germany ( London, 1978).

East Berlin Riots of 1953. On June 16, 1953, East Berlin workers protested the work quotas that had been raised in the previous week. The following day the protest spread and became a mass riot against the Soviet occupation and the communist regime. Tens of thousands of workers took to the streets. In response, the Soviet government ordered its tanks to suppress the demonstrations. The Soviet infantry joined the tanks, and curfews and martial law were imposed on the East German sector by the Soviet command. Many people were arrested. The demonstrations in East Berlin inspired workers in other East German cities to take to the streets, demanding the end to Soviet occupation and communist totalitarian rule. Clashes with Soviet troops occurred in which there were casualties on both sides. The East German News Agency

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