The hole in the middle

A reviving capital still has far to go—not least in integrating its immigrants

Published on The Economist, Nov. 11, 2010.

… Figures from DIW show that between 2005 and 2009 Berlin’s economy outstripped the rest of the country’s, growing by an annual average of 1.7%, the highest of any German state. Yet although Berlin is catching up with established commercial centres in the old West Germany, it is still the only European capital poorer than the country it rules. Unemployment, at 14.1%, is almost twice the national average. 

With no DAX-30 companies in the city, it has to develop its own firms. Here too there are some green shoots. “The basic conditions for innovation are very good,” says Thorsten Hellmann of the Bertelsmann Foundation, a think-tank. The creative and high-tech industries have huge potential. Property is cheap: Berlin once had a population of 4.5m but today has only 3.4m. Like other European cities, Berlin has problems in its poorest neighbourhoods, especially those with lots of immigrants. The unemployment rate almost doubles in suburbs such as Kreuzberg and Neukölln, and doubles again among immigrant groups. Children from immigrant families do badly at school and win a low share of apprenticeships, the path into work for many young Germans. “Integration has not worked in Berlin,” laments Mr Hellman.

Berlin will hold an election next autumn. Buoyed by recent big demonstrations against the transport of nuclear waste from France, the Green Party’s Renate Künast has just announced that she will stand against the longtime Social Democratic mayor, Klaus Wowereit. It could be a close race. But whoever wins will have to cope with the legacy of all those years of partition. (full text).

Multi-Kulti on The Economist:

Is multi-kulti dead? Oct 22nd 2010;

Sarrazin vs the Saracens, Sep 1st, 2010.

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