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E. Germany sees women’s exodus

December 27, 2003

LIEBENTHAL (Germany): A steady exodus of educated women is worsening a gender gap among eastern Germany’s young and could be sowing the seeds of social upheaval.

There are now more than 130 men for every 100 women in rural parts of the east and demographic researchers fear the surplus will widen as educated young women continue to leave the former communist region.

Depopulation has long been a problem for the east, but the disproportionate number of women leaving has caused concerns that a dearth of females of child-bearing age will speed the decline and worries about what will happen to the men left behind.

Sociologists and demographic experts studying the phenomenon of a “surplus of men” in the east, as some political leaders prefer to call it, say eastern women seem to find jobs or partners in the wealthier west more easily than eastern men.

Eastern men, they say, have less education and fewer skills, and are less likely to settle down with west German mates.

“Eastern women seem to be more mobile than men, and tend to have more education and skills,” said Harald Michel, director of the Institute for Applied Demography in Berlin that has long been studying the flight of the east’s “best and the brightest”.

“Eastern women appear more successful in finding jobs or partners in the west. There are few jobs in the east, so large numbers of men and women go west. But the women tend to settle in the west and never come back while most of the men return. The surplus of men in the east is getting wider all the time.”—Reuters