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Economic restructuring
„How subsidies exacerbate the skills shortage“

By Andre Kartschall and Aspasia Opitz, rbb, as of October 31, 2023, 6:47 a.m.

„How subsidies exacerbate the skills shortage“

As of October 31, 2023, 6:47 a.m.
 Billions in funding are flowing into the Cottbus region to phase out lignite. This also causes problems: large-scale new settlements are depriving the local economy of skilled workers.
By Andre Kartschall and Aspasia Opitz, rbb
Interview excerpt with Dr. Harald Michel, I/F/A/D - Institut, Berlin

 This is not how Lars Wertenauer had imagined the economic upswing in Lusatia. He is managing director of Metall-Form-Technik GmbH in Kolkwitz in the southeast of Brandenburg. And for several months now, he has been losing employees again and again - poached by larger, surrounding companies.

 He has lost six of his former 60 employees this year alone. Some went to Deutsche Bahn, which is building an ICE maintenance facility in Cottbus. Others said goodbye to the lignite company LEAG, which says it is „working on a green future“; with solar parks and electricity storage.

 Since then, the spirit of optimism has been mixed with a certain disillusionment. Wertenauer has observed this among engineers and technicians. „Employees are actively poached.“ Some of the newly arrived companies even paid earnest money, as a starting bonus, so to speak. Other entrepreneurs from the region also report this.

Demographic change is striking

 The big competitors simply offer a better salary. And this despite the fact that Wertenauer pays its employees standard wages. Medium-sized businesses in Lusatia have been complaining about a shortage of skilled workers for years. The population of the region around Cottbus has been falling for years - demographic change is hitting here with full force.

 In order to cushion the economic consequences of the impending coal phase-out, there are plenty of subsidies for the region: regional and municipal funding, business support and money for economic and ecological change. In plain English, this means that jobs are being created, many of them with the help of tax money.

 Deutsche Bahn alone wants to employ 1,200 people in Cottbus - in a maintenance facility for ICE trains that will go into operation at the beginning of next year and run at full capacity in 2026. Employees who have to take the train from somewhere. Wertenauer says: „As a small medium-sized company, we cannot keep up with the financial strength that the railway brings.“

Headhunting after training

 Wertenauer is not alone in his dissatisfaction: car dealerships in Cottbus complain that newly trained mechatronics engineers are simply being poached in droves after their apprenticeship. Until recently, there was hardly anything like this within the region. The state-financed economic recovery appears to be enormously exacerbating the shortage of skilled workers - and weakening the established middle class.

 There are scientists who warned about such effects decades ago. Harald Michel from the Institute for Applied Demography in Berlin, for example. For him, the government's windfall of money being poured out over Lusatia is just a political sign: „According to the motto: We have not given up on the region. You can already see the problems that this brings with it in a shrinking region: cannibalization.“

Lost business in Lausitz?

 The problem of „cannibalization“ has been known to researchers for at least 25 years. If the population is shrinking - and it is doing so in Lusatia - it is almost impossible to counteract it politically: „The pie is simply getting smaller and smaller. And if you combat the organic shrinkage with funding policies, you might induce something like artificial growth - but only regionally,“ says Michel.

 However, viewed across Germany as a whole, this has negative consequences. „In economic terms, this is not even a zero-sum game, but rather a minus game,“ says Michel. „Investing such sums in shrinking regions means an economic loss. The funds would be invested more effectively in growing regions.“

 The problem has been recognized in Lusatia - there is no solution in sight. Manuela Glühmann from the Cottbus Chamber of Commerce and Industry explains: „Of course we urge the big players to deal with this fairly, especially Deutsche Bahn and LEAG. And we also know that they are aware of their responsibility.“ Statements that many entrepreneurs in Lusatia view with skepticism when it comes to poaching bonuses.

 Medium-sized company Wertenauer relies on young people, as he says: „We like to train new trainees with passion.“ His metal processing company has already won a training award twice. But whether the next generation will stay with the company afterwards seems more uncertain than ever before..

More on the subject of a shortage of skilled workers (in German language):

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Harald Michel


Demographic Change - Aging - Shrinkage - Regional Differentiation - Spatial Development

Harald Michel

Demographic development and effects on spatial development - for the example of Brandenburg and the Uckermark

Short Version

The main effects of demographic change - shrinking and aging on the one hand, and increasing concentration on the other - are extremely spatially differentiated. The resulting problem is enormous and at the same time diverse. Models and spatial planning plans should monitor demographic developments more closely. The coexistence of growth, restructuring and shrinkage processes requires flexible solutions tailored to the respective region. The article illustrates the problem using the Uckermark district.

Download this article in the original version as a ZIP file (content: Windows Wordpad, RTF file)
Download the article as a ZIP (RTF) file, approx. 2.6 MB
Download the article as a PDF file, approx. 700 KB

Download the complete PDF file (content: ARL 37, CENTURY TASKS,
Blockage or development of spaces through abandoned conversion areas)
Download the entire PDF file, approx. 4.7 MB

Jump to News/Dates, ARL article by Dr. Harald Michel
Jump to publications 2024, ARL

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Summer Semester 
from  15. 04. 2024 to  20. 07. 2024

- The lectures are held on behalf of the Humboldt University. -
Detail­page of the Hum­boldt Uni­versi­ty of Berlin

Ba­sic Da­ta
Event type Seminar Event Num­ber 70­10­894
Se­me­ster SoSe 2024 SWS 2
Rhythm every 2nd Se­me­ster Moodle-Link  yes
Event Sta­tus Re­lea­sed for lec­ture ca­ta­lo­gue  Lan­gua­ge ger­man
Occu­pan­cy pe­riod Online (Cen­tral Dead­line »01.02.2024 - 10.04.2024«) „cur­rent“
Event ­For­mat Pre­sence
Group 1
Day Time Rhythm Room Sta­tus
We. 10:15 until 11:45 weekly Link: In­sti­tute buil­ding - Room 23, Span­dauer Straße 1, EG (SPA 1) - (class­room) takes place
Assigned Person
Assigned Per­son Res­pon­si­bili­ty
Michel, Harald, Dr.
Cour­ses of Stu­dy
Di­plo­ma Course of Stu­dy LP Se­me­ster
Ba­che­lor of Arts  Eco­no­mics 2nd-Subject (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)    
Bachelor of Science  Busi­ness Ad­mini­stra­tion Mo­no­ba­che­lor (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)   
Bachelor of Science  Eco­no­mics Mo­no­ba­che­lor (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)   
Bachelor of Science  Eco­no­mics 2nd-Subject (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)   
Ba­che­lor of Sci­ence  Busi­ness Edu­ca­tion (WV) Core Sub­ject (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)   
Ba­che­lor of Sci­ence  Busi­ness Edu­ca­tion (WV) Core Sub­ject (Deepe­ning: no LA; PO­Ver­sion: 2016)   
Pro­gram Stu­dies - wo. degr.  Busi­ness Ad­mini­stra­tion Pro­gram (PO­Ver­sion: 1999)   
Pro­gram Stu­dies - wo. degr.  Eco­no­mics Pro­gram (PO­Ver­sion: 1999)   
Pro­gram Stu­dies - wo. degr.  Busi­ness Edu­ca­tion (WV) Pro­gram (PO­Ver­sion: 1999)   
As­sign­ment to Fa­ci­li­ties
Fa­cul­ty of Eco­no­mics, espe­cial­ly eco­no­mic hi­sto­ry
Fa­cul­ty of Eco­no­mics

Origin and development of population theories and their effectiveness; Population policy: possibility and limits; current demographic crisis in Europe - shrinking and aging populations: causes (decrease in birth rate), consequences and consequences with regard to global issues; Migration processes and their effects (immigration, increasing or reducing disparities - East Germany, international developments).

Part of the seminar is an ungraded presentation.

The technical prerequisite for participation in the seminar is the course „Economic and social-historical aspects of demography“, offered in the winter semester.

Participants Limit: 25

Selection process: Students who have a hardship case according to §90 (1) ZSP HU (health, social, disability-related or family reasons) submit the relevant evidence to Ms. Bönisch in the study office of the Faculty of Economics by the end of the registration period. For all other applicants the draw decides.

This seminar is NOT sufficient as a prerequisite for writing a bachelor's thesis at the Department of Economic History.

(in German)

Braudel, F., Social history of the 15th-18th centuries, Mün­chen 1985/86

Carr-Saunders, A.M., World Po­pu­lat­ion, Past Growth and Pre­sent Trends, Ox­ford 1937

Cipolla, C.M., Euro­pean eco­no­mic hi­sto­ry, 1-5, Stutt­gart, New York 1978-1980

Ehmer, J., Popu­la­tion hi­sto­ry and hi­sto­ri­cal de­mo­gra­phy 1800 - 2000, Munich 2004

Heinsohn,G., Hu­man pro­duc­tion - ge­ne­ral po­pu­la­tion theo­ry of mo­dern ti­mes, Frank­furt a.M. 1979

Imhof, A.E., From an in­se­cure to a se­cure life­span, Darm­stadt 1988

Köllmann,W.,Marschalck,P., Po­pu­la­tion hi­sto­ry, Colo­gne 1972

Livi Bacci, M., Euro­pe and its peo­ple, Mu­nich 1999

Mackenroth,G., Popu­la­tion theo­ry, so­cio­lo­gy and sta­tis­tics of the po­pu­la­tion, Ber­lin 1953

Mayer, T., The de­mo­gra­phic cri­sis, Frank­furt a.M. 1999

Michel, H. (mit Lischke, R.-J.), On the de­velop­ment of popu­la­tion sci­ence in Ger­man-spea­king coun­tries from its be­gin­nings to 1945, in: Ber­lin Sta­tis­tics - Month­ly Out­put 3/2001

Schmid, J., Intro­duc­tion to popu­la­tion so­cio­lo­gy, Rein­bek 1976

Wrigley, E.A., Chan­ging popu­la­tion struc­ture - me­thods and re­sults of de­mo­gra­phy, Mu­nich 1969


StO/PO BA BWL und VWL 2016: 6 LP, Mo­dule: „Eco­no­mic and so­cial-his­to­ri­cal as­pects of de­mo­gra­phy - Part II“



Detail page of the Humboldt University
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