Transformation Processes in Poland and East Germany

In order to evaluate the particularities of the social and economic transformation in East Germany, international comparisons with both Western European and former state socialist countries are required. We, therefore, planned a joint project with Bogdan Mach of the Polish Academy of Sciences to further investigate labor market mobility and household structures in East Germany and Poland in the 1990s. The primary focus was upon labor market entry and family formation processes of young Polish and East German men and women born in 1971. Their life histories were recorded using similar questionnaires and will be analyzed in a comparative framework that considers the particular legacies of the state-socialist past in both countries as well as the very different paths of societal transition in the 1990s.

The research field "East German Life Courses After Unification" has strong traditions of comparative research on Poland and the GDR/East Germany. Research interests have in the past included: the role of political loyalty for career mobility in the state-socialist societies as well as job shift patterns, occupational change, unemployment experiences and the restructuring of wages in the post-socialist labor market after the system transformation. Rather surprisingly, the devaluation of biographical assets, the breaks within occupational careers and the risk of becoming unemployed were much higher in East Germany after 1989 than in post-socialist Poland. The greater instability in employment careers in East Germany was compensated, however, by significantly higher wages or unemployment benefits.


Diewald, M. (2000). Entwertungen, Umwertungen, Aufwertungen. Ostdeutsche Erwerbsverläufe zwischen Kontinuität und Wandel. Habilitation, Freie Universität Berlin.

Diewald, M., Mach, B., & Solga, H. (2000). Erfolge und Probleme der ostdeutschen Arbeitsmarkttransformation in vergleichender Perspektive. In R. Habich & H.-H. Noll (Eds.), Vom Zusammenwachsen einer Gesellschaft: Analysen zur Angleichung der Lebensverhältnisse in Deutschland (pp. 107-132). Frankfurt a.M.: Campus.

Diewald, M., & Mach, B. (1999). Market transition, Institutions, and the Restructuring of Earnings: East Germany and Poland during the first five years of the Transformation Process. Working Paper 2, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin.

Mach, B. W., & Solga, H. (1997). Political Loyalty and Career Mobility in the German Democratic Republic and the People's Republic of Poland. Working Paper 7, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin.

Project Team

Britta Matthes
Bogdan Mach
Karl Ulrich Mayer