Social Change and Welfare Programmes

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  • Social Change and Welfare Programmes
    • Social Welfare
      • In the 1970s there was the development of the SOCIAL CONTRACT – living standards would be increased in return for at least the outward acceptance of the regime.
      • Honecker spoke of the connection between the economy and social policy in establishing harmony in society. The aim was to ensure that no one got left behind.
      • He had a genuine sympathy with the working classes after witnessing poverty in his early life. The amount of GDP spent on welfare rose from 12.7% in 1970 to 16.8% in 1979.
      • The features of the Social Contract were outline in the ‘Main Task’; this would lead to greater productivity, scientific developments and modernise society based on the socialist principles.
      • Improvements were announced throughout the 1970s;
        • Honeckers first social policy was launched in 1972 with the promise that pensions and welfare benefits would be increased
        • The minimum wage was increased in 1976
        • Housing provision was to be prioritised
        • Healthcare was to be improved from September 1973
        • Education was to be expanded
    • Pensions
      • Neglected during the Ulbricht years however with an ageing population there was an increase in voluntary contributions and old age pension increased faster than benefits for any other groups.
      • The minimum monthly pension was raised from 230 to 300 Ostmarks in December 1976 and 327 by 1979.
      • This was 33% less than the average wage so people were encouraged to keep working.
    • The Minimum Wage
      • In October 1976, the monthly minimum wage was raised from 350 to 400 Ostmarks.
      • The fact that 1 million people benefited shows how comparatively low wages were.
      • It was hoped that increase in wages would increase productivity – but this was not always the case.
      • The Government had been reluctant to increase Work Norms after the 1953 rebellion.
    • Housing
      • Adequate housing was necessary for a welfare state but the GDR faced critical housing problems. Almost 2/3 of housing in Dresden and Berlin had been destroyed during the war.
      • Where it had been renovated, by the 1970s it was once again falling into disrepair.
      • Ulbricht did not like the design of the ‘bararcks’ nature of large new housing estates however Honecker was more concerned with quantity and the 1970’s saw extensive building of new housing which was a popular policy;
      • In Leipzig 53% of respondents replied that their priority was toacquire a decent home
      • In Dresden in 1980 a survey of living standard satisfaction found that only 35% were happy in older accommodation while the figure rose to 76% of those living in newer housing.
      • Rents – subsidised by the state, were cheap and often no more than 4% of income. This was often offered as an advantage of living in the GDR.
        • The problem was that rents did not cover the repairs in many of the older buildings.
      • New towns were created near the industrial centres for example the chemical industries around Frankfurt-an- der-Oder. The buildings were mass concrete blocks and loneliness was a growing problem.Building was shoddy, the lifts did not work and crime rates were high. Some people were happy to live their if the amenities worked as there were schools and shops nearby.
      • There was a target of 3 million new homes to be built this was never met. 1990 34% of housing predated 1919 and had not been renovated. 1908s 40% of homes had no hot water, 60% lacked a bath or shower. To many people were living in squalor.
    • Healthcare
      • There were two main principles; communities needed to be healthy for the strength of the nation ad individuals needed to be healthy so they could produce more.
      • In 1954 theGDR was proud that its infant mortality rates fell as a result ofbetter ante- and post natal care – however it did rise over thefollowing years.
      • It was funded by national insurance which was 10% of their gross income and employers an equivalent amount.
    • The problems with healthcare were;
      • The emphasis was on preventative medicine rather than clinical medicine. They spent more healthy lifestyles and cut the number of hospital beds.
      • There were shortages in hospitals of medicines and drugs; they even had to import specialist equipment. In 1988 only 33% of the equipment needed for heart surgery was available in hospitals.Basic items such as rubber gloves were also in short supply, GPs complained about lack of resources.
      • Less money was spent on mental health issues, care homes and mental institutions were bleak institutions.
      • Provision was not equal – the political elite had access to valuable resources
      • The environmental pollution took a fierce toll on bronchial disorders
    • Education
      • School intake would now be based on equality if opportunity than privilege. 1950s comprehensive system was created expect for elite schools for athletes and those gifted at languages or maths.
      • In 1959 the system of secondary schools called polytechnics was completed. All children from 6-16 attended; the more academic took the ‘Extended Upper Schools’ EOS which was a final leaving examination which would determine whether they would go to university.
      • They also needed to have been a member of the FDJ to attend university.
      • For the less academic there was work placements and training schemes. They were encouraged in fairs to take part in science,technology and engineering.
      • They were given real responsibility-though after reunification many were shocked at the poor working conditions and many workers were drunk! Links were tightened between industry and universities.
      • Military training- from September 1973 students in year 9-10 underwent military instruction. This involved firing practice and survival techniques. Military instruction also took place in kindergarten where weapons were bought into classes.
      • Problems in education – pressure for ideological conformity caused resentment and the workforce became to over qualified for the positions available.
      • The problems with social welfare were that the Government could not keep subsidising items such as food, rents and transport. The figure had risen too 49.8 billion Ostmark by 1989.
      • The money being spent on welfare also took money away from investment in economic and technological improvements.
      • The welfare policy led to shortages; people had to wait 12-17 years for a car, shoppers could queue for 4 hours for certain foodstuffs, the system of supply meant it was easier for foreign visitors to get food than actual GDR citizens.


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