It is 22 years since the reunification of Germany, just under 20 years since South Africa’s unification.
Statistics comparing the two Germanies http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24166482 have some useful lessons for us.
One could re-draw the borders of the old DDR pretty accurately, just looking at unemployment figures, and at income. Most of the former East Germany has unemployment above 8%; nowhere in former West Germany is the figure as high. Twelve states in West Germany have unemployment under 4%.
All of East Germany has a household income of less than 20,000 Euros; nowhere in West Germany is it this low. Four states in West Germany have household income of more than 26,000 Euros.
Despite the strong German economy, and the virtual cash grant given to the East by the West when the currencies were put on a par, inequalities persist.
I don’t know what the barriers to individual well-being are in the former East Germany. They may be quite different to the barriers that exist in South Africa, or they may be similar. What interests me is the fact that they exist.
We are not uniquely awkward in the sideways nature of our movement to equality.
In many developed countries, poverty is growing, not decreasing. According to the US Census bureau, in the United States the 2012 poverty rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than 2007. In 2012, the poverty rate in the US for children under 18 was 21.8%.
These figures depress me, and cheer me. They are both heartening and disheartening because eradicating poverty is extremely difficult, all over the world. Poverty is hard, there is no one thing that everyone could do that would eliminate it, very many people are living in bad conditions. This is depressing.
What cheers me is that we are not alone. Not in a simplistic, misery-loves-company way, but because it means that we are not uniquely incompetent in not achieving equality. We are progressing. Along with many other parts of the world, we are progressing slowly.