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Germany

Southern Germany: A Slice Of Europe Where Debt And Unemployment Are Worlds Away

Around Germany’s Eichstätt region, unemployment hovers just above 1%, with industry booming despite the euro debt crisis. Across southern Germany, the overall economy has largely recovered, especially as the auto sector is rebounding. A good sign for the

Shoppers in Munich, Germany
Shoppers in Munich, Germany
Uwe Ritzer

INGOLSTADT -- A local can-do attitude may have something to do with it, though the secret to this southern German city's success also lies with one large company: Audi. The car company, which calls this Bavarian city home, has been thriving for years, with exports particularly strong. And that resonates in the surrounding area.

It's less than 30 km from Ingolstadt to Eichstätt and thousands who live in the latter work at Audi. But that doesn't entirely explain why, for many months, the lowest jobless rate in all of Germany is recorded here. In October it was 1.1%, a figure that amazes even job market experts.

As regards mentality: people in this area are down-to-earth and loyal. Even in hard times, employers hang on to their employees longer, not only because they believe things will soon get better, but also out of fear they won't be able to replace those workers once the turnaround does occur.

Then there's the broader structure: although much in the Eichstätt region depends on the fortunes of Audi, there are other sectors such as tourism, plus well-known players in the stone industry, which together add up to a varied and robust mix. Things never go badly in all sectors at once. In short, the Eichstätt-Ingolstadt area is a southern German job paradise.

In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, prospects – both in terms of the overall economy, and the job market specifically – are looking better than they have in a long time. And better than just about anywhere in Europe.

As the debt, euro and financial crises risk growing into long-term problems with unforeseeable consequences, and economists warn of imminent recession, employers in this area often brush the news off with impatience. Their order books are full far into 2012, and scarcity to them means just one thing: not enough people to fill jobs.

A good time to be looking for work?

The situation is turning the job market into something it hasn't been in a long time: an employee's market. That may be regrettable for the people hiring, but not for job seekers, who are in a position to pick and choose where they want to work. Career opportunities for well-qualified workers and college grads with relevant degrees haven't been this good in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg for decades, and not just in technical or commercial fields.

And if living costs are too high for some in prosperous urban areas like Munich or Stuttgart, there are also plenty of attractive offers in medium-sized cities and towns, as figures from the Federal Employment Agency reveal. Nowhere in the area did the jobless rate exceed the federal average.

The region's car industry is certainly a major force: alongside Audi in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, there is BMW in Munich, Regensburg and Landshut, and Daimler and Porsche in the area around Stuttgart – to name only the biggest players. Add suppliers to that, like Robert Bosch GmbH, ZF, Schaeffler, or Brose, some of them having in the space of only a few decades grown from small or medium-sized family businesses to global concerns. And then factor in world market leaders in other sectors, such as Adidas and Puma, two of the world's three leading sporting goods manufacturers, located in Herzogenaurach.

The days when agriculture defined Bavaria are long gone. Like its neighboring state Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria has developed into a prime location for high tech and research companies. Air and space travel, energy, traffic, and security are among just some of the future-oriented sectors present there. The number of registered patents is comparatively much higher than the number registered in other regions, or the national average.

Finally, there are more blue chip companies in Munich than in any other large German city. Experts are predicting that Bavaria's gross domestic product will grow on average 1.2% over the coming years.

Read the original article in German

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