Sunday, October 03, 2004

East Germans in Elite Positions? Here's a first

Ostblog (and yes that is a second mentioning of this blog and there are more likely gonna be more in the future) pointed me to this article. The article talks about that Ingolf Bettin has been appointed as leading judge for the state court of Thuringia. Why is this worth mentioning? 14 years after reunification Bettin is the first East German to assume a possition that high. Saxony had just in 2002 appointed a leading judge - a West German. All other leading judges in East German state courts are West Germans. All other leading judges in state courts in Germany, are West Germans.

This is very much in line with the finding of an elite study from 1997. That study claimed that in the judicial branch, East Germans have not been been able to reach elite positions. Atrid Segert, who reported on this study and tried to investigate the reasons in her article "Allokationsprozesse deutscher Eliten" (Allocation processes of German elites) argued that East Germans are underrepresented in Elite positions in general. Based on the survey that elite study did in 1997, Segert found that only in political positions East Germans were overrepresented (a claim I will get to later). In all other types of elite positions (administrative, economic, economic interest groups, unions, mass media, academia, military, culture and jucial) East Germans were underrepresented. The worst underrepresentation of East Germans was found in the administrative branch (East German quota: 2.5%), the economy (0.4%), the military (0%) and the juducial area (0%).

Acording to Segerts analysis the recruiting processes are largely responsible for this underrepresentation putting in entrie barriers that have unintended consequences to the disadvantage of East Germans. Those entry barriers are college degrees (many GDR college degrees were/ are not acknowledged as equal degree and were devaluated in the reunification process), a desire for long-term experience in the area one wants to work in (which is difficult for East Germans to achieve as most have just started careers in those institutions post 1990), a long time record of subordinating life to careergoals (which did not happen to that degree in the GDR) and a record of uninterupted continuity in their careers (which is impossible for East Germans as they had clear turning points caused by the reunification. Segert furthermore argues that only the generation that started their education post 1990 has a clear chance of correcting the underrepresentation of East Germans in elite positions. However, she argues, the background one needs to be from in order to have better access to elite positions - a good upper middle-class upbringing- is not the case for many East Germans at this point of time, as East German wages are only 60% of the average wage of West Germans and most members of that generation will have been socialized in a working class environment. So it is most likely that East Germans will remain under-represented in higher positions for a long time, more than one generation.

Now being interested in East German representation in political positions I found the claim very interesting that East Germans there are overrepresented. However taking a closer look at the results of the elite study from 1997 I have some serious doubts. The study results are based on a survey of 2341 people, 272 of which were East Germans. This already constitutes a bias towards West Germans in the study (a fact Segert acknowledges) East Germans make represent 11.6% of the surveyed in this study, while they occupy about 16-20% of the population. Furthermore, based on a sample of 272 it is hard to get reliable results.
The study looked at 499 elite positions in politics, 160 of them being occupied by East Germans. Hence the result of overrepresentation (quota of East Germans being 32.1%). The 499 positions do not represent all possible elite positions in politics, as even the Bundestag already has more members than 499. Therefore it puts the results in doubt for me any further. However, I need to look at the real data to make further evaluations.
On the other hand, even though I will be focusing myself on East Germans in the Bundestag, Bundesrat, Cabinets, Ministries, standing committees and parties, I consider supreme court positions and leading positions in unions and interest groups to be political positions. Even top level positions in the administrative branch are political positions. So the claim of overrepresentation of East German in political positions needs to be considered carefully. However, I will have to look at the data used and how they compare to my own data.

It is furthermore notable, that Segert tells us that studies on the distribution of elite positions among East and West Germans have been understudied, the 1997 study mentioned in this entry, was the only kind of data she could look at when she wrote the article (published in: McFalls and Probst: "After the GDR: New Perspective on the Old GDR and the Young Laender" Rodopi 2001).


mcentellas said...

A caveat you might want to consider in the difference between elected & appointed positions. While I think representation is important in elected positions, I'm not so sure about appointed ones. And I'm just mentioning this, not knowing much about German internal politics at all. But. Is it possible East Germans are under-represented in legal positions simply because few East Germans are qualified?

What I mean is, I'm assuming the East & West German legal systems were different, so East German judges might not be qualified in application of West German laws. If that were true, it might take some time for either A) new judges to move up the seniority ranks or B) old judges to retrain and move up seniority ranks?

Just a thought.

Aufbau Ost said...

I think representation in appointed political positions is important. East Germans often feel like they are second class citizens. Hence, adequate representation in high-profile positions could work against that perception. Furthermore it could encourage the active participation of East Germans in the established political institutions vs. being active in alternative institutions. (Which is not to say that working i alternative institutions is necessarily bad, just I think it decreases the lobbying power of East Germans in the unified German context, by staying regionally confined).

As for the legal system. If you read the article carefully, I write how Astrid Segert argues, that there is a sense of not enough qualification by East Germans. This however is not based on objective qualification (knowledge, college degree) but the career track. Ingolf Bettin is a judge who has already worked in the legal system of the GDR and has after the fall of the German wall worked in the legal system of the unified Germany afterwards. He was now able to become leading judge. So apparently it does not need for younger judges (studying law in unified Germany) to be qualified to work in legal institutions. It is technically possible for someone with an East German career track to achieve this position. The problem is the preference for long-term career experience (going beyond the 14 years of unified Germany) and uninterrupted career tracks that come to a disadvantage for East Germans. I think, at least.

t'su said...

Are all state judicial positions appointed?

Wouldn't increased representation of East Germans in appointed judicial positions help remedy the present effects of past discriminatory behavior detrimental to East Germans? Discrimination is the issue, isn't it? Criteria that are neutral on their face, but have a disparate impact in practice on East Germans?

It seems patently unfair, to me, to relegate East Germans to secondary status in positions of power based on unobjective criteria.

Aufbau Ost said...

As far as I am aware of it, the judicial positions are appointed. Need be, if we need qualified people. They cannot be elected. What he have right now is an unintended consequence of the implementation of the West German system (including its legal and administrative system) onto East Germany. Of course, it would be better if some of the entry barriers would be laxed, because it might also increase the participation of women in elite positions.

mcentellas said...

Melanie, my point wasn't that East German's can't work in the legal system, but rather that there are (as you point out) institutional obstacles to their inclusion. More importantly, looking at under-representation in parties (politically competitive) & judgeships (not so "political") shouldn't be handled in the same way. That's my main concern.

Aufbau Ost said...

Your point is very well taken Miguel.

Understandably, political and judicial representation cannot be handled the same. Legal appointments need much more qualification and checks of qualification.
But I am wondering why Bettin, an East German trained lawyer is able to achieve a position of leading judge this year, when in 2002 in Saxony the preference has still been given to a West German judge. What has changed in this two years? Would it have been possible to have an appointment before, simply based on qualification? Or was it just the two more years needed in qualifications and working experience that made the difference?

There is no doubt in my mind that representation on judicial positions need to be handled different than positions in parties, committees or even ministries.

I still stand to my argument, that if qualification is met, that I would love to see East Germans better represented in in appointed positions in institution like the administration, like academia, like the judicial system, because it could foster trust in those institutions. After all trust in courts (trust of West Germans 50%, trust of East Germans 38%) and in the buraucracy (West 40%, East 19%) is significantly lower in the east than in the West.
That's why I think adequate, or better representation of East Germans there is important.

red pen said...

Hi guys I am just about to write up my dissertation on East German regional discourses and have to agree with Sigirds (?? ;) finding that there is almost no research on the subject of East German advansement into elite positions -and that 18 years after reunification. Is this because most of the academics researching East German issues are themselves West Germans occupying academic positions in Eastern universities? How would it reflect on them to commission such research topics and to find the empirics staring back at them ... Just an idea of course ;)

Aufbau Ost said...

Red Pen - thanks for stopping by. I used to work on a dissertation that raised the question why East Germans were underrepresented in leadership positions in the German Bundestag. The question was answered really quickly. East Germans were as likely to be selected to these positions as their West German colleagues - at in the later legislative periods (15th, 16th, which is the current one). They were still under-represented compared to their share in the population - simply, because they were also under-represented in the Bundestag. While in the 13th and 14th legislative period, there was almost descriptive representation, there is now under-representation. This is mainly due, it appears, because more West Germans are elected through the East German lists and districts.
Why is there not so much research on East Germans' advancement to elite positions. For the political and national level one might answer, because the answer to that question might not be as interesting. I am writing now my dissertation on advancement to leadership positions in the Bundestag generally- with a portion on East and West Germans.
More interesting might be the question why are there so few East Germans in the Bundestag. But this research will have to wait.