Country Listing

East Germany Table of Contents

East Germany

Health and Welfare

In the areas of health and welfare, the country also has shown mixed results. As of 1987, workers were covered under a compulsory social insurance program administered by the FDGB (Self-employed persons and members of farm and craft cooperatives had a slightly different program administered by the state.) The program included free medical treatment, coverage for accidents and disabilities, unemployment compensation, and retirement benefits. The worker contributed 10 percent of his or her monthly income, up to 60 GDR marks, toward financing the program. The amount was matched by a contribution from the employing enterprise. In the past, funds have been inadequate, and the state has had to finance the program.

In the mid-1980s, health care was free for citizens covered under the program, that is, for the majority of the population. The improvement of health care over the years has been evidenced by the dramatic decline in infant mortality rates, which went from 38.8 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 10 per 1,000 in 1984. The incidence of major diseases has also decreased. For example, diphtheria went from 10.5 cases per 10,000 in 1950 to complete elimination in 1985. Typhus decreased from 3 cases per 10,000 in 1950 to a total of 27 cases in 1985. However, using the incidence of reported tumors as an indicator, it appears that the cancer rate in East Germany has been increasing. In 1955 there were 22.4 reported tumors per 10,000. By 1983 that figure had risen to 31.9 per 10,000.

During the 1950s, the country suffered a serious shortage of doctors and other trained medical personnel. Roughly one-fourth of the country's physicians emigrated to the West before the building of the Berlin Wall. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, a new generation of doctors, nurses, and dentists was trained. In 1985 there were 22.8 doctors per 10,000 population, or 37,000 total, which was a considerable increase over the 14,500 doctors practicing in 1960. Most physicians worked for the state in health centers, outpatient clinics, and individual medical practices. Only a small number--an estimated 1,000 to 2,000--were still allowed to practice privately, although some state doctors unofficially accepted private patients for special treatment.

In 1985 health policy centered on preventive medicine and health education. The health-care network included 590 polyclinics, 998

outpatient facilities, and 1,602 state-sponsored medical practices. The 3,000 physicians and dentists working directly in state enterprises provided medical treatment to some two-thirds of the work force. Although health care in general has steadily improved, the provision for and care of the elderly remain a problem. As of the mid-1980s, pensions were very low, and retirees were at the bottom of the income scale. The average monthly income for a retired person in 1970 was 199 GDR marks; as of 1984 it was 448 GDR marks. Although the pension paid to retirees was considerably less than the average monthly income of the working population, the difference between the two was lessened by the fact that the pensioner did not pay toward social security or tax, which, in the early 1980s, could cost the average wage earner 200 GDR marks per month.

Data as of July 1987