East German Flight Strains Resources in West

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BEHIND a turquoise-blue curtain in the Michael's School gymnasium here stand three sets of metal-frame bunk beds, a table, and a row of gym lockers. This is where Ullrich K"ohler, his wife, Renate, and their two children have lived for eight weeks. They can expect to live here for a year and a half, according to local authorities in Bonn.

The K"ohlers are from southern East Germany and are looking for a two-bedroom apartment for 850 marks (about $512) a month, heat included.

``There are apartments around, but we can't afford any of them,'' says Mr. K"ohler, even though he and his wife have both found jobs.

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This and similar stories are typical in large and small cities all over West Germany. In a new era of open borders, guarantee of West German citizenship for all Germans has turned into a burden for West Germany.

Last year, 720,000 East Germans and ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe moved to West Germany. This year, Germans from both groups arrive at a rate of about 3,000 a day - more than a million for the year.

With housing markets tight in West Germany, the only places to put new arrivals are in gyms, military barracks, on ships in Hamburg harbor, and in refitted cargo containers in West Berlin. West Germany is building subsidized housing as fast as it can. But even by boosting its budget and building plans over the next four years, it still can't meet demand.

The outlook for the job market is mixed. There's a need for skilled workers, such as carpenters and construction workers, and the East Germans are snapping up these jobs. But in fields such as teaching and medicine, there's a surplus.

The overcrowding is prompting politicians to rein in financial support for newcomers. Since January, unemployed arrivals receive a flat monthly stipend instead of unemployment benefits - which works out to be less of an expense for the government.

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