The observed disparities in regional labour markets are pronounced and permanent. There is a large disparity in the level of unemployment and wages between regions in Germany. Over a period of time there are regional differences.
The independent city Bochum in the administrative district Arnsberg is one of five regional centre of the Ruhr area and has got about 380,000 inhabitants. It is the second largest city in Westphalia and among the 20 largest cities in Germany. But this region is in a declining situation.
For years, factories in the city of Bochum closed, including alleged future industries such as the manufacturing and development of mobile phones from Nokia or the corporation Benq. Steel and coal were already on the decline longer before. And now after 50 years, Bochum will lose Opel and so one of the remaining large industrial employers next year, and that is a radical step.
Since 1962, Opel has produced in Bochum and Bochum-Laer-Langendreer. After almost 50 years, the Opel plant in Bochum will completely close its doors at the end of next year. More than 3.700 people will lose their jobs. But the question is: Why Bochum? The workers in Bochum are not less industrious than their Opel counterparts in Poland, Spain, England, Rüsselsheim and Eisenach. Since 1929, the Opel Adam AG belongs to GM, an U.S. automotive group. The business in Europe is declining for them, so GM closes some production sites. The main problem is, that Opel belongs to GM. Bochum needs some own sectors, which belong to the city.
The switch to new, highly productive sectors of the economy is in crises: Only a quarter of employees work in knowledge-intensive industries, only 11 percent have university degrees, half as many as in Munich or Stuttgart. The result is, that Bochum and it`s economy are shrinking. Between 2005 and 2011, the population fell by about 3 percent. By 2025 a forecast says, that Bochum will have the fifth highest population loss among 30 cities with a declining population, and it is expected to be about 6 percent. The people have to search new work in other regions. The best chances are if they are willing to move: In Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in the south of Germany there are car supplier, which pay cash for these workers like in Bochum – so big is their lack of skilled workers.
Enterprises and workers are not spread evenly across the region, but they are concentrating in certain regions. There are important questions concerning the regional disparities of certain target variables such as employment, participation and unemployment. There are some factors that influence the spatial distribution of economic activity, such transport costs, market potential or spill over effects. With a view to sharing the infrastructure and suppliers and service structures, the transfer of knowledge and innovation and the regional matching of labour supply and demand are very important today. It must also be considered, that the importance of different factors over time changes, which in turn has consequences for workers, enterprises, regions and Institutions. Certain regions, like Bochum now, need to recognize these developments early enough, to be able to fight against them.
written by Timo Bug, Nicolas Lauer, Matthias Lerch