Merkel’s legacy for Germany in charts

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 visiting the laboratory for chemical engineering at the chemical plant of the Dow Olefinverbund GmbH in Schkopau, near Merseburg, eastern Germany.

AFP | AFP | Getty Images

It’s hard to believe now that Germany, Europe’s biggest and most successful economy, was known as the “sick man of Europe” in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Germany’s economy has grown under the leadership of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, the conservative leader who has headed the government for the past 16 years. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, a quarter (24.7%) of the European Union’s entire gross domestic product was generated by Germany, according to Eurostat.

CNBC has created five charts looking at different parts of Germany’s economy, and society, during Merkel’s tenure. They show her legacy is not only one of prosperity but also one of missed opportunities and missteps, according to some political experts.


Germany’s export-oriented economy, one predicated heavily on manufacturing, has grown steadily during Merkel’s time in office, this chart shows, and has far outpaced its rivals in the U.K. and France.

The cokery plant of German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp on Rhine river in Duisburg, western Germany in 2019.



Goldman Sachs analysts, assessing Merkel’s legacy, noted that while Merkel has had a “great success” in bringing down the unemployment rate, “much of the decline in structural unemployment likely stemmed from her predecessor’s (Gerhard Schroeder) reforms and was followed by a decade of stagnant real wages.”

Angela Merkel visiting a steelmill on August 30, 2005, in Georgsmarienhuette, Germany.

Thomas Imo | Photothek | Getty Images

The analysts noted that Merkel’s governments had nonetheless then “maintained sound public finances and adopted the constitutional debt brake, but responded forcefully during times of crisis, successfully shielding the labour market with the “Kurzarbeit” programme in 2008 and 2020.”

Kurzarbeit refers to Germany’s short-term work scheme whereby employers reduce their employees’ working hours instead of laying them off during times of crisis, like the Covid pandemic.


One area where Germany differs starkly from its counterparts France and the U.K. is its immigration landscape under Merkel. And perhaps it’s this area where her chancellery faced both widespread…

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Merkel’s legacy for Germany in charts

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