← back to glossary ← back to glossary

Contract worker

Foreign workers and apprentices who migrated to GDR following bilateral contracts between the GDR and European or non-European Socialist countries were known as “contract workers”. Similar to the “guest workers” in the FRG, their contracts only permitted the workers to stay temporarily in East Germany. The majority of the around 500.000 labour migrants in the GDR came from Vietnam and Mozambique. The workers usually lived isolated from the East German public in dormitories where they were strictly monitored. They were not allowed to have any contact with the local population, they could not bring their families with them to Germany and pregnancies were strictly prohibited. In some cases, the workers’ salaries were partially paid to their country of origin instead of the workers themselves (s. Madgermanes). Following the German reunification, many of the East German companies were closed down and the labour migrants in the GDR were urged to return to their countries of origin. While some were offered financial incentives, others were deported.