A Vietnamese Guest Worker Assembles Refrigerators at DKK Scharfenstein, a Publicly Owned Enterprise (1980)
After the GDR government signed treaties with Poland (1963, 1966, 1971), Hungary (1967), Algeria (1974), Cuba (1978), Mozambique (1979), Vietnam (1973, 1980), Mongolia (1982), Angola (1985) and China (1986), citizens of these countries began coming to the GDR for occupational training or employment as so-called contract workers. From the mid-1970s onwards, contract workers were viewed primarily in terms of their economic usefulness for the GDR economy – these workers were to help remedy the country’s chronic and systemic labor shortage – and occupational training faded into the background. Over time, the Vietnamese workers’ community developed into the country’s largest: in 1988, Vietnam accounted for nearly 51,000 of the GDR’s approximately 85,300 contract workers. Photo by Gerhard Kiesling.