‘Nearly three million’ children in Germany live in poverty

A new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation showed that child poverty in Germany is a growing problem, especially in light of the coronavirus crisis.

'Nearly three million' children in Germany live in poverty
Children working on computers at a primary school. Photo: DPA

Some 2.8 million children and young people are growing up in poverty, or 21.3 percent of all those under 18, the the Gütersloh-based Bertelsmann Foundation wrote in a report released Wednesday.

“For years, the fight against child poverty has been one of the greatest social challenges in Germany,” stated the report. “Nevertheless, there has been little improvement on the national average since 2014.”

More than one in five children is affected – with strong regional differences. 

READ ALSO: Almost 2 million children in Germany living in poverty

The proportion of minors living in families with less than 60 percent of the average income stands at 20.1 percent.

Furthermore, every seventh child – or 13.8 percent – is a beneficiary of the Hartz IV welfare system.

This is not a temporary situation, even though it's been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, said the report. Almost half of the children have been part of Hartz IV for more than four years, and another 38 percent for more than a year.

Graph translated for the Local by Statista. 

“The unresolved problem of child poverty has considerable consequences for growing up, well-being, education and future opportunities,” stated the report.

'An unbelievable scandal'

The city-states of Berlin and Bremen have a particularly high number of children and young people in financially hard circumstances. The numbers remain low in the southern states Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

At the municipal level, the survey showed drastic differences. Children are most affected by poverty in Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven, as well as in the industrial Ruhr region cities of Gelsenkirchen, Herne, Duisburg, Mönchengladbach and Dortmund.

Not surprisingly, child poverty also affects how children spend their free time. According to the analysis, two-thirds of the poor children cannot go on holiday with their families for even one week a year.

For many of them, the money is not enough to go to the cinema, a concert or a meal once a month. School trips, student exchanges or invitations home are difficult.

Chart from the Bertelsmann Foundation which shows that 21.3 percent of children are at risk of poverty. 

“Child poverty in our rich country is an unbelievable scandal, because it blocks the life chances of the smallest children”, said Dietmar Bartsch, head of the Left (Linke) parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

He criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) for failing to make any headway in recent years on the issue. 

Impacting parents

Poverty is even more likely to increase during the current coronavirus crisis, warned Jörg Dräger, the foundation's chairman. The consequences of the pandemic have hit parents of disadvantaged children especially hard. 

READ ALSO: Kids in Germany lively to grow up in poverty if mums don't work, new study finds 

They often work part-time or as mini-jobbers, and belong to the group that is the first to lose their jobs, receiving little or no short-time work compensation.

At the same time, as Dräger described, many support services for needy adolescents are no longer available. 

“The prevention of child poverty must be a political priority, especially in the coronavirus crisis.”

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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!