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25/09/2016

Child poverty in Germany increasingly the norm

Social Europe & Jobs

Child poverty in Germany increasingly the norm

The German economy is healthy, but more and more children descend into poverty. Berlin, July.

[Joel Schalit/Flickr]

Germany continues to enjoy a bright economic outlook, but more and more children are living below the poverty line according to a new study. EurActiv Germany reports.

According to the German Statistics Office, the country has collected €18.5 billion more than it has spent in the first six months of this year alone. It is a figure that has blown away previous post-reunification records.

But despite this, child poverty is on the rise in Germany. In 2015, more than 1.9 million people under 18 years-of-age lived in households that received long-term unemployment benefits under the Hartz IV welfare system. That amounts to 14.7% of all children and 52,000 more than in 2014, according to statistics released by the Federal Employment Agency.

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If the children of parents that earn less than 60% of average income were to be included in the data as well, then charity groups have estimated that 3 million children could be labelled as poor, in a country whose GDP tops $3 trillion, putting it ahead of both the UK and France when it comes to European economic powerhouses.

According to the new study, carried out by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the children that are most at risk only have one parent or have two or more siblings. Among children benefiting from state welfare, half live just with one parent and 36% have families that have three or more children.

For most of these young people it is not just a transitional phenomenon. A majority of 57% of children between seven and 15 years-old have had to rely on Hartz IV for three years or more.

The differing situations between the country’s regions is also of note. It is in the big cities where most under 18s are dependent on welfare. In Bremerhaven, the figure for 2015 is a shocking 40.5% and in the nation’s capital it is about a third.

A small positive development is in what was East Germany, where the figure sank from 24% in 2011 to 22% last year. But it is still high.

In the west, it is 13.2% compared with 12.4% in 2011.

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The study showed that the consequences of this can be profound and long lasting. Poorer children are often isolated from society and have a lower standard of health. Additionally, they frequently have to share a room, eat unhealthily, cannot afford public transport and miss out on an education, hobbies and holidays.

The researchers’ analysis brought together 59 other studies over the last two years and concluded that up to this point there has been “no systematic and scientific analysis of the consequences and impact of poverty on children”.

Member of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s board Jörg Dräger warned that “children in poverty cannot change their own living situation by themselves. That is why the state has a particular responsibility here.”

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