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German poverty hits record highs

Despite low unemployment, German poverty has hit record highs.

Published: March 8, 2017, 10:35 am

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    A new report revealed that more Germans are poorer now than at any time since reunification.

    And the number of German pensioners below the Equal Welfare Association’s poverty line has risen by an alarming 49 percent in a decade.

    Wolfram Friedersdorf, head of the People’s Solidarity Association, called it an “avalanche” of old-age poverty. Regions most affected by hardship for the aged, were Berlin and the Ruhr region of North Rhine-Westphalia.

    “With 15.7 percent of Germans in poverty, we have unfortunately reached a high point since reunification,” Ulrich Schneider, head of the Equal Welfare Association, said last week.

    The Association says that 12.9 million people in Germany were living below the poverty barrier in 2015, and in 2005, 14.7 percent of Germans were living below the level.

    “Economic developments have not been reducing poverty for a long time,” Schneider pointed out.

    The figures are based on official figures from the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) which records the proportion of the population with an income less than 60 percent of that of the median German household.

    While Destatis classifies people below the 60 percent mark as “threatened by poverty”, the Equal Welfare Association’s describes them as poor.

    More worrying too is that the increase in poverty comes despite years of falling unemployment figures.

    In February, unemployment in Germany registred an all-time low, official data showed las week, at 5.9 percent – the same level as in January and its lowest level since German reunification in 1990.

    Last year Passauer Neue Presse reported figures collected by the EU statistics agency Eurostat, showing a marked increase in old-age poverty.

    Some 5.6 million residents over 55 were living in poverty or affected by social marginalization. This is a stark increase – nearly 25 percent – from a decade ago, when the number stood at 4.5 million.

    The unemployed and single parents were both particularly vulnerable to poverty, according to the Equal Welfare Association report.

    A third of all foreigners lived in poverty, while a quarter of all families with three or more children faced this hardship.

    At 20.7 percent, the rate of poverty among the elderly in Germany is far above that of the Netherlands, which has just 11.9 percent of its elderly population in dire financial woes.

    “Poverty is spreading all over Germany,” said Sabine Zimmerman, a member of parliament with the opposition Left party who analyzed the statistics. “Fighting poverty requires an all-encompassing plan that the current government doesn’t appear to be concerned about.”

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