How much poverty is there in Germany?
Although Germany was the 20th richest country in the world in 2022 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), poverty is a serious problem here too. To make this major topic a little more tangible, in this article, we take a look at the questions of what poverty actually means, which groups are particularly at risk of poverty and what can be done to combat poverty.
- What is poverty?
- When is someone considered poor in Germany?
- Current figures on poverty in Germany
- What are the reasons for poverty in Germany?
- Who is particularly at risk of poverty?
- How many children live in poverty?
- What is the German government doing to combat poverty?
- How you can take action against poverty yourself
What is poverty?
Poverty essentially means that there is a lack of resources that severely impairs the quality of life and well-being of those affected. There are numerous definitions of poverty, with the concepts of absolute and relative poverty being the most common in science and politics.
- Absolute poverty means that a person lives below the subsistence level and cannot even afford to meet their basic needs. Basic needs include: Food, clothing, housing and access to medical care.
- Relative poverty , on the other hand, looks at a person’s financial situation in comparison to their social environment. Relative poverty also takes into account social inequalities, some of which are reflected in the fact that the people concerned can only participate in social life to a limited extent for monetary reasons. For the people affected in Germany, poverty manifests itself, for example, in poorer access to education, healthcare and housing.
When is someone considered poor in Germany?
There are various approaches to determining who and how many people are affected by poverty. We present the three most important ones.
Measurement based on the at-risk-of-poverty threshold
The most commonly used method for determining poverty in Germany is to look at the poverty risk threshold. It stipulates that all people who have less than 60% of the median income of the population as a whole are considered to be at risk of poverty. According to the microcensus study on income and living conditions, the threshold value in Germany was in 2022:
- for single people with a net income of €15,000 per year
- for a household with two adults and two children under the age of 14 with a net income of €31,500 per year
In its overview, the Federal Statistical Office also provides further detailed information on previous years and on the at-risk-of-poverty rate for different age groups and genders.
Measurement based on the World Bank’s absolute poverty line
The World Bank’s approach, which is widely used internationally, has set a fixed US dollar amount as a benchmark for measuring poverty. This means that anyone who has less than $2.15 (purchasing power) per day in the respective currency is considered extremely poor. In 2017, the World Bank also introduced two additional poverty lines of $3.65 and $6.85 to reflect the realities of different countries (more information here).
Holistic view through the Human Development Index (HDI)
In addition to income, the Human Development Index also takes into account education, life expectancy and regional/local poverty thresholds in various countries.
It looks at the long-term progress of a country’s population on the basis of three aspects:
- A long and healthy life for people
- Access to knowledge
- An adequate standard of living
The HDI thus goes beyond purely monetary resources and also considers things such as state of health, housing situation and the possibility of personal development. With a value of 0.942 (maximum = 1), Germany is relatively high up on the scale. The United Nations Human Development Report provides more details and comparisons with other countries.
Current figures on poverty in Germany
In Germany, the Federal Statistical Office measures the at-risk-of-poverty rate. According to a press release from March 2023, around 14.7 million people were at risk of poverty in 2022, or around 16% of the population. There has been a clear increase here compared to previous years, particularly between 2018 and 2021.
Looking at the federal states, according to Statista, the at-risk-of-poverty rate in 2022 was highest in Bremen at 28.4%, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia at 19.5% and Saxony-Anhalt at 19.3%. 6.1% of the population, or 5.1 million people in Germany, were affected by significant material and social deprivation in 2022. This means that their living conditions were significantly restricted due to a lack of financial resources. Further data on this topic can be found in the Federal Government’s Poverty and Wealth Report.
What are the reasons for poverty in Germany?
There are various causes of poverty, but they are often linked to a person’s social background. On average, children from socially disadvantaged families have significantly worse starting conditions and fewer resources than those from, for example, disadvantaged families. Academic households.
The dependence of one’s own development on social background is referred to as “social mobility”. This varies from country to country, as the OECD overview shows. This measures how long it takes for the offspring of a family from the lowest income decile (lowest 10 percent) to reach the average income. In Germany, this currently amounts to 6 generations, which speaks for low social mobility in comparison. In addition, there are other factors such as individual life circumstances and events, migration and flight or one’s own family situation, which we will describe in more detail in the next chapter.
Who is particularly at risk of poverty?
As can be seen in the chart from the Federal Agency for Civic Education, there are certain population groups in Germany that are particularly at risk of poverty. We take a closer look at some of them here.
How many children live in poverty?
According to the Bertelsmann Stiftung ‘s factsheet “Child and youth poverty in Germany”, more than one in five children, i.e. almost 3 million children, were at risk of poverty in 2021. The risk of poverty is particularly high in families with single parents or with more than two children (see Chapter 5).
One of the main reasons for this is that the parents’ financial situation has a direct impact on the children. This means that if parents work in the low-wage sector or are dependent on social benefits, there is, simply put, little left for the children. Due to their income situation, they often suffer from an unhealthy diet, poorer educational opportunities and less social participation and often feel the effects for the rest of their lives.
This dependency is also reinforced by the fact that any additional income earned by the children is offset against the parents’ social benefits. It was therefore hardly worthwhile for her to take on a part-time job, as monthly additional earnings of over €100 were almost entirely subject to crediting. This changed with the amendment to the law on July 1, 2023, according to which additional income of pupils, trainees and students up to €520 is exempt from offsetting (more on this here).
According to a survey of children and young people (aged 10-17) conducted by the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk in 2023, another main reason for the persistence of child poverty is the lack of support and encouragement in education.
What is the German government doing to combat poverty?
Germany is a welfare state, as enshrined in the Basic Law(GG Articles 20 and 28). “This means that the legislator in the Federal Republic must also take care of social justice and the social security of citizens,” writes the German Bundestag. Germany therefore has a range of measures in place to prevent or alleviate poverty.
How you can take action against poverty yourself
In addition to state institutions, many charitable organizations are also committed to helping people at risk of or affected by poverty. And you can support them. For example, by accompanying children and young people on their educational journey as a mentor, helping newcomers to arrive in Germany with a sponsorship or helping to care for people in need in food banks, clothing stores or emergency shelters.
At vostel.de there are countless ways in which you can get involved in the fight against poverty and for more equal opportunities in Germany.
Your team from vostel.de
wishes you every success with your commitment against poverty in Germany!