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Are Germans poor in European terms?

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Photo: DPA
14:48 CET+01:00
A long-awaited study by Germany's Bundesbank has sparked a debate about the relative wealth of Germans and their European counterparts.

Figures contained in the report "Households and their finances" showed that the average value of assets per household was significantly lower in Germany than in France, Spain, Italy and Austria.

Commentators were swift to put the figures in the context of Germany's role in the eurozone crisis. Television channel RTL reported on ordinary hard-working Germans supporting their much wealthier European counterparts.

Joachim Poß, parliamentary member of the centre–left SPD party, said “Before European taxpayers' money is paid out, countries that want to help should pay more attention to private wealth.”

But the applicability of the figures produced by the Bundesbank is limited on a number of levels. The data from Spain dates back to 2008, before the housing market collapsed. "Average" household wealth was measured by the median, which is the value in the middle when figures are listed in ascending order, rather than the mean, which is the figure landed at when all values are divided by the number of households in question.

While both Germany's mean and median values are low in comparison to other countries, the difference in the median value is more marked. The data also did not take into account pensions and social welfare payments.

Home ownership, which is far less common in Germany than elsewhere in Europe, is likely to have had a big impact on the figures.

While the effects of Germany's robust economy may not be being felt on the ground, a separate report released last week found that Germans were at less risk of poverty than the EU as a whole.

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The Local/kkf

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