The real income of the average German household has increased slower than inflation, according to an official government reply to a question by an opposition parliamentarian obtained by German news agency DPA.
The downward trend has even intensified in recent years – whereas in 2004 a family with two children saw their buying power increase by 0.1 percent, it fell by 1.1 percent in the two consecutive years and plummeted by 1.3 percent in 2007.
“The only thing getting fat from this upswing is the state,” Guido Westerwelle, head of the opposition Free Democrats, told DPA. He accused the government of excessive increases in both taxes and fees. “What use is a higher gross salary when this same government ensures that families overall have less in their pockets because of higher taxes and fees,” he said.
The German government has repeatedly asserted that the expanding economy was benefiting all of the country's citizens, as more jobs have been created and social security contributions have fallen.
But more than 180,000 German civil servants, including rubbish collectors and even teachers, are so badly paid they are forced to rely on income support, according to a report in the Friday edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Citing another government response to a left-wing MP, the daily said nearly 130,000 full-time state employees in healthcare, social work and education were on benefits in mid-2007. More than 50,000 others doing part-time jobs or on job-share schemes either directly for the state or with associated private enterprises also need help from the government to make ends meet.
Public sector workers have staged a series of warning strikes in recent weeks and trade union Verdi and employer representatives are currently in arbitration.
The German economy has seen an upswing in recent years with faster growth rates and lower unemployment, but strong rises in prices for power, petrol and food have led to a fall in purchasing power for many Germans.