• Germany's news in English

Leading Germany's kids down a dead-end street

The Local · 10 Feb 2010, 15:08

Published: 10 Feb 2010 15:08 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Children’s lives are not worth a fraction of their parents’ lives, according to the Constitutional Court. The justices in Karlsruhe on Tuesday also reminded us that German society has committed itself to ensuring everyone has a basic level of subsistence. An illustrious ruling, yet it was still a depressing day.

In regards to Germany’s children, it’s never been so vital to stick to the principles of the welfare state – yet it’s never been so difficult to do so. The high court indirectly confirmed this by stressing it did not wish to provide concrete answers, preferring to leave this onus to the country’s politicians.

The decision simply highlights the problem at hand: 1.7 million children under the age of 14 currently live from Hartz IV welfare benefits. That’s every sixth child in Germany and growing. Berlin is a perfect example. The parts of the city with high levels of unemployment are also blessed with an abundance of children. But those who would consider the future of these kids exclusively the responsibility of their parents should think otherwise. If we let them head down a dead-end street, we will waste our only natural resource – creative and productive minds. These “problem children” are the demographic hope of the German welfare state.

But social and educational dead-end streets are not solely the product of lacking means – they also occur through the exclusion caused by child poverty. Such childhoods are deprived of music classes, sport and other extracurricular activities. Worst of all, they won’t have the example of self-sufficient working parents to follow. That’s why simply increasing Hartz IV benefits would be the wrong answer to the court decision, and not only because it would be prohibitively expensive. That would be the same indifferent attitude taken towards people on welfare before the Hartz IV reforms: We’ll pay for these people, but not give a damn about them.

Five years on, it would appear Hartz IV has failed to make the German social security net – facing strains from both demographics and globalisation – fit for the future. The latest court decision does not change the underlying impetus that pushed Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s centre-left coalition to these reforms. Social benefits must first and foremost be financed by taxpayers. Each welfare payment makes the cost of labour higher – which in turn makes the job market more difficult.

The principle of helping people in need while demanding that the able-bodied work only functioned for a short time before being blindsided by cold, hard reality. Firstly because companies used the labour market’s new flexibility to exploit temporary workers on a grand scale. Then the global financial crisis devoured the rest of the modest headway that had been made in putting people back in work. After that, there wasn’t much money left over with which to help people.

The consequence? Welfare payments for growing children probably never should have been calculated as a crude percentage of support for adults on the dole. Healthy food, theatre, music and sport at full-day schools would be more beneficial to them. Politicians must finally find the answer to our educational lethargy and use our meagre public funding were it helps children best. They should also implement a minimum wage to halt workers’ income from spiralling further downward. But this is the most depressing aspect of the Constitutional Court’s utterly predictable ruling.

Story continues below…

The federal government should have seen it coming, yet has chosen to waste what precious little money it has for children. The recent decision to raise the Kindergeld child subsidy did not apply to the 1.7 million kids on the dole and it won’t help them either at home or in school.

This commentary was published with the kind permission of Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, where it originally appeared in German. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

21:16 February 12, 2010 by tollermann
All talk, if children were so important you would start having them instead of going on your month long vacations! It is al about priorities, cradle to grave socialism or personal freedom? I know which I chose by emmigrating to America!
20:08 February 15, 2010 by Talonx
Tollermann, one could also think of it as, altruism or selfishness.
22:07 February 15, 2010 by derExDeutsche
what socialists do not understand, is that;

just like with Birds in winter, if you set out a bird feeder for them, there will be hundreds of birds, take the feeding station away, and they die. because through coddling, they have lost the ability to feed themselves. Good thing they are having so many children! So that way Socialist already have their future voter base!! Thank you, Reliance on the State!
20:26 February 16, 2010 by Johnny Cash
Just imagine how much taxpayers money would still be in the government coffers, to avoided this crisis in the first place, if the governments move from Bonn to Berlin had been delayed until the economy was in better shape. Pride comes before a fall is an appropriate truism in this case. Why is anyone having children at the moment in Germany when it is obvious for normal kids that there is a very precarious future for them at this point in time. The world is crawling with people so how about a break for a couple of generations to give everyone some breathing room and give the environment time to recover from the battering overpopulation has dealt it. If people don't start doing this voluntarily be assured the New World Order control freaks are working on the solution right now and it will not be pretty.
22:00 February 17, 2010 by Talonx
derExDeutsche, actually those birds don't die from coddeling, but because we have encroached on their land and taken away the formerly abundant resources on which they thrived they are kept alive artificially by things like bird feeders. Your analogy is anything but analogous. Come up with something that actually makes sense, if you want to front a legitimate argument.
21:41 February 18, 2010 by c westbrook
The problem is bigger than just immigration. When the state rewards poverty and uses tax's as a penalty for success people are not motivated to succeed.
22:15 February 18, 2010 by Talonx
Westbrook, wow, the number of idiots on these boards that think unemployment is the fault of the unemployed or, further still, that the unemployed and poverty stricken percieve themselves as being rewarded or even feel the least bit rewarded, especially considering #ssholes like westbrook that shove it in their face at every oppurtunity.
13:47 February 23, 2010 by Dead Soul
As long as I can remember Germany has been run on the 40/60 principle: that's to say, 40 per cent of its citizens produce the wealth that enables the remaining 60 per cent to live, for the most part, quite comfortably. While it's not a bad system, it does rely on its citizens to be complicit in this undertaking - which for the most part they are. The productive 40 per cent, working in areas which don't generally tax the imagination, but do demand a certain level of application - and giving them their due for a change, the Germans are by nature grafters - get to feel the world won't turn without them: while the Ibsen heroines who like to fanny around in Berlin, making a huge deal of picturesque family-oriented living are protected from any circumstances (otherwise known as 'Going Out To Work') which might force them to re-evaluate their lives, their relationships, their priorities. The genuinely disadvantaged - what my Scottish chum calls 'poor wee souls' - suffer, of course they do, but even they are to some degree complicit. (The homeless publications, which could in fact serve as platforms for some quite radical ideation - along the lines of The Big Issue - actually make you want to shoot yourself in the head, so catatonically self-pitying are they.)

As I say, it's not a bad system. Systems run on the principles of codependency and inwardness have a certain durability: and those of us who come from outside, having been run ragged in more open societies, would be lying if we didn't admit that as an attractant. (Foreigners are just as complicit as anyone else, in terms of supporting the system here.)

Liberal journalists can't do much. But they can open their minds. How many journalists at Der Tagesspiegel would be prepared to begin an article with the words, 'Actually, my life is pretty good...'? Because that's the only honest point of departure for anyone who wants to change anything.
13:21 February 28, 2010 by Talonx
Dead Soul, excellent analysis.
Today's headlines
Obama to visit Berlin in last presidential trip to Germany
President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel during a Berlin trip in 2013. Photo: DPA.

The White House announced on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama will be paying one last unexpected visit to the German capital - his last before he leaves office.

Hostility towards minorities 'widespread in Bavaria'
A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.

Hated RB Leipzig emerge as shock challengers to Bayern
RB Leipzig. Photo: DPA

RB Leipzig's remarkable unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season has seen them suddenly emerge at the head of the pack chasing reigning champions and league leaders Bayern Munich.

Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd