1 in 7 German children growing up poor

The number of children living on the basic welfare payments known as Hartz IV may be shrinking, but latest figures from the Federal Employment Agency (BA) show that one in seven German children is still dependent on those benefits.

1 in 7 German children growing up poor
Photo: DPA

The problem of child poverty is spread unevenly around the country, the Saarbrücker Zeitung reported on Thursday. In the southern state of Bavaria, the figure is just 6.8 percent, but in the German capital Berlin, more than a third of children rely on Hartz IV.

More than 1.6 million children under the age of 15 receive welfare payments nationwide – though that marks a drop of over 81,000 kids since 2005, the year Hartz IV was introduced.

But Sabine Zimmermann, social affairs expert for the socialist Left party, told the paper that the trend does not reflect a drop in the number of needy children in Germany overall.

“Unfortunately, it’s still the case in Germany that poverty poses the biggest risk to children,” she said.

Though fewer children are on Hartz IV compared to seven years ago, Zimmermann said more and more families are taking advantage of the children’s allowance, or Kinderzuschlag. These payments go to parents who make enough money to support themselves, but who would otherwise depend on Hartz IV to support their children.

More than five times as many children – or more than 210,000 – received those payments in August 2012, compared to the end of 2005, when the figure was just under 41,000.

The Local/arp

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‘Nearly three million’ children in Germany live in poverty

A new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation showed that child poverty in Germany is a growing problem, especially in light of the coronavirus crisis.

'Nearly three million' children in Germany live in poverty
Children working on computers at a primary school. Photo: DPA

Some 2.8 million children and young people are growing up in poverty, or 21.3 percent of all those under 18, the the Gütersloh-based Bertelsmann Foundation wrote in a report released Wednesday.

“For years, the fight against child poverty has been one of the greatest social challenges in Germany,” stated the report. “Nevertheless, there has been little improvement on the national average since 2014.”

More than one in five children is affected – with strong regional differences. 

READ ALSO: Almost 2 million children in Germany living in poverty

The proportion of minors living in families with less than 60 percent of the average income stands at 20.1 percent.

Furthermore, every seventh child – or 13.8 percent – is a beneficiary of the Hartz IV welfare system.

This is not a temporary situation, even though it's been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, said the report. Almost half of the children have been part of Hartz IV for more than four years, and another 38 percent for more than a year.

Graph translated for the Local by Statista. 

“The unresolved problem of child poverty has considerable consequences for growing up, well-being, education and future opportunities,” stated the report.

'An unbelievable scandal'

The city-states of Berlin and Bremen have a particularly high number of children and young people in financially hard circumstances. The numbers remain low in the southern states Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

At the municipal level, the survey showed drastic differences. Children are most affected by poverty in Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven, as well as in the industrial Ruhr region cities of Gelsenkirchen, Herne, Duisburg, Mönchengladbach and Dortmund.

Not surprisingly, child poverty also affects how children spend their free time. According to the analysis, two-thirds of the poor children cannot go on holiday with their families for even one week a year.

For many of them, the money is not enough to go to the cinema, a concert or a meal once a month. School trips, student exchanges or invitations home are difficult.

Chart from the Bertelsmann Foundation which shows that 21.3 percent of children are at risk of poverty. 

“Child poverty in our rich country is an unbelievable scandal, because it blocks the life chances of the smallest children”, said Dietmar Bartsch, head of the Left (Linke) parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

He criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) for failing to make any headway in recent years on the issue. 

Impacting parents

Poverty is even more likely to increase during the current coronavirus crisis, warned Jörg Dräger, the foundation's chairman. The consequences of the pandemic have hit parents of disadvantaged children especially hard. 

READ ALSO: Kids in Germany lively to grow up in poverty if mums don't work, new study finds 

They often work part-time or as mini-jobbers, and belong to the group that is the first to lose their jobs, receiving little or no short-time work compensation.

At the same time, as Dräger described, many support services for needy adolescents are no longer available. 

“The prevention of child poverty must be a political priority, especially in the coronavirus crisis.”