When businesses take on people who have been unemployed, the state will top up low wages via job centres to help them into work, but this has led to many cases where employers are clearly taking advantage of the situation.
Next month a lawyer from Brandenburg will appear in Senftenberg labour court for paying his two office workers an hourly rate of €1.70 – meaning that although they were working, they were almost fully supported by the state.
Last month the same court ordered a firm in Lünnenau to pay a salesman €1,560 in back pay after employing him for just €2.84 an hour. The court said he should have received twice as much. A pizza delivery firm was sued by the Uckermark job centre for paying its workers €1.59, €1.65 and €2.72 an hour.
There are no numbers to show how many people are being paid such pathetic wages, which effectively condemns them to remain dependent on subsistence-level government top-ups, but Berlin and Brandenburg state governments are setting up a working group on the matter.
Such wages, along with part-time jobs and shift-work are some of the reasons why statistics show that although there are more jobs in Germany than ever, the risk of being poor here has risen slightly.
The 'Data Report 2013' issued by the National Statistics Office, shows that last year 41.6 million people in Germany had a job – more than ever before, the Süddeutsche newspaper reported on Tuesday.
But at the same time the risk of being poor was rising – 16.1 percent of people in Germany were officially classified as 'poverty endangered' – a rise of 0.9 percent on the figure from 2007. Those who had less than €980 a month were considered poor.
Those most at risk were people between 18 and 24, as they were most likely to be in education or training – and people between 55 and 64. Women were also significantly more likely to be poor than men, the numbers showed.
Being poor means people die earlier than those with more money, the figures also showed. Men in the lowest income group died nearly 11 years earlier than those with more money. For women the cost was eight years of life.
Germany's main two political parties are this week wrangling over whether to introduce a universal minimum wage, which the Social Democrats have long called to be set at €8.50 an hour.