Why poverty among pensioners continues to rise in Germany

Why poverty among pensioners continues to rise in Germany
Photo: DPA
The number of seniors at risk of poverty has risen by one-third since 2010, new data from Germany’s Statistical Office has revealed.

According to these figures, almost every fifth pensioner in Germany – or 3.2 million people in total – is now threatened by old-age poverty, reported German broadcaster ARD.

That is 215,000 more than in the previous year, and 803,000 more people than in 2010.

The current figures stem from 2017, as data for the years 2018 and 2019 are not yet available.

While 14 percent of pensioners and retirees were still at risk of poverty in 2010, their share rose to 18.7 percent in 2017 – or almost 33 percent.

Who is at risk?

According to the statistical definition, those at risk are single people who have an income of €13,628 or less per year at their disposal.

Precarious employment, part-time work, fixed-term contracts and breaks in working life for mothers can lead to financial struggles later in life.

The proportion of pensioners at risk of poverty could furthermore rise from 16.8 to 21.6 percent by 2039, according to research published in September by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

That's the case even if the economy remains in good shape, researchers say. Groups particularly affected are low-skilled workers, single people – especially women – and people who've experienced long periods of unemployment.

READ ALSO: Old-age poverty in Germany 'set to rise significantly'

Pension system under pressure

According to experts, the development is expected to intensify in the coming years.

“Old-age poverty will increase again very, very significantly in the next 10 to 15 years, because we have more and more people who work for low wages or have part-time or interrupted employment throughout their lives,” Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) told ARD.

The pension system is also under pressure as the population gets older. The current research uses data from 2018 that shows there are 31 people aged 67 and over in every 100 people of working age – and this could rise to 47 after the baby boomers enter retirement in 2038.

Germany is currently considering increasing the pension age from 65 to 69 in light of longer lifespans.

READ ALSO: Should Germany increase the retirement age to 69?

In ARD’s programme, several people already affected by poverty in old age had their say: They have to get by with €250 a month, and use the money to pay for food, clothing and repairs – even though they have worked all their lives.

In order to escape poverty by the time a person reaches old age, a full-time job requires a minimum hourly wage of €12, DIW head Marcel Fratzscher stated.

The minimum wage in Germany is still far from this: since January 1st, it has been €9.35.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in January 2020


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  1. The “Baby Boomers” enter retirement in 2038? Wow – I do not – it means that they must work until they are at least 74 and possibly 98.
    Check your dates Local!!!!!

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