‘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.”

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.