REVEALED: German children less satisfied with life than those in other countries

German children are less happy with life than than their counterparts in neighbouring countries, a new study on the well-being of youngsters has found.

REVEALED: German children less satisfied with life than those in other countries
Photo: DPA

The report by UNICEF’s Office of Research Innocenti, urges governments to improve and protect child well-being in the face of the economic, social and educational fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Many of the world’s richest countries – which have the resources they need to provide good childhoods for all – are failing children,” said Gunilla Olsson, director of the research office, which is located in Florence, Italy. 

According to the representative survey published on Thursday, 75 percent of girls and boys in Germany say they are very satisfied with their lives. However, in the Netherlands that number is 90 percent, in Switzerland it's 82 percent and in France 80 percent of kids are happy.

The lowest value was in Turkey where just 53 percent of children said they had high life satisfaction, followed by Japan (62 percent) and the UK (64 percent).

READ ALSO: 'Nearly three million' children in Germany live in poverty

Rudi Tarneden, spokesperson for Unicef Germany in Cologne said 75 percent was a “good figure” on the surface, but he added: “You can also turn it around and say: one in four children is not very satisfied. And that is not so good by international comparison.”

He said the fact that parents of many German children are more driven by worry and fear than in other countries certainly played a role. “If the adults don't convey much confidence, this is reflected in the children's attitudes,” he said.

The survey also found in Germany only 72 percent of girls and boys say it's easy for them to make friends. At the other end of the scale, 83 percent of children in Romania feel it's easy to make friends.

READ ALSO: Germany to start paying out €300 Kinderbonus

Charity bosses say greater emphasis must be placed on promoting social skills in schools. In addition to Estonia and Poland, Germany also has the highest number of adolescents who think they are too fat or too thin.

Despite a long phase of economic boom, child poverty in Germany has remained relatively constant, said Tarneden.

Germany in 14th place when it comes to well-being

The study compared the well-being of children in 41 OECD and EU countries. The focus was on mental and physical health as well as social skills.

In the overall assessment, the study rated the well-being of children best in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Finland. Germany snagged the 14th spot. The worst performers were Chile, Bulgaria and the United States.

Screenshot of top 20 countries. Source: Unicef

“Prosperity does not automatically mean that all children develop well,” said Tarneden. “What we have in western industrial societies is a diversity of childhood situations.

“The perfect family portrayed in TV adverts is an illusion. Far too many children are left behind, even in our country.”

Coronavirus crisis has impact on children

According to UNICEF, the burden of the coronavirus pandemic is huge, with long school closures having a major impact on the mental and physical health of many children.

“It is clear to everyone that children who have a stable home and are encouraged and supported there will come out of the crisis better than those who sit alone in a high-rise housing estate during the day, and distract themselves with games on the PC or cell phone,” said Tarneden.

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage

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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!