Low-income workers in Germany ‘left behind’ in the vaccination rollout

Low-income workers in Germany 'left behind' in the vaccination rollout
A supermarket worker in Leipzig wearing gloves and handing back cash to a customer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas
Germany now has a stable and plentiful supply of Covid vaccines at the moment - but those in lower income jobs have been left behind, a new survey shows.

Despite major progress in Covid-19 vaccinations in Germany, many people are still waiting for an appointment.

And low-income earners in particular are falling behind, according to a survey by the Economic and Social Science Institute (WSI), which is part of the Hans Böckler Foundation.

According to the survey, in June 2021 only 49 percent of respondents in the bottom fifth of wage distribution in Germany said they had received at least one jab.

In comparison, 71 percent of higher earners reported having received at least one vaccine dose.. A total of 4,500 employees took part in the survey conducted by Lohnspiegel.de portal.

READ ALSO: Why Covid vaccine demand is dropping in Germany

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Now there are calls for Germany to focus more on groups of the population which don’t have as much access to vaccines. 

“With enough vaccine available in the summer months, all sections of the population must now have access to vaccination,” said Aline Zucco, an expert on distribution issues at the WSI. “Offering vaccination in the workplace is an important building block for this.”

The latest data shows that 56.8 percent of the population has received at least one jab, and 39.3 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Why aren’t more shop employees jabbed?

According to the survey, people who are unvaccinated with low wages include many employees who were hailed as the heroes of the crisis at the beginning of the pandemic.

These include, for example, shop workers: just over half of the respondents (52 percent) employed in this sector said they’d received at least one jab. 

But according to Germany’s Covid vaccination laws, food retail workers were supposed to be given priority for vaccination, and were even placed in priority group 3.

Yet as the priority list was removed so quickly in June, “many workers were left out”, said Zucco. “Now quite a few of them apparently can’t find their way in the jungle around appointment allocation.”

Among low-income earners, however, the proportion of those who do not want to be vaccinated is also significantly higher – at nine percent – than among higher-income earners (four percent).

Zucco said that in-house company doctors could play a key role in helping key workers on the front line get their jabs. 

“If the company doctor offers an uncomplicated vaccination during working hours, many additional people can be reached that way,” said Zucco.

“And if your own colleagues go for vaccination, that might also convince some who are still hesitant at the moment.”

As The Local has been reporting, there have been major differences on how the vaccine is being rolled out across Germany depending on where you live. 

Now some states are launching their own campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy, by presenting inoculation as the gateway to freedom, holidays and fun.

In Bavaria, for example, the “Ich tu’s für…” (I’m doing it for…) campaign gives numerous reasons why people could get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: Why are some parts of Germany still not vaccinating people in their 60s?

Vocabulary 

Low-income earners – (die) Geringverdiener 

High or higher earners (die) Besserverdiener

Heroines and heroes- (die) Heldinnen und Helden

Jungle – (der) Dschungel 

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.


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  1. What I believe many “Experts” miss is that people working “9-5” jobs, possibly also Saturdays, are aware that being vaccinated also usually means you feel like crap next Day. And if they go on a Day Off they lose the day after that, or would even have to go into work feeling awful. I’m not saying that this is a good reason not to get vaccinated- I believe that everyone who can, should – but they may need to think of incentives to get these people jabbed

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