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An Insight Into Why Child Poverty in Germany is Increasing

Child Poverty in Germany

Germany has been a relatively wealthy country for years, performing well above average on the economic and social fronts. However, child poverty in Germany is a surprising new trend sweeping the nation.

Several reasons underlie this trend, but perhaps the most important of them is insufficient unemployment benefits. These benefits are called Hartz IV welfare benefits and are often used to help unemployed people afford basic necessities such as food and shelter.

An increasing dependence on welfare payments has rendered approximately 2 million children in Germany impoverished. Annette Stein, a professional from the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany states, “The longer that a child lives on welfare, the worse the consequences are.”

This can be particularly true for children who have spent a substantial period of their life in penurious conditions, which can take a serious toll on their mental and physical development, their self-esteem and overall health.

According to a report published by the UNICEF, in 2001, 10.2 percent of all German children suffered from poverty. Poverty is determined with respect to half of the median income level, and anything below this level is deemed to be inadequate to support a healthy lifestyle.

UNICEF report also noted that single parent households showed disproportionately greater rates of child poverty. This suggests that measures should be implemented in Germany to connect single parents with potential job opportunities that match their qualifications and skills. This is likely to improve household income and thus decrease child poverty.

Recently, Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister of Germany, declared an increase of two pounds in benefits offered to children. Opponents of this change argue that this increase is unlikely to significantly impact rates of child poverty in Germany.

Poverty among children in Germany is not usually due to an inability to afford necessities, but rather an incapacity to further develop themselves as well-rounded individuals through education and healthy eating.

While the situation appears bleak on the exterior, a lot can be done to change the financial predicament of children in Germany. A reduction in child poverty in Germany can be achieved through subsidies to farms and food industries to lower the price of healthy products, distribution of grants or scholarships to students for school; a thorough re-assessment of the adequate amount of benefit required to allow children to sustain and develop themselves as holistic individuals.

Tanvi Ambulkar
Photo: Flickr