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Germany

Leap in Child Poverty Worries Advocates

A recent survey highlighted the alarming rise in child poverty in Germany. Advocacy groups blame recent changes in the social welfare system.

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More and more German kids live under the poverty line.

A leading social welfare support group says child poverty has reached a new peak in Germany's post-World War II history.

Ulrich Schneider, managing director of the Paritätisch Wohlfahrtsverband association of charities, said the reforms known as Harz IV have led to a drastic cut in benefits for the long-term unemployed, which in turn has had a severe financial impact on thousands of children across Germany.

East hit hardest

The subsistence-level benefits being paid out to the needy now are too little for too many, Schneider argued. Poverty among children under age 15 has risen 14.2 percent since the end of 2004, to over 1.5 million affected.

Kinder in der Vorschule

The situation in the eastern part of the country is particularly alarming, Schneider said. Every third child there is poor. The most affected areas are Berlin, Schwerin, Goerlitz and Halle. Schneider called for special payments to be granted to poor families to finance school supplies.

"It’s yet unclear what it means for our society if in the eastern areas, every third child lives on benefits that are far too low to enable them to take an active part in social life," he said. "These kids will never enjoy music courses or computer training, go to a sports club, visit a zoo and the like. This situation is appalling."

Seeking a fix

Schneider also said it is vital to ensure that kids from poorer backgrounds are given equal opportunities in the educational system. Recent studies show that nowhere else in Western society does a child’s social background have such an impact on his educational opportunities.

On Thursday, German Social Democrat family minister Renate Schmidt presented a report on the situation of families in Germany, compiled by an independent advisory panel. The report highlighted the current shortcomings in the state’s help for parents and single mothers.

"I particularly support the part of the study that emphasizes the necessity for more financial assistance to parents in the first year after a child is born," Schmidt said. "Our election manifesto includes proposals to this effect. We want to make sure that parents get more support for raising their kids at home -- without incurring painful financial losses."

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