Charity associations are demanding that unemployment benefits be raised after the Federal Statistics Office announced that 13 percent of Germans are in danger of falling into poverty, largely due to unemployment.
Soups kitchens help those in need
Around 10.6 million people are at risk of becoming poor, with some 1.7 million of those being children, said Walter Radermacher, vice president of Germany's Federal Statistics Office.
Single parents, young people who left school early, the unemployed and those living in the eastern part of Germany are at the greatest risk of being trapped by poverty, according to the statistics released Tuesday.
"Unemployment and the lack of a proper educational qualification are the main factors," Radermacher said while presenting the survey called "Life in Europe," which focused on poverty.
More than 40 percent of those without jobs and a quarter of those without proper qualifications are threatened by poverty compared to only 5 percent of those who are employed, he said.
Radermacher added, however, that the definition of "poor" is based on European standards.
"You cannot compare poverty here with that in developed countries," he said.
The study considered people who earned less than 40 percent of their nation's average income as poor and people with 60 percent as in danger of falling into poverty.
Surprise expenses make the difference
Long lines for hand-outs in Munich this past October
Unexpected expenses present some of the biggest problems for over half of Germany's borderline poor. Unanticipated trips to the dentist, car or home repairs, or an accident -- all of these can turn into a major drama for the poor or nearly poor.
"Twenty-two percent of the poor said they could not go to the doctor or dentist for financial reasons, compared to 7 percent of the rest of the population," Rademacher said.
Without state funding such as unemployment benefits, social welfare, housing subsidies and family benefits, the report said nearly one-fourth of the German population would be at risk of becoming poor.
The survey compared living conditions in the 25 members of the European Union, Norway and Iceland based on information compiled from 2004.
In Germany people are considered in danger of falling into poverty if they have less than 856 euros ($1,112) at their disposal each month.
Werner Hesse, president of the German Association of Welfare Organizations, said social workers are seeing alarming developments.
"Some people cannot even buy school materials or pack lunches for their children because they don't have the money," he said.
Many retirees are also poor. Walter Hirrlinger, president of the the Vdk Social Association, an association that represents the interests of the physically challenged, seniors and patients, told the Chemnitzer Freie Presse newspaper that "more than 2 million retirees had to live on less than 650 euros."