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Old-age poverty soars in Germany

Gaps in Germany's statutory pension system have forced nearly a half-a-million retirees to turn to local welfare offices for subsistence funding. Unions and charities are demanding that the government intervene.

Germany's federal statistics bureau said on Tuesday that 465,000 retirees older than 65 were registered in 2012 as dependent on basic welfare subsidies. That was a 6.6 percent increase on the previous year and almost twice the count in 2003.

The DGB trade union federation said the true level of impoverished elderly in Germany was twice as high as the registered level given in the official statistics.

DGB presidium member Annelie Buntenbach said it was commonly known that many elderly persons among Germany's 20 million retirees felt ashamed and did not submit formal applications for basic assistance to their local authorities.

The chairman of the AWO workers' charity, Wolfgang Stadler, said without reform of Germany's pension system, which is funded by monthly transfers from employers and employees, Germany would end up with millions dependent on basic welfare assistance.

Metropolitan poverty

The statistics bureau based in Wiesbaden said German retirees classed as impoverished lived mainly in larger cities.

On average across Germany, 3 percent of all retirees drew basic welfare allowances. In Hamburg the level was 6.2 percent; in Berlin 5.3 percent, it said.

Last week, the tabloid "Bild" featured a DGB survey that indicated that 42 percent of employees in Germany assumed that on retirement their statutory pensions would be insufficient to make ends meet.

More than two-thirds said they had little or no entitlements to supplementary pensions that some employees accumulate during their working lives.

ipj/hc (epd, Reuters, AFP)