One in Eight Germans Lives in Poverty | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 18.05.2008
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One in Eight Germans Lives in Poverty

One in eight Germans lives in the poverty and the divide between rich and poor is growing, according to a new government report. The labor minister said that's evidence Germany needs a minimum wage.

A homeless man holds a sign that reads: For life

The ranks of poor people are steadily rising in Germany

Thirteen percent of Germans live at the poverty level and another 13 percent would as well if it weren't for the country's social welfare programs, the country's labor and social affairs minister Olaf Scholz said in an interview with newspaper Bild am Sonntag about the government's latest poverty report, which is to be released on Monday, May 19.

"The divide between poor and rich has gotten wider again," said Scholz, adding that single parents and those facing long-term unemployment were most affected.

"I find it particularly concerning that the number of those who are employed and still live at the poverty level has risen," the minister said. "That shows that our wages are too low in Germany and we need a minimum wage."

According to the report, the number of homeless in Germany has dropped by 50 percent since 1998, falling from 530,000 to 254,000. But many of those who formerly lived on the street are apparently still living in poverty.

The European Union defines "poor" as earning less than 60 percent of the average income. For single people, that means 781 euros a month ($1,217) after tax, Scholz said. In contrast, a single person who earns more than 3,418 euros a month after taxes is considered wealthy.

"It hurts when you have to count every cent," said Scholz, but the worst part is "when you have the feeling that you can't do anything about your situation and don't have the chance to improve your life."

The minister, from the Social Democratic Party, defended Germany's welfare system and criticized plans by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union to cut taxes, which he said could threaten social welfare.

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