1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

1 in 5 children in Germany live in poverty

July 22, 2020

Childhood poverty rates in Germany refuse to budge, a new study has shown. Experts say the coronavirus crisis will only make the situation worse.

Two children with school backpacks walking across a quad
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius

Some 2.8 million children in Germany — or one in five — are growing up in poverty, a report from the Bertelsmann Foundation published Wednesday showed.

The study found that there had been few improvements in recent years, and that the coronavirus crisis will likely make the situation worse. 

"For years, the fight against child poverty has been one of the greatest social challenges in Germany," the report said. 

Even so, since 2014 the child poverty rate in Germany has registered very few improvements. 

According to the report, 21.3% of all people under the age of 18 in Germany are growing up in poverty.

The country's persistently high rate of high child poverty shows that the area is a "significant, unfinished construction site" for Germany, the report said. 

Read more: How coronavirus is affecting underprivileged children in India

World in Progress: Pandemic challenges for German schools

Majority experience poverty longterm 

The study considered several factors in its analysis of childhood poverty. In addition to looking at families that receive Germany's Hartz IV welfare benefits, researchers also considered children from families whose income is less than 60% of the average of all households, considered to be at-risk of poverty.  

Around two-thirds of children living in poverty in Germany experience it longterm, the report said. Concrete effects of poverty in Germany include not owning a car or having electronic devices in the house, and doing without vacations and activities like going to the movie theater. 

"Child poverty remains an unsolved structural problem with considerable consequences for the growing up, well-being, education and future prospects of children," the foundation stressed.

Read more: Can a wealth tax bridge Germany's divide between rich and poor?

Helping Germany's poor children

Coronavirus tightens the squeeze

The coronavirus crisis threatens to further exacerbate the problems of child poverty, the report said.

Parents of disadvantaged children often work part-time jobs and have consequently been disproportionately affected by job and income loss during the pandemic. There is a risk that many children who live in poverty will "fall through the cracks," warned Jörg Dräger, chairman of the Bertelsmann Foundation.

Dräger said this could be partially explained by the fact that many state and social services were shut down at least temporarily during the crisis.

The homeschooling required by the coronavirus lockdowns also disproportionately affects poorer children, the report said. These children often do not have the necessary technical equipment or space to engage in learning.

For example, 24% of children in households receiving basic income support have no access to a computer with internet, the report said.

Dräger said lawmakers weren't doing enough to tackle child poverty, and called on the state and federal governments to take greater action: "The prevention of child poverty must become a political priority, especially in the corona crisis," he said.

Living on the breadline

kp/nm (AFP, dpa)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A bombed out building in Mariupol
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage