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Hands looking for the last few cents in a wallet
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Millions of German workers in poverty

January 24, 2015

More than three million Germans can barely make ends meet despite being in work, according to a German newspaper. Growing numbers of struggling workers are cutting back on heating and food.


About 3.1 million wage and salary earners in Germany had an income below the poverty threshold, according to Saturday's edition of the Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper.

The paper cited an overview from Germany's Federal Statistical Office showing the most recent available data, which covered the year 2013. It also showed the numbers of workers struggling to make ends meet jumped from about 2.5 million in 2008 - an increase of 25 percent in five years.

Data, based on household surveys, showed that those living on low wages were cutting back on food and heating, among other things, to save money. According to a special analysis by the statisticians, in 2013 some 538,000 low-wage workers were eating a full meal only every second day in an effort to save money on food. About 417,000 were going without adequate heating and almost 380,000 people could not afford to pay their rent on time.

Every second low wage worker, some 1.5 million Germans, would not be able to pay for a one-week holiday per year outside their own four walls. About 600,000 workers were forgoing having their own car because they could not afford it.

In the survey, to be considered as having an income below the poverty threshold, a person had to earn a total take-home pay, including state benefits like housing or child subsidies, of less than 60 percent of the median wage. In the year 2013, this threshold was a monthly take-home amount of 979 euros (about $1100) for an individual.

"The number of workers who earn scarcely or marginally more than the government unemployment benefits (Hartz IV) is alarmingly high," the president of the social association VdK (VdK Sozialverband) Ulrike Mascher told the Saarbrücker Zeitung.

Germany's newly introduced nationwide minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($10.50) came into effect on January 1, 2015.

se/sb (AFP, epd)

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