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Poverty in Germany at its highest since reunification

February 19, 2015

Poverty in Germany is at it's highest since German reunification in 1990, according to a new study. Some 12.5 million Germans are now classified as poor.

German poverty
Image: picture alliance/blickwinkel/W. G. Allgoewer

Speaking in the German capital Berlin on Thursday, the chief executive of Germany's Equal Welfare Organization (paritätischem Wohlfahrtsverband), Ulrich Schneider, also warned that the gap between rich and poor states is growing ever-wider.

"Poverty has never been as high and the regional disunity has never run as deep," Schneider said in reference to the 25 years which have past since German reunification.

Within a year, poverty in Germany rose from 15 percent to 15.5 percent in 2013. The charity defines "poor" as people whose household earns 60 percent less than the average income.

According to the report, the states most affected by poverty are Bremen, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. At the other end of the scale are Baden-Württemburg and Bavaria - Germany's second and third richest states according to their GDP.

The only German states to see a small decline in poverty were the eastern states of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.

"Overall the state ranking shows a ragged republic," Schneider said, adding that a significant increase in state welfare rates and a massive expansion of public employment would be necessary to combat the growing problem.

Last month in Berlin, German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles announced plans to create thousands of jobs for disadvantaged people in Germany.

The plan, which will use 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) from the European Social Fund (ESF), plus 4.3 billion euros from within Germany, involves the creation of 26 programs in the country until 2020.

Almost 40 percent of the money will be invested in "the promotion of social integration and the battle against poverty," the Labor Ministry said.

The groups currently most at risk of poverty are the unemployed, single mothers and people without education.

Schneider pointed out on Thursday, however, that even poverty among Germany's pensioners is significantly increasing. Since 2006, the group has experienced a faster increase in poverty than any other.

ksb/sms (AFP, dpa)