The misfortune of material fortune | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.04.2013
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The misfortune of material fortune

A UNICEF report on the well-being of children finds German youths are comfortable - but many are dissatisfied with their lives. Is affluence the problem?

Young Germans smoke fewer cigarettes, are better educated, and have a lower rate of teenage pregnancies than in their parents' generation. Nonetheless, many are dissatisfied, and some are even unhappy.

A survey released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) ranks Germany sixth among 29 developed countries examined based on criteria of health and safety, education, behavior and risk, housing and environment and general well-being.

The latter proved to be a particularly weak point among young Germans asked to assess their situation. One out of seven German children and teenagers tend to be dissatisfied with his or her life and situation, placing Germany 22nd in that particular category.

In 2007, Germany ranked 12th among 22 examined countries in the same category. "One-sided concentration on achievement and formal success" is the reason many young people feel left out, Hans Bertram of UNICEF's German national committee says.


Joseph Kraus, the president of the German Teachers' Association (DL), lists completely different reasons. The pressure to perform and succeed that German children experience is to a certain degree the result of "an education that spoils, overly protects and spares them," he says.

Kraus adds that young people in Germany are increasingly treated with kid gloves, a trend that is partially due to the increasing number of single-child families: "Everything is projected onto one child." He estimates about 20 percent of German families over-protect their children.

Finally, the people surrounding the youngsters persuade them of being overly stressed, says Kraus, a man who worked as a teacher for 35 years. Young people feel unhappy even though they are in fact well-off.

"This divide between an actual favorable situation and the attitude toward this situation is a phenomenon of an affluent society," says Klaus. Nowhere is whining and complaining as pronounced as it is in Germany, he adds - it is a typical German phenomenon.

Kids legs and feet . Foto: Armin Weigel dpa

German teenagers: pampered and protected?

Disparities remain

The UNICEF study also confirms that not all children in Germany are materially well-off. Within Germany, there are huge differences in relative child poverty, prompting the authors of the UN study to urge German policymakers to devise a national agenda against child poverty to help support low-income families and single parents. A spokesman for the Ministry of Family Affairs (BMFSFJ) told Deutsche Welle not to expect a response to the study.

The Netherlands ranked first in the UNICEF survey, followed by Nordic countries. Romania, one of the poorest nations in the EU, ranked last in the survey.

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