“important today”: child poverty – every fifth child in Germany affected

“important today”
On World Children’s Day: Every fifth child in Germany is at risk of poverty

Child poverty in Germany

Hardly any money for clothes and food: Many children in Germany are at risk of poverty

© Ute Grabowsky / Picture Alliance

Every fifth child in Germany is affected by child poverty. This is cemented by the hierarchical school system and the complex bureaucracy.

Every fifth child in Germany is affected by poverty – according to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, this includes 2.55 million children. “A child is at risk of poverty if it grows up in a family that has less than 60% of the average income,” explains Cologne political scientist Prof. Christoph Butterwegge in the morning podcast “important today”. For single people that is less than 1148 euros per month, with several adults or children the lower limit is higher.

However, particularly with rising energy costs and inflation, the problem is spreading to the middle of society, summarizes Butterwegge: “Even families that have managed to make ends meet […] get into trouble when the price of gas rises so much that they used to be able to get by but are now under pressure. Then the question arises: Should one freeze or should one starve?” That is why this 364th episode turns to World Children’s Day on 20 September all about child poverty.

Child Poverty: Being poor in a rich country is degrading

Science distinguishes between two types of poverty: absolute and relative poverty. According to Prof. Butterwegge, people who are affected by absolute poverty can no longer cover their basic needs – for example, there is no longer enough money for enough food, winterproof clothing or a roof over their heads. Those affected include homeless people.

In Germany, however, relative poverty is more common, explains the social researcher: “Someone who can satisfy their basic needs is relatively poor. But they cannot afford many of the things that a well-to-do, if not rich, society like ours can afford for almost all members of this society is considered normal.” For example, when music lessons or the sports club become too expensive, or visits to the theatre, cinema or zoo are not even possible.

Being poor in a rich country can therefore be even more humiliating than in a poor country: “If a child is standing in the schoolyard in summer clothes and sandals in the dead of winter and is being laughed at by his or her classmates, then of course that’s the decisive thing for this child that it will be humiliated and not that it will feel the cold.”

“One-off packages help in the short term, but remain a drop in the ocean”

Adrienn Schmidt takes care of exactly such children. She runs the children’s aid organization “Die Arche” in Leipzig and makes sure that needy children get a warm lunch. Or just come out at home if necessary. She often finds that children don’t see their own poverty that way or try to cover it up: “Children don’t describe themselves as poor because they also have the status symbols on the outside. They all have a working cell phone, a flat screen at home, they mostly wear branded clothes.” The external impression is important for many.

Nevertheless, Adrienn Schmidt also notices that more people are now looking to her for help than a few months or years ago. To ensure that this dramatic development does not continue to increase, the Arche is calling for a reduced VAT on healthy food – and basic child security, for which Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus is also committed. The basic child security should be independent of the family situation, explains Lisa Paus in an interview with RTL: “A guaranteed amount for every child.” However, if the law is passed, this basic child security will not be paid out until 2025 at the earliest. This comes too late for many families in the current situation.

Poor in school: “Our school system tends to entrench poverty”

In addition, all interlocutors in the podcast demand that the German school-system finally being reformed. This research was initiated by star-Reporters Catrin Boldebuck and Ingrid Eisele. On “Important Today,” Boldebuck reports that many children they spoke to see education as essential to lifting them out of poverty.

But statistically, unfortunately, far too few manage to do this: “It’s more the case that a graduate child becomes a graduate child again. And that a child who comes from a humble background becomes someone who is more likely to get caught in the poverty spiral and doesn’t come out there.” That’s another reason why basic child security is needed – and “social sponsors”, as Catrin Boldebuck calls them: “People who support them so that they can get out of it. And above all, they need our appreciation.”

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