They are clear numbers that are not just numbers. Behind it are people who often only make ends meet with difficulty and hardship. “More than one in five children is now affected by poverty,” sums up Ulrich Schneider, managing director of the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband. This is a “sad record”.

His association’s poverty report, which Schneider presented in Berlin, reveals even more “sad” values: According to this, 14.2 million people in Germany were affected by poverty in 2022 – 100,000 people more than in 2021 and almost a million more than in the previous year -Pandemic year 2019. The poverty rate of 16.8 percent is a major concern for Schneider.

The association’s figures refer to the year 2022 because no more current ones are available from the Federal Statistical Office. For 2023, reliable data from the so-called microcensus, on which the poverty report is based, will only be available next year. Schneider said he doesn’t expect a major trend reversal in 2023. The situation is particularly difficult for single parents and families with several children. According to the report, more than 40 percent of all single parents are affected by poverty. There are still too many in “forced part-time work,” complained Schneider. There is an urgent need for a larger range of care.

Many working people are poor

With regard to the overall distribution, the head of the association warned against a false picture: the unemployed, alongside people with low educational qualifications and those with a migrant background, are disproportionately affected by poverty. However, the statistics show that of the 14.2 million people affected, more than a quarter are employed, and another quarter are pensioners. The group of unemployed people will make up just under five percent of poor people in 2022. The association’s main demands include an increase in the minimum wage to 15 euros and a “citizens’ pension insurance” into which everyone should pay – including the self-employed and civil servants.

According to the report, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg have the lowest poverty rates. The highest, with 19 percent and more each, are Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt, Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. Bremen comes last with a rate of 29.1 percent. And observation shows: Germany is drifting apart. Poorer states would become poorer and richer states would become richer.

According to the microcensus, who is considered “poor” is graded according to household types and disposable net income. The general rule is: Any person whose disposable income is below 60 percent of the median income is classified as low-income. A single household without children reaches the poverty threshold with a disposable income of less than 1,186 euros per month. According to the scale, a single parent with a child under 14 is considered poor if she has less than 1,542 euros available per month.

Criticism of basic child welfare

The results on child poverty caused horror, particularly among social associations. They are a “disgrace for such a rich country,” explained the president of the social association VdK, Verena Bentele. She called on the federal government to improve the planned basic child security. “With the basic child security as currently planned, we cannot combat child poverty in Germany.”

Association head Schneider made similar comments. When asked whether Family Minister Lisa Paus’s project in its current form is suitable for substantially combating child poverty, the head of the association answers with a clear “no”. What is needed is not just a digital disbursement of funds, but simply more money, warned Schneider. The basic child benefit must be “40 percent higher” compared to the citizen’s benefit rates.

With the basic child security, the federal government wants to bundle previous benefits such as child benefit, benefits from the citizen’s benefit for children or the child allowance from 2025. More eligible families should receive what they are entitled to. It is still unclear whether families will automatically have more money in the future than before, as association boss Schneider demands.

The main criticism of the project is the fear of duplicate structures. The Regulatory Control Council (NKR), among others, also sees this danger, which examines the time and costs that arise from new laws. On Tuesday he presented a new report in which a simplified system for paying out social benefits is suggested – including through more flat rates. The report prepared by the consulting firm Deloitte states, among other things, that basic child welfare benefits must be “consistently bundled”. This is not yet the case with the project, among other things because “related services such as citizens’ benefit and housing benefit have not been adequately addressed and contacts with authorities have not been reduced, but increased.”

When asked by dpa, the family minister did not respond to this criticism. Last December, a spokesman for the ministry assured: “It is clear that we don’t want to build a bureaucratic monster here, but we want to reduce bureaucracy. That is the goal of basic child protection and we are working on it.” But one thing is also clear: the work is far from finished.