What is the difference between rich and poor

Growing gap between rich and poor in Germany

Djamila Kordus is a courageous woman. The trained retail saleswoman dares to watch TV and thus in front of an audience of millions in the ARD talk show "Hart aber fair". The theme of the broadcast on May 10th: "Poor despite work - is social advancement an empty promise?". Djamila Kordus is a single mother. Money is always tight, even though she has a full-time job at a large online retailer as a warehouse clerk, she says. She left around 500 euros to live on, after deducting all fixed costs.

Poor despite work - this is increasingly becoming a reality in Germany. This is also proven by the federal government's current poverty and wealth report, poor rich Germany. The government cabinet approved the report from the Ministry of Labor on Wednesday. The results are expected to be debated again in the Bundestag in June.

Every four years the government has the extensive report (500 pages) prepared, which is intended to provide an overview of the social situation in Germany. And it looks rather bleak: the gap between rich and poor is widening in Germany. And: The corona pandemic has made the situation even worse. This is an alarm signal for the opposition parties, trade unions and social organizations.

For Joachim Rock from the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, one thing is clear: "The report shows that the crisis has hit the poorest the hardest." In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he said that especially during the Corona crisis, people with low incomes had a high risk of "losing work and income". Rich people would have had to limit themselves significantly less.

"A testimony to poverty and inequality" is the report, says Joachim Rock from the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband

Poor in Germany

But what does poor mean in Germany? Are people poor who have no roof over their heads, who collect returnable bottles or who live on state support? Or is it also the people who have a full-time job but cannot live on their wages?

This is precisely defined in Germany. Those who receive less than 60 percent of the median net wage are poor, which is currently 1176 euros. Anyone who receives a net salary of more than 3,900 euros per month is rich. But this also includes the super-rich, such as the owner of the Lidl supermarket chain, Dieter Schwarz. His private wealth is estimated at more than 20 billion euros. The proportion of rich people in Germany has increased steadily in recent years, shows the sixth poverty and wealth report. Likewise the proportion of the poor. At the same time, the income center continues to shrink.

The situation was made even worse by the corona pandemic. In a survey for the report, around a quarter of households stated that their income had shrunk during the Corona crisis. Low and normal wage earners were particularly affected.

Joachim Rock from the German Paritätischer Gesamtverband has long observed that incomes are developing very differently in Germany: "While people with low incomes often had to accept real income losses, higher incomes grew significantly faster. Wealth is very unevenly distributed: the richest half of the population has 99.5 percent of the assets. " Around 3.8 percent of the population have very high net worth. You own more than half a million euros, i.e. real estate, financial investments or business assets.

The Green Group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt said that the growing gap between rich and poor and the experience of more and more people being left hanging in the crisis is poison for social cohesion. And the socio-political spokeswoman for the left, Katja Kipping, told Deutsche Welle: "The neoliberal promise of advancement reveals itself to be an empty promise, at least for the poorer classes."

Bad report for the Merkel years

Joachim Rock gave Chancellor Angela Merkel a rather bad report for her entire term in office: "Inequality in Germany has grown significantly over the past 16 years," he says. "The social reforms that came into force in 2005 made a significant contribution to this: in 1995 only 15 percent of the unemployed lived in poverty, in 2005 it was already over 35 percent and in 2015 almost two thirds."

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), from whose ministry the report comes

If people have little money, this also has political consequences. The Federal Government sees this with great concern, because it knows that the lower the income, the lower the political commitment and willingness to vote. The government still in office will not be able to change much about the social situation of the Germans; a new Bundestag will be elected in September. But it is already evident that the question of income and justice will play a major role in the election campaign: Will there be a tax on high wealth? Should the burdens on high earners be increased? Does the minimum wage have to rise?

Social advancement is very difficult for poor people

The government analysis found: The dream of social advancement usually remains unfulfilled for poorer people and their children. People in the low-wage sector and their children have very little chance of advancement. Joachim Rock explains it like this: "For example, children and young people from wealthy families go to high school five times more often than those who live in poverty."

Good education for the next generation and prosperity - hardly attainable for the poor

For people like Djamila Kordus, the single mother from Berlin who found the courage to report on her fate on television, the government report must seem quite sobering. But one thing is out of the question for them: drawing state aid instead of going to work. "I grew up with the fact that work is the most important thing," she says in the TV talk show. She also wants to be a role model for her daughter: "If I just sit at home - what should the children do later?"