11,600 children and adolescents affected Expert warns of growing child poverty in Bonn

BONN · More than 11,600 children and young people live below the poverty line in the federal city. The figure for Germany in total is as high as 2.8 million. The numbers could rise even further.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Education and Science Trade Union (GEW), Christoph Butterwegge said he did not like it particularly to talk about child poverty.

According to the latest figures from the Job Centre (from 2017), this problem affects 5849 "Needs Communities" in Bonn who receive unemployment benefit II. According to the press office, 11,615 children in these families were affected by poverty in 2018. Among the 55,692 minors living in Bonn according to the city's statistics office, one in five minors in Bonn lives below the poverty line.

"But the problem is quickly trivialized and played down when it comes to children," Butterwegge worried. Actually, he prefers to focus on the "reseniorization of poverty". So the even more depressing increase of poverty among older citizens who would be defamed as "social parasites".

The political scientist was the 2017 German Presidential candidate of the Left and has now been appointed to the expert commission for the Sixth Poverty and Wealth Report of the Federal Government. He criticised the anti-poverty measures of the latest coalition agreement whichwere no more than a drop in the ocean, Butterwegge clarified.

Then, he went on to talk about child and family poverty. And for a good hour, without a manuscript, he delivered a par force journeythrough social policy. According to the microcensus, 20.4 percent of German citizens under the age of 18, i.e. 2.8 million children and adolescents, are at risk of poverty: They are not properly fed and clothed and are not involved inpolitical or cultural life or interpersonal relationships.

For all age groups, the statistics predict 15.8 percent, i.e. 13.4 million, poor people - a scandal also in view of the growing wealth of individuals, Butterwegge said. The two Quandt heirs alone received a dividend of 1.126 billion euros only for their BMW shares.

In his eyes, there are several causes of child poverty. And then the man who resigned from the SPD in 2005 in protest against the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder gave out to his comrades.

Firstly, the dissolution of normal working conditions by the Agenda 2010 and the Hartz IV laws, which deliberately created the largest low-wage sector in Europe, was responsible, said Butterwegge. Since then, even people in employment have had to supplement their wages with Hartz IV: "And this subsidises companies that pay ‚hunger wages‘.“ Secondly, the tendency of the "normal family" to break up increases the danger for children to grow up poor, because "normal" in Germany still means: a married couple plus children.

Thirdly, the abolition of unemployment assistance has dissolved the normality of social security and has caused poverty figures to skyrocket, as well as sparking hatred and anger among those affected,he said.

So what is to be done? He called for the minimum wage to be raised to twelve Euro, for mini-jobbers to be insured by the social insurance system at all costs, and not, as is currently the case, to be satisfied with an unemployment rate of five percent, Butterwegge said.

In addition, more all-day schools are needed and, finally, schools in which students learn together up to the 10th grade. A citizens' insurance policy that deserves its name is also urgently needed. In his opinion, however, the basic child insurance required by many is not suitable, said the expert. Because lump-sum transfer payments, which are all lumped together, could never work properly against poverty.

(Original text: Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu / Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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