Being poor in a rich country: in Germany, not everyone enjoys the boom of the economy

A precarious rent in Munich, the essential remedies and a diet of potatoes, rice and old bread. Joseph H.'s income is not enough. He can't visit Germany places with attraction, which actually releases stress. After a life of self-employment, this 75-year-old German pensioner is playing a very visible drama: being poor in one of the richest countries in the world.

The boom of the largest European economy is still not reaching many like Joseph. According to the 2016 poverty report presented this week in Berlin, 15.4% of the population (12.5 million people) live in this condition. The data requires clarification. Germany does not measure "absolute" poverty - which threatens the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries - but "relative" poverty: it is counted as poor to those who suffer significant deprivations and disadvantages with respect to the average population .

"We are not talking about people who sleep under a bridge, do not have to eat or collect containers in the street," explains Ulrich Schneider, president of the German Welfare Association, who elaborates the report. "We are talking about segregated people who have no resources for a normal life in Germany, even if they do not live on the streets."

Who are and how do the poor Germans live? The European Union (EU) considers a person at risk of poverty when his monthly income is less than 60% of the national average income. In Germany, the barrier stands at 930 euros net for a single or 1651 euros for a marriage with a child.

The profile of those in this situation is varied: single mothers who can not afford school activities for their children, long-term unemployed who do not cover basic necessities such as winter clothing, unheated families or computers, and children who see certain His future only by growing up in a poor neighborhood.

The poverty rate in Germany is lower than that of the EU as a whole, which is around 17%. But the report includes data that question the image of a rich and egalitarian society. For example, poverty threatens 19 percent of German boys, and one in seven people in the vibrant capital Berlin.

It also worries the situation of retirees like Joseph. The risk of poverty in the sector soared to 15.6% and thus surpassed, for the first time, the national average. Many depend on public aid.

"In 2007, 12% of the people we attended were in retirement age, and now it has doubled to 24%," says Inga Leffers of Tafel, an association that collects food discarded by producers, restaurants or markets to distribute Up to 1.5 million people without resources.

Germany's broad welfare state aid network and initiatives such as Tafel help combat absolute poverty. However, in Germany there are about 40,000 people living on the street and some 335,000 are homeless.

Many of them wander around the cities checking the garbage for food or bottles that are then exchanged for money. In winter they take refuge in shelters and subway stations, but each year there are deaths due to extreme cold.

It is not only that the aid does not reach all, but "half of those who are entitled to social benefits does not apply," explains Schneider. "Some do not even know they exist, others are ashamed and do not want to recognize that they are poor," he adds. The expert understands that the situation is better than in other countries, but he is indignant at inequality: how can one explain that poverty has risen in ten years from 14 to 15.4% in a country with record levels of consumption, unemployment Of 6.8% and sustained growth reaching 1.7% in 2015?

"The root cause is that the upper social strata accumulate immense heritage and do not want to distribute it," says Schneider. "We have a government that declared any type of tax increase to the richest and is therefore not in a position to make a policy of poverty that reduces it," he adds.

Another reason invites pessimism. The report is based on statistics for 2014 and does not reflect the effect of the wave of refugees that arrived in 2015.

The index reached 15.4%, but it is relative: it measures the privations with respect to the average income

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