One-fifth of Easterners threatened by poverty

One-fifth of Easterners threatened by poverty
Families line up for free food in Meck-Pomm. Photo: DPA
Nearly 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans from the country’s formerly communist eastern half remain at greater risk of falling into poverty.

Presenting its national “Poverty Atlas” in Berlin on Monday, the Paritätische Gesamtverband charity alliance said nearly 20 percent of all eastern Germans are either poor or are on the verge of failing below the poverty line. By comparison, only 12.9 percent of western Germans were in the same situation.

“The regional perspective on poverty really makes clear to us for the first time that Germany is not only a socially divided country, but is also a deeply divided one geographically,” said the group’s director Ulrich Schneider. “If we don’t undertake a massive effort to change this immediately then it will be impossible to stop the decay of entire swaths of land.”

According to the definition set by the European Union, individuals are considered threatened by poverty if they earn less than 60 percent of a nation’s average income. In 2007, Germany’s average monthly income was €1,274.

Of Germany’s 16 federal states, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria fared best in the survey, with only 10 and 11 percent of their respective populations faced with poverty. But nearly a quarter of the people in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were. Saxony-Anhalt was second worst off with 21.5 percent of its residents threatened by poverty.

Schneider criticised the German government’s latest stimulus package because a third of the €10 billion earmarked for investment in education and regional infrastructure projects will be directed to those three states with the lowest rates of poverty. He said that did not make sense economically, nor was socially just.


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