19. September 2016
In the land of the poor children

Out of two million children in Germany 35.000 live in the state Bremen
Photo: Christian Hager (dpa)

Even though – if we are to believe the statistics – the economy is growing, this social trend is not reaching the weakest members: Today there are nearly two million children in Germany who cannot lead independent lives. 

A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation points out yet another bitter fact: Over the past four years, the most serious growth in poverty indicators among children occurred in the state of Bremen. The following diagrams, based on the study, offer an overview of the situation in Bremen. It is based on the statistics of families who receive basic subsistence benefits. 

How many children in Bremen and Bremerhaven receive public support? Let's have a look at the numbers:

Infographic child poverty Infographic: Child poverty in Bremen Infographic child poverty | © taz.de

In the year 2015, 1,931,474 children under the age of 18 in Germany lived in families receiving basic subsistence benefits (so-called communities in need). In Bremen, there are approximately 3,320 more children than in 2011 or an average Social Code Book II rate of 31.6 percent (2011: 28.8 percent). 

Project manager Sarah Menne from the Bertelsmann Foundation tells tazthat one indicator stands out in particular with regard to Bremen. The statistics show that two-thirds of all affected children have been living in poverty for more than three years. “This means that more children there (57.8 percent) have been living in poverty for a long time than the German average,” she adds. Long-lasting experiences of poverty have an especially negative effect on children’s participation rates and their development, as researchers have ascertained. 

Child poverty impairs children into their adult years. “It is true that things are far more difficult for children with poor back-grounds. Children cannot escape poverty on their own. For this reason, the government bears a special responsibility for all children,” says Menne. This means that if they are not helped now, those affected are at risk of being dependent on assistance for the rest of their lives.

Menne explains that although state policies and Bremen’s social system certainly play a lead role in how the situation can be changed, comprehensive reorganization of the welfare system for children in all of Germany is more important. 

“Children cannot be seen simply as small adults; they have specific needs,” Menne clarifies. Researchers are busy developing a new concept that focusses on children’s needs. What do they need to really be able to take part in our modern society? This question should be the starting point of all social programmes. 

Menne urges the government to take up responsibility. For example, the state of NRW launched the programme “No Child Left Behind” together with the Bertelsmann Foundation. But, she believes the burden is too heavy for the states and local initiatives to shoulder alone. The overall state system requires repairs. “If nothing is done, the risk is great that poverty will take root even more – for today’s children and tomorrow’s adults.” Menne concludes.