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Youth poverty rises in Germany’s Ruhr region
By Elisabeth Zimmermann
30 January 2013
A number of recent studies show that despite the relatively low unemployment rate in Germany compared with other parts of Europe, poverty rates have increased sharply.
According to a study from the Bremen Institute for Workplace Research and Career Support, 223,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 live in households dependent on Hartz IV state welfare payments. This equates to 10.7 percent of this age group, higher than the nationwide average of 8.6 percent.
In many towns in the Ruhr region of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), this figure is considerably higher. Gelsenkirchen, with 22 percent, has the highest percentage nationally. Essen, Duisburg, Wuppertal and Dortmund also rank among the top 25 urban areas in Germany for poverty rates among young people.
A study from the Hans-Böckler Foundation last December placed the number of young people under 18 who are in poverty at 18.9 percent across Germany. This means that more than 2.5 million children and young people are poor.
With a poverty rate of almost one third of the population, the city state of Bremen has the highest poverty rate in Germany among young people under 18. Among children and young people from immigrant families, the poverty rate is 44.1 percent, the highest in western Germany.
Data from the federal agency for employment shows that, alongside Gelsenkirchen, Bremerhaven is the city with the highest percentage of families who depend on Hartz IV. In some areas of the town such as Gröpellingen and Tenever, every second child or young person is affected by poverty.
Of all of the states of western Germany, NRW is where children and young people are most at risk of poverty. NRW is also the state with the largest increase in poverty among children and young people.
While in 2005, 24.1 percent of young people in NRW were at risk of poverty, this figure now stands at 27.6 percent. With 678,000 children and young people living in poverty in NRW, there are more poor young people in this one state than in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hessen combined.
The current rate of poverty among young people 18 and younger in NRW is 6 percent higher than the average for the population as a whole. Young immigrants face a poverty rate of 36.4 percent, considerably more than the average.
The states in eastern Germany all have rates of poverty for children and young people above the national average. Mecklenburg-Verpommern, with a figure of 30.1 percent, is second only to Bremen. The number of young children under the age of 3 affected by poverty is even higher.
More than a quarter of children and young people in Sachsen and Sachsen-Anhalt are poor, and this rate has sharply increased. Since 2005, it has risen by 3.3 percent to the current rate of 31.4 percent.
Alongside the Ruhr region, Berlin leads the way in a number of poverty statistics. Some 27 percent of children and young people in Berlin live at risk of poverty, and the rate of immigrants living in poverty is again higher. Almost half of all children between 15 and 18 years of age live in poverty.
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