Child Poverty – Why is poverty “relative” in Germany?
Child poverty does not only exist in poor developing countries, it is also social reality in rich industrial countries such as Germany. The “Paritätische” (an association of social movements) asserts a national poverty rate of 15.4%, the child poverty rate is even higher with 19%. This means that 2.7 Mio. children grow up in poverty, the current refugee numbers are not even included. Those are alarming figures. However, critics claim that there is no real poverty in Germany, and in fact the “Paritätische” speaks of “relative” poverty. At what point is a person poor?
Traditionally, there is no approved definition of the term poverty. This is mainly due to the fact that poverty is a social construct. The conditions under which people are referred to as poor are constantly changing.
The so called absolute poverty is defined by existential dire straights like hunger and homelessness. The World Bank states an income limit of 1.25 US Dollar per day. 1.2 Billion people fall in this category.
In contrast, relative poverty concepts are focussed on limited opportunities in relation to the prosperity of the particular society.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child declares in art. 27 that every child has the right of an adequate living standard based on the individual physical, mental, emotional, moral, and social development. In Germany, one out of five children is growing up in a family which has an income below the risk-of-poverty threshold.
The everyday life of poor children is often marked by shortage, abstinence, and highly limited social and cultural activities. Moreover, numerous studies show that poverty is not only the reason for social disadvantages, it can also affect the whole development of children. Poor children become ill more frequently, get fewer support, have less educational opportunities, are mentally strained, and suffer from exclusion and lacking self-confidence.