How does ignorance affect poverty?

Child poverty in Germany

What are the reasons for child poverty?

Unemployment or a low income are the main reasons for a lack of money in families and thus also the most important triggers for child poverty in Germany. Due to the dependency on their parents, the well-being of the children always depends on the financial and social condition of their legal guardians.

The 2017 study of the "Patterns of Poverty in Childhood and Youth" by the Bertelsmann Foundation shows that children of single parents, children with at least two siblings and children of poorly qualified parents are particularly at risk of poverty.

The transfer of the study results into everyday life seems simple and almost clich├ęd: Many children naturally cause a lot of costs. Single parents either cannot make enough money because they look after their children or the children are neglected because their parents work a lot. In any case, there is a personal fate behind the statistics.

In addition to material poverty, there are parents who, due to a lack of sense of responsibility, ignorance or personal problems, neglect their children and cannot support them enough. Here the children are not only disadvantaged financially, but also emotionally. The parents are overwhelmed and cannot treat their children with the necessary appreciation.

But often the poverty is not the fault of the parents themselves and most of them do everything to ensure that their children feel as little as possible of their financial worries.

Who is considered poor?

Germany is one of the richest countries in the world and has social security systems so that nobody should actually go hungry here - and yet many children in Germany live under the severe conditions of child poverty.

A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation shows that around 21 percent of all children in Germany have been in a poverty situation for at least five years, either permanently or from time to time. Another 10 percent live in this poverty situation for a short time.

Children from families who have to make do with significantly less than the average net household income or who receive basic state security are considered poor. For these children, this does not mean that they have no food or no home. However, their development can be significantly impaired.

What are the effects?

Childhood is crucial for a person's development. During this period, important foundations are laid for later adult life. In the first years of life, millions of nerve connections are formed in the brain, waiting to be used and strengthened: the urge to research arises.

First of all, that's not a question of money. Romping around, playing and discovering - it doesn't have to be costly. However, personal development can be decisively inhibited by poverty, as the following exemplary case shows:

Nina is annoyed. Her parents are arguing again. It's about money again. About the money that the Fischer family doesn't have because Mr. Fischer earns little and Ms. Fischer had to break off her professional training. Nina's birth intervened at the time. Due to the small apartment in which the Fischer family lives, Nina cannot withdraw, she shares a room with her little brother.

The 13-year-old doesn't want to burden her parents with additional problems and hides the fact that she urgently needs new exercise books and pens. Nina skips the trip with her class to the nearby city. She is afraid of having to go shopping with her friends without money. She has been calling in sick a lot lately, and her grades are getting worse. Your big dream of taking piano lessons is far away. Too expensive! Two words that Nina hears very often.

Nina's little brother does not understand the context of the parental dispute, but feels the stress and reacts aggressively. During the check-ups, the doctor finds that the little boy has behavioral problems.

Nina and her brother experience what is referred to as a lack of "participation opportunities". What is meant are the effects of child poverty in everyday life, which do not always have to be directly related to the financial situation. A 2007 UNICEF study on the well-being of children in industrialized countries identified the most important areas of development:

1. Material situation
2. Health and Safety
3. Education
4. Relationship with parents and friends
5. Risks in everyday life
6. Subjective well-being

What is being done?

A look into the past shows the vicious circle: Children from socially disadvantaged families often stay poor for life. It is extremely difficult for them to get out of their milieu.

Fighting child poverty and preventing it is above all a task for politics. Families are already supported by the state with subsidies such as child benefit, housing benefit, maintenance advances, minimum wages or social benefits for children.

The Federal Participation Act, which has been in force since 2017, is also intended to combat child poverty. Here children and young people from families with low incomes can get financial support. For example, you can take part in holiday camps, take advantage of sports and music offers, get tuition if necessary or take part in lunch at school.

However, the balance after five years of the Participation Act is not very positive. Apart from grants for school lunches and school trips, demand is low, according to a report by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs five years after the decision. The reasons given in the evaluation report are a lack of knowledge of where to turn for support and the cumbersome application process.

In addition to politics, churches, non-profit organizations, schools and private individuals also help to alleviate poverty. In many major German cities there are children's aid organizations and social institutions.

The Christian children's aid organization "Die Arche" is now active at 25 locations in Germany, Switzerland and Poland and reaches many children and young people. In addition, offers such as cheap shopping in the clothing store, help with homework and the opportunity to talk to someone are also supportive.

That sounds like a drop in the ocean. But for a few children it means that they don't have to sit in school with a growling stomach, but can concentrate better on the lesson.