Is there statistical evidence of poverty

New statistics for pensioner households : Almost every fifth person is at risk of poverty

How many pensioners in Germany are at risk of poverty? Amazingly, no one knew that exactly before, despite all the heated debates on the subject. Or nobody wanted to know, because there were only surveys for which fairly large groups had been lumped together without hesitation. Either you looked at the overall income of all over 64-year-olds in the country - then you came to a risk of poverty rate of 14.6 percent for 2017 (there are no more recent figures). Or you looked - a little more purposefully - at the retirees and pensioners. That resulted in a rate of 16 percent.

Neither did not seem particularly worrying, because the at-risk-of-poverty rate for the total population - that is, those who have less than 60 percent of the median income - is 15.8 percent. The 21 million pensioners in this country would therefore not be more at risk of poverty than the average of the population.

Pensioners hardly know the problem at all

However, the statistics so far are grossly misleading. If you exclude the financially well-off pensioners, almost without exception, the rate of pensioners at risk of poverty is significantly higher. At 19.5 percent, almost every fifth person in German pensioner households is at risk of poverty. The 1.25 million pensioners, in whose households the at-risk-of-poverty rate has remained almost unchanged over the years at just 0.9 percent, have hugely embellished the previous series of figures.

This was recently discovered by a mathematician and former employee of the Federal Statistical Office. "The summary of the various poor groups of pensioners and pensioners has been a thorn in my side since 2010", says the Koblenz professor for statistics and empirical social research, Gerd Bosbach. Repeated requests to official statisticians to show the available material from the microcensus separately have been rejected with reference to the high costs of such an undertaking, says Bosbach, who has already published two books on "statistical lies".

Poverty rates underestimated by up to 3.7 percentage points

The fact that there are now more precise figures on the situation of pensioners is thanks to his idea of ​​engaging a member of the Bundestag. In the hope that at least one parliamentary party would have to get “this important socio-political factor”, the statistician turned to the left's pension policy spokesman, Matthias Birkwald. The two submitted their application to the responsible State Office for Statistics in North Rhine-Westphalia - and received a more differentiated evaluation. But only against payment.

But it was worth it to them. Bosbach and Birkwald call the result frightening. "The poverty rates have been underestimated by up to 3.7 percentage points for years," says the left-wing politician. Almost every fifth person in a pensioner household has to live either alone on less than 999 euros or in pairs on less than 1499 euros a month. And a look at the development of the past few years also gives "a sense of bad things for the future if not vigorously counteracted," says Bosbach. In 2007 the at-risk-of-poverty rate among pensioners was 14 percent, according to the figures that have now been published. In 2011 it was 17 percent, in 2014 it was 19.2 percent.

SPD sees new statistics as evidence of the necessity of the basic pension

The SPD parliamentary deputy Karl Lauterbach, who is responsible for the pension issue, described the new evaluation as comprehensible and "coherent". The results are "further evidence that the basic pension must come," he told the Tagesspiegel. Otherwise you run “with your eyesight into a major social problem”.

Birkwald, on the other hand, sees the increase in pensions demanded by the SPD only as a “first step” against poverty in old age. The concept of Minister of Social Affairs Hubertus Heil has the sole aim of getting people with long phases in the low-wage sector out of the "basic security in old age". The basic security threshold is currently only 796 euros. The left is calling for a “solidarity minimum pension” which ensures that no one has to live on less than 1050 euros net in old age.

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