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Germany, The Country Where the Poor Hide Themselves

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EIRNS—At the same time that the French government is in the process of submitting to the National Assembly, a series of decrees making the labor code more "flexible," the French weekly Marianne chose to publish in last week’s issue, a report on the impoverishment of German labor and population at large, under the Hartz 4 "liberalization" of the labour code.

This is a major disaster. Germany, "the economic locomotive of Europe, is also one of the largest sectors of low wages in the continent. On the other side of the Rhine, 22.5% of the active population earns less than EU10.50/hour, versus only 8.8% in France. Hidden beneath the enormous trade surpluses, the rise in the poverty level is beginning to threaten the cohesion of the German society."

"Germany has reached a new record since reunification, with a poverty rate of 15.7%, i.e. 12 million people," warned Ulrich Schneider, Secretary General of German charitable associations. Even the IMF is worried about it and says in its latest yearly report that "despite a well-developed social security net and a strong progression of employment, the risk of relative poverty demands continuous attention." Early July it was the Hans Böckler foundation who revealed that the number of poor workers, i.e. earning less than 60% of the median revenue, went from 2 million workers in 2004 to 4 million in 2014 (9.7% of the active population). Follow a series of interviews of people’s difficulties in the former East Germany, resulting from the Harz IV reforms. "Today in Germany there are close to 6.6 million mini-jobbers, and 4.4 million beneficiaries of the Hartz IV."

The author of this policy was then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who decided to strongly deregulate the labour market in order "to make unemployment less interesting than work." With those policies, "mini-jobs" and "interim" and "work contracts," which are close to the "project contracts" that Macron hopes to extend, exploded. Hartz IV accelerated "pauperization." Nobody who has more than EU9,750 in savings, can take those jobs, however. "Which is the reason why 70% of the unemployed in Germany, as opposed to 45% on average in the rest of Europe, live under the poverty line." Schröder succeeded in creating what he had called at Davos "the best low-paying jobs sectors in Europe." Germany’s retired population is even more impoverished, something even the Bertelsmann Foundation agrees with: "By 2036, 20% of the new pensioners will be poor."

The worst about this is that nobody talks about it! "’Here poverty is not like in Calcutta where people die on the streets. Poverty in Cologne, for example, is well hidden. They hide because, they are more ashamed of living in poverty when they live in a society which is rich and there is little solidarity,’ explained Christoph Butterwegge, former Die Linke presidential candidate."

The article concludes saying that the government waited to publish its report on poverty for a full a year and half until early 2017, because Merkel demanded the elimination of numerous parts raising the negative consequences of poverty upon economic growth, or dealing with the lack of political representation of the poor. Merkel had the following paragraph eliminated, for example: "The parties who want to get more votes take least into account the interests of people with low income, because of their weak political participation." In Germany, the poor (65%) vote as an average a lot less than the rich (90%). A difference of 25 points against only 11 points in France (81% against 92%).