Censored: Poverty Report in Germany

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

On September 17, the German Labor Ministry sent a draft report “on Poverty and Wealth” to the other ministries to be rubber-stamped. Only the final report, once sanctified by Chancellor Angela Merkel, would be made public. The draft was supposed to remain hidden. But it seeped to the surface almost immediately. And it was hot. Too hot.

The massive data (PDF, 535 pages) described the tough reality that many people faced in Germany—a reality that got tougher every year. For example, in 1998, the lower 50% of the population owned 4% of all private wealth, while the upper 10% owned 45%. By 2008, the lower 50% owned only 1%, but the upper 10% had increased its share to 53% (at the expense also of the in-between 40%). Other reports have painted similar pictures.

The poverty report by Germany’s statistical agency showed that the “poverty rate” in Germany has been creeping up: in 2008, it was 15.5%; in 2009 it was 15.6%, and in 2010 it was 15.8%. Particularly hard-hit were people under 65 who lived alone. Their poverty rate was 36.1%. For single-parent households, it was 37.1%. The city of Munich issued its own poverty report. By taking into account Munich’s high cost of living, it found that nearly a fifth of its residents lived in poverty.

Poverty data has been stirring public debate for a while, and across most of Europe. Even the largest consumer products companies are adjusting to it by using commercial strategies that were successful in developing countries [read....  The “Pauperization of Europe”]. But now the Labor Ministry’s “Poverty and Wealth” report, as revised by the Economy Ministry, was leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which then put a grunt to work to compare the two versions. Turns out, the original version had been censured!

It started in the introduction. In the new version, the sentence, “Private wealth in Germany is very unevenly distributed,” has been deleted.

The original version pointed out: “While wages have risen in the upper areas over the past ten years, lower wages adjusted for inflation have dropped. The income spread has increased,” which would hurt “the sense of justice of the people” and could “jeopardize social cohesion.” Incendiary words, emanating from a Labor Ministry run by a conservative government. Too incendiary.

It was replaced by the new jargon, heard so often in the battle over Greece: falling real wages were an “expression of structural improvements” in the labor market and created low-wage jobs for many unemployed people.

The report also noted that the hourly wage of many people who live alone and work fulltime wasn’t enough to secure a livelihood. This “increased the risks of poverty and weakened social cohesion.” That comment was deleted. Now it only said that the low-wage issue “should be looked at critically.”

Even certain data has been deleted, including this sentence: “However, in 2010, over four million people worked in Germany for an hourly wage of less than €7.”

The opposition was outraged. “The whitewash of the report is shabby,” said Katja Kipping, head of the Left Party, accusing the government of a cover-up.

“Those who hide and ignore reality cannot make fair policies,” said Andrea Nahles, SPD Secretary General. “The reality” for which the coalition was “responsible” was “too gloomy even for the Merkel government. She wants to deny it instead of tackling the problems.” And she lambasted the coalition’s policies that served “only a very specific affluent clientele.”

“The federal Government wants to water down, conceal, and beautify crucial elements of the report,” griped Annelie Buntenbach, board member of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), an umbrella organization representing over 6 million workers.

The report has heated up the public fight between Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), who doesn’t mind shining a light on conditions in Germany, and Economy Minister Philipp Rösler (FDP), who is facing a very iffy reelection fight. The CDU and FDP are uneasy coalition partners. But if the FDP, which is teetering, doesn’t make it into parliament in next year’s election, Rösler would be axed from any role in the government.

He and laissez-faire stalwarts at his ministry were bothered by comments on the increasing social chasms in Germany, and their impact on social cohesion. He’d already criticized the original report after it was leaked, claiming that certain elements weren’t “the opinion of the Federal government.”

Then the backpedaling started. A spokesperson of the Labor Ministry declared that, yes, there’d been requests to change some things, but “all reports of the Federal Government” had to be coordinated with all ministers and the chancellor. It allowed the government to speak with one voice. So this was “a totally normal process.”

Alas, the statement that censuring such reports was “a totally normal process” caused another burst of outrage. As always, to no effect.

That this debacle would occur just as more money was being tossed at Greece, where poverty has been surging and where wages have been plunging, was priceless. By keeping Greece in the Eurozone, eurocrats or better “euro morons” have successfully avoided a weak drachma and a subsequent Greek hyperinflation. Instead they have successfully created stagflation. Read...  Euro Morons: Hyperinflation Successfully Avoided, Stagflation Successfully Created.

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paintman's picture

Poverty is a comparative term.  Everyone who wants something they can't afford feels impoverished.  The issue is whether the opportunities for one to seek lifestyle improvments are unnecessarily hindered by artificial encumberances placed in their chosen path by others operating as individuals, organizations or governing entities. 

hooligan2009's picture

poor germans have far more to worry about..


extracts referring to goldmann (doggy style), kiok and zeta:

Germany legalised bestiality (zoophilia) in 1969, except when the animal suffered "significant harm".

Hans-Michael Goldmann, the head of the parliamentary committee investigating the new amendment...the new legislation was intended to clarify the current legal position

Michael Kiok, the chairman of the pressure group Zoophile Engagement for Tolerance and Information (Zeta), said he was going to take legal action to fight the proposed changes. "It is unthinkable that any sexual act with an animal is punished without proof that the animal has come to any harm," he said, adding that animals are capable of showing what they do, or do not, want to do. Bestiality is banned in many European countries, including the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. The law was changed in the UK in 2003, which reduced the maximum sentence from life imprisonment to two years. The act however, is permissible in Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, though Stockholm is considering a change in the legislation.

Watch out SHEEPLE..unless you have red lipstick to put on the pig.


NEOSERF's picture

Once the Greeks make the German taxpayer bend over, then there will be some interesting discussions

madcuban's picture

it would be just a shift from one "social cohesion" to another "social cohesion".   what is the labor division afraid of, being in the wrong social cohesion group?  its all just an attempt to whip the people up into a frenzy over the wrong things to keep them fenced up like cattle to a slaughter.

My Days Are Getting Fewer's picture

Good article - Wolf


Thank's for the link

venturen's picture

I voted for that guy who gave me a free phone....so everything is great!

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Well duh


They export their wealth don't they ?


Their fixed capital investment is below the euro average.

They have given up nuclear  - hoping to externalise higher nat gas prices throughout the eurozone.

Basically shitting all over us.


Its time we all borrowed from our own hinterland - not each other , preaching austerity on others can then at least finish.

steve from virginia's picture



The zero-sum aspects of industrialization emerge in country after country, developed and developing. The poor get poorer while the rich look for places of exile to escape to ... after the shit hits the fan.


So much for industrialization 'ending poverty'. It always was another lie ...


Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. That massive world birthrate looked like a great market to sell into five years ago looks like a horde of cannibals in 2012, sharpening knives and loading Kalashnikovs. Coming to boil your rich asses alive ...

rodocostarica's picture

The pretty constant 20% poverty rate here in Costa Rica seems pretty good in comparison to first world countries I guess.

No EBT here however there are some minimal poverty aid programs. No one really dying of starvation. For the most part families help each other and kids help take care of their parents when in need.

The weatlh disparity however is a problem and growing as everywhere.


blunderdog's picture

If you live in a place where there's no effort to serve big-spenders, "poverty" doesn't seem nearly as severe.  In a country like Germany (or the USA), it's generally expected that *everyone* will have access to hot water and electricity.

In places where there's no such expectation, "poverty" has different implications.

the not so mighty maximiza's picture

Is it really just Germany or can a case be made that it is entire planet.

GCT's picture

Well anon at least we do not shoot or roll over our protestors with tanks in tienamin square! We miss your satire by the way!


dogbreath's picture

tanks you say.  tanks are so passe.  preemptive dronestrikes coming soon to a theater near you

AnAnonymous's picture

'Americanism' is about censorship, not freedom of speech.

'Americans' will make a consumption case of anything and nothing.

They censor and manage to excite more consumption by reporting the pieces that were censored.

Obviously, 'americans' would like to depict it as a victory of freedom of speech as 'americans' are such stalwarts of freedom of speech.

But as shown by live experimentation, there was no other cause to censor than provoking more consumption.
'Americans' residing in Germany could have published the documents as it was supposed to be in the first place. It was non subversive originally.

But 'americans' created a case for censorship out of nowhere, to spur drama and get the consumption going with it.

The 'american' way to masquerade for freedom of speech:

-write an innocuous report that has no material worth of censorship.
-censor the report
-reveal that the report is censored and the pieces that are censored
-Enjoy the consumption going with it.
-Claim laurels as stalwart supporters of freedom of speech as finally, a report non worth censoring in the first place, is revealed in its entirety.

Wonderful 'americans' and amazing ways of 'americanism'

Of course, suggesting that publishing the report without having it censored since it has no sensitive material in it is another mark that could be un -'american' or another 'american' attempt to provoke even more consumption.

'American' economics is all about consumption.

Many staged events only to provide with more consumption opportunities.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


'Americans' will make a consumption case of anything and nothing.

AnAnonymous will make an 'americanism' case of anything and everything.

His thoughts wander through a mind of decrepitude while his feet wander through roadsides of decrapitude.

EmileLargo's picture

By the the time this is over, lack of equality will be the least of German concerns. :D

Azannoth's picture

Germans are Hyper-sensitive about "social equality" any mention of any 1 person having greater wealth than the average makes the Germans scream "Bloody Murder!"

No wonder the .gov is freaking out, once too many Germans realize how badly they are getting screwed .. nothing will happen ;)

It's an endless cycle in Germany the "conservatives" get elected to create some wealth than the "socialists" get elected to spread this wealth around and than back again endless looop.

CheapBastard's picture

"Americans of all ages are facing a dire retirement savings shortfall, says retirement-security expert Teresa Ghilarducci at the New School of Social Research in New York. She predicts that slightly more than half of middle-income and lower-income Americans will be living at or near the poverty line in old age."



I am Jobe's picture

Nothing like watching the Boomers and GenX both spending money on AAPL crap .

Good for Makeup mfg's.


asteroids's picture

This one has been easy to predict. The tail end of the boomers will retire into poverty. The chairsatan, once he ignites inflation, and he will, will seal their fate.

Ghordius's picture

testosteronepit complaining that the Germans are too "laissez-faire"? LOL

how does this tie in with the constant propaganda that ze eurozone is fully socialist?

the truth is that the "social partners" in Germany agreed in a softening of their labour law rules in order to achieve efficiency

try this at home, if you can, those "social partners" are trade unions and industry interest groups and the deals were brokered by the German Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (Agenda 2010)

Haus-Targaryen's picture

If this can somehow cause some real change in German politics it could be a good thing.  


I'd love to see the Frei Wählers start getting seats in the Bundestag, and end this stupid Euro project.  Would be very good for the poor in Germany.  

Ghordius's picture

the "Freie Wähler"? they would have to break out of Bavaria, first

and how do you think that "ending this stupid Euro project" is going to be good for the poor in Germany?

the thread is about labour laws, btw, something that affects the poor much, much more than currency

and the Freie Wähler are a christian-social pro-european party, just to keep this point clear

have a look at their program http://www.freiewaehler.eu/wp-content/uploads//2012/10/Grundsatzprogramm...

check chapter XII, point 1: "Europa"

They want EU referenda (nice, very pro-EU), more subsidiarity in the EU (nice, me and everybody else too), an "Europe of the Regions", no EU taxes (as if this would be the case - it isn't), a strenghtnening of the EU Parliament (something I personally dislike because it's against the confederative principles of the EU) and all in all a "Cohesive European Policy of the MacroRegions"

again, an explanation: "macroregions" means more Bavaria and more EU - and less Federal Republic of Germany

typical bavarian, a kind of CSU christian (catholic) conservative splintergroup that tries to protest against the EUR implications for German savers

chances of breaking out of Bavaria IMHO: zero - interest for the poor: see CSU template (which is not too bad, a bit conservative for some tastes but solid)

NickelthroweR's picture


I had read that same article and I walked away from it quite depressed. What was forgotten are the 22 million or so public employees (including the military) receiving full time pay (whether retired or still working). Those are a lot of people on the backs of a nation of workers that can't afford to pay much in taxes.

When I bring these numbers up on any of the more, say, "progressive" sites, the people just lose it. They just refuse to believe that all of the promises wont be kept. They just go on and on about how "solvent" the trust fund is and how it wont run out of money until 2075 or some other ridiculous date.

Also, those guys just worship Krugman.

Vendetta's picture

You seem to get the same response about public employee benefits from 'progressives' that I get whenever I bring up the whacked out US trade defecit and/or trade policy to almost any group  ... massive ad hominen attacks.  I don't think either group of 'defenders of the status quo' worship krugman or Milton Friedman's quacky 'ideas', they simply don't understand what the respective economic/monetary philosophies of the quacks actually mean ... to their own peril.

otto skorzeny's picture

wow- that doesn't sound like the US at all-not when you have retired cops and firefighters making $80K+ pensions and great benis. the local city here in IL tried to get the firefighters to pay $50 (YES-50 f-ing $ a month) towards their health care insurance and you should have heard them bitches scream.

DavosSherman's picture

How about here in the US of A?  I mean seriously, do I fucking give a shit about Germany for one nano second? No!

From Jim Quinn's fine blog The Burning Platform some great Charles Hugh Smith work.


38 million earn less than $10,000 per year.

50 million earn less that $15,000.

61 million earn less than $20,000 annually.

Simply put: 100 million wage earners, or 2/3 the entire workforce, earn less than $40,000 per year.

There are roughly 127 million people dependent on government transfers: 61 million recipients of Social Security and Medicare.

Medicaid for the 11 million people drawing lifetime SSI Social Security disability.

66 million people receiving welfare (SNAP food stamps, housing credits, Medicaid, etc.):


Germany!?!?  We got our own fucking problems, Germany can blow it out my ass.  

This is the shit every American needs to know and be reading.  This is the shit that can be summed up in 1 paragraph.  This is the drum to beat.  Fuck this crap from Germany, I'm not sailing around the world.


walküre's picture

Absolutely correct! The German problems are interesting in the context of a European debt crisis though.

The US services debt to the tune of 13 billion Dollars INTEREST payments MONTHLY.

That INTEREST is coming OFF THE TOP of everyone's paycheque. It needs to be serviced or the country defaults like Greece. Nobody can bailout the US. It's absurd to even think about it.

You also state correctly that average US household income is low, low, low compared to the very BIG NUMBER of 13 billion in INTEREST. We're not even taking payments on the PRINCIPAL.

What every American who gets fucked by the banks should know and probably understands is that DEBT SERVICING is a BIG DEAL. It fucked many Americans when the shit hit the fan 4 years ago!

Fuck this shit. They can talk about a fiscal cliff all day and night long, it is a superficial discussion. The numbers are REAL and they're BIG. Too big to comprehend and too big to get SERVICED long term.

DEFAULT AND RESET is the only solution and IT WILL HAPPEN sooner or later. Mark my words.


I am Jobe's picture

Amerika has no issues like Germany. Just watch Amerika, all is good. No need to look beyond.

Seorse Gorog from that Quantum Entanglement Fund. alright_.-'s picture

And I'm not sailing around the world to the US and A, 'Davos'. If you don't like it then don't fucking read it (hint: the clue is in the title).

DavosSherman's picture

I think you might have missed my pimping point.  Perhaps you might want to click on the link to Amazon.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Can't help but notice the disproportionant ratio of troll to human votes here on Zerohedge. Comments that point out the obvious government propaganda/theft scheme get attacked immediately