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Child Poverty in Germany and Europe
Where are we at the End of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion?

Documentation of the conference by AGF and European Commission Representation in Germany on child poverty on 30. Nov 2010 in Berlin


Cover of invitation.

Currently, nearly one in five children in the EU live at risk of poverty. The fight against child poverty is not only an expression of recognition of the dignity and rights of children and young people, but also an investment into the future of Europe. The European Union had declared 2010 the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion. Its aims were to raise public awareness of the situation of people affected by poverty and to give new momentum to the political commitment of the EU and Member States in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. The combating of poverty and social exclusion in Germany and Europe remains of continuing relevance.
The conference discussed the actual achievements of the European year, how the poverty situation of children and families in Europe and in Germany has changed and what further steps for an effective policy against child poverty are still required.

 

Child poverty – Important, but not important enough?

Matthias Petschke, head of the European Commission Representation in Germany, stressed in his opening speech the importance of the issue of child poverty. The cooperation event with the AGF is a good opportunity to show a common flag. In his speech, he reiterated that the EU will continue, within its competence, the fight against poverty above and beyond the year 2010 and that the Member States could count on assistance in the implementation of their actions. In this context, he announced an event of the European Commission in Berlin, to be held in January, concerning the new "Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion".

Representing the AGF, Edith Schwabwelcomed the participants. She pointed out that child poverty, both individually and socially, has serious consequences. Especially in affluent societies, it often leads to stigmatization. In Germany, about one in six children are affected. They suffer from difficult starting conditions and lack of future opportunities. Their situation would become increasingly hopeless, the less often they experience that it is possible to get out of poverty. She criticized that, despite the available knowledge, there are not enough political strategies to combat child poverty efficiently - in Germany as in Europe.

The moderator of the conference, Maria von Welser, journalist and vice chairwoman of UNICEF Germany, described how she experienced child poverty for the first time, in Hamburg. From her impressions the book , "Life in the vicious circle. Child poverty in Germany - but no one looks in," came about. She made no secret of her anger and disappointment and urged the improvement of the situation of children and to urgently enable them to fair social participation. Just by studying the current political development, there would be an urgent need for the elimination of child poverty to be further discussed.

Minuszeichen.  Minimize opening statements ...

Picture of Matthias Petschke. Picutre of Edith Schwab. Picture of Maria von Welser.

European Perspectives: Input by Barbara Steffner, head of the political department at the European Commission Representation in Germany

Picture of Barbara Steffner. In her keynote speech, Barbara Steffner for the European Commission stated: It is politically unacceptable that so many people and particularly children are affected by poverty in Europe. ...

Pluszeichen.  More on Input by Barbara Steffner ...

Stocktaking Germany: Input by Dr. Markus Grabka, DIW Berlin

Picture of Markus Grabka.

Dr. Markus Grabka from the German Institute for Economic Research laid open the poverty trends in Germany. Using data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), which are conducted in Germany since 1984, he made it clear that even in Germany, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. ...

Pluszeichen.  More on input of Markus Grabka ...

Lack of political will? Panel with Edith Schwab, Thomas Mann and Dr. Jens Regg

The inadequate government responses to child poverty were also discussed at the subsequent panel discussion.

Picture of panel.

On the stage sat Edith Schwab, chairwoman of the AGF, Thomas Mann, Vice Chairman of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament, and Dr. Jens Regg, Managing Director Basic Social Security, Regional Directorate Berlin-Brandenburg of the Federal Employment Agency (BA). The discussion was chaired by Maria von Welser, a journalist and deputy chairwoman of UNICEF Germany. ...

Pluszeichen.  More on panel discussion ...

The panel participants cited the following as the main starting points for targeted and effective policies of poverty reduction:

  • to strengthen parental responsibility for the welfare of children and a joint effort together with the schools to enable the children to take their lives into their own hands
  • listen, listening, and conversing with the children and young people
  • An education that encourages every child in the best possible way
  • A policy that sets the course, rather than supporting individual projects, and a social climate of empathy.