Gütersloh/Berlin (dpa) – Single parents and their children are at a disproportionate risk of financial poverty, according to a new study.
Nearly 43 percent of all single-parent families are considered low-income, according to research published Thursday for the Bertelsmann Foundation. The German Trade Union Federation (DGB), social associations and the left called for stronger political action against child poverty.
Only 9 percent of single-child couples are considered low-income. With two children, that’s 11 percent. Although in most cases single parents have a paid job, they are often unable to ensure the subsistence level for themselves and their children with their income.
The poverty risk for single parents — 88 percent of whom are women — and their children remains at a high level, emphasizes study author Anne Lenze of the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. In 2020, about 34 percent of single parents received a basic benefit according to SGB II (Hartz IV). Their share is almost five times that of couples.
According to the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, children and young people are significantly affected by poverty. Within ten years, the poverty rate among adolescents rose from 18.2 to 20.5 percent (2019) – with about 2.8 million minors affected. “It is shameful and shocking how child poverty is increasing and hardening in this rich country,” said Joachim Rock of the research center. Especially ‘hard and violent’ affects both single parents and families with many children.
Poverty despite work
According to the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the reality is often: poor despite work. Of the single mothers, 71 percent have a job, almost half work full-time or almost full-time. Of the single parents who subscribe to SGB II, 40 percent are in paid employment – so they couldn’t get by without “replenishing”. The study juxtaposes data on relative income poverty from 2019 and on SGB II coverage from 2020 – these are the most recent figures. According to the current definition, people are at risk of poverty if they have less than 60 percent of the median income of all households. In 2019, the limit for a single parent with one child was 1396 euros.
Lenze sees political movement, but more reforms are needed. After all, 2.2 million children and young people – more than 16 percent of all minors – now live in single-parent families – and the trend is increasing. And nearly half — 45 percent — of all children related to SGB II grow up in single-parent families, which make up less than a fifth of all families. In 2019, there were 1.52 million single-parent families with minor children.
The DGB was alarmed. “It is a pity that poverty in wealthy Germany still has such proportions,” said DGB Vice-President Elke Hannack. For low-paid and single parents, Hannack advocated an employee-oriented basic child protection scheme. Existing services should be summarized in a meaningful way. The chairman of the Social Association Germany, Adolf Bauer, said: “In order to improve the situation of single parents, the availability of adequate and high-quality care for children under the age of three, kindergarten age and school-age children is an important condition.”
Associations see the state as an obligation
Leftist leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow said: “The greatest help for single parents is when the poverty pressure on the children is removed.” In a rich country, child poverty is not providing aid. Children up to the age of 18 must receive €328 to €630 as part of the basic child benefit.
Lenze explains that it was possible to reduce the SGB II quota, especially in East Germany. In the west, however, the percentage is very high in Bremen (62.4 percent), as well as in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia at about 43 percent. And: “The relative poverty has not decreased, the single parents and their children have remained poor.”
The association of single mothers and fathers has also noticed more existential fears since Corona. Single mothers often work in the low-wage sector, says VAMV boss Daniela Jaspers. “Forgotten revenue is a huge blow. Single parents usually have no reserves.”
The single parent Nina from Düsseldorf works 28 hours a week in retail and earns 990 euros net. That is not enough for her, her son (8) and daughter (19). If SGB II “upgrades” she gets an average of 800 euros per month, says the 41-year-old. For months she saved on a laptop for homeschooling. “We had to bleed a lot for that.” Because the ex-partner does not pay alimony, she wants to request an advance for alimony for the son. “However, getting support services always requires a lot of bureaucracy.”
In the pandemic, recipients of low incomes are particularly affected by losses, says Antje Funcke of the foundation. Numerous mini-jobs have disappeared, and so have single parents. Many demand a participation allowance for children, which should guarantee them a good education and bundle all financial benefits. Lenze expects this basic child benefit to be introduced in the next legislature.
“#StopptKinderarmut” (#StopptKinderarmut) was a social media campaign of the foundation, Funcke says. They talked about exclusion, renunciation, shame, how exhausted their single mothers were in trying to give them a good childhood – ‘and how hard it was for them to persevere’.