Pensioners in Germany

It is now not uncommon for German seniors to settle abroad, where care homes are more affordable on a limited state pension. The German media have drawn attention to this state of affairs. Photograph: Youness Bouzinab

It is now not uncommon for German seniors to settle abroad, where care homes are more affordable on a limited state pension. The German media have drawn attention to this state of affairs. Photograph: Youness Bouzinab

The German news media are increasingly drawing attention to the living conditions of pensioners across the country. Commentators have been pointing out that more and more pensioners are likely to live in poverty. By some estimates, even the middle class is expected to see its purchasing power halved in old age. As a result, many pensioners are now emigrating to Eastern Europe and Asia, where care homes are cheaper – a story that has received much media attention in Germany as well as abroad. Less notoriously, but just as significantly, statistics by the German Labour Ministry released after pressure from the opposition in parliament last September indicate that as many as 761,000 are now working to keep afloat. Among them we find 120,000 aged 75 or over. About 80,000 pensioners now work full-time; the rest have one or several temporary or part-time jobs.

The situation is only expected to deteriorate further, owing to the country’s fast-ageing population. The Federal Statistics Office projects that Germany’s population will shrink to 65 million by 2060 down from 82 million today – a 20% decrease. This is expected to have a dramatic effect on pensioners, who will form a larger share of the country’s population than ever before: the pension of an average senior who has worked 45 year is currently set at 51% of his former salary, but is expected to fall to 43% by 2030.

The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung notes that while these projections are alarming, the situation is already dire, and should be addressed swiftly. In a recent article, Hans von der Hagen wrote that this is especially worrying for those living in cities who have never been able to acquire property and now struggle to pay their rent: poverty in old age, he adds, “is already very much a matter of concern”.

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