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HOMELESSNESS AROUND THE WORLD: SPOTLIGHT ON GERMANY

 

 

Despite the fact that the German economy is growing, with unemployment recorded at an all-time low, and lower food and energy costs than most other European countries, poverty in the country continues to increase, and with it, an increase in the number of people who are homeless.

This increase is largely due to the numbers of refugees who have found sanctuary in Germany, together with the country’s withdrawal from the provision of subsidised housing. A lack of affordable housing has driven up rental prices – particularly amongst smaller one and two bedroomed apartments which have seen a substantial increase in rental costs in recent years.

While homelessness and poverty are social issues in Germany, they are less visible than in other European countries, primarily because the signs of social decline are less obvious. There are no slums in Germany, and running water, refuse removal and sewage systems are available to all.

There are an estimated 860 000 homeless people in the country. However, the majority of these individuals don’t live on the street, and instead have moved in with friends and relatives where possible. Unfortunately, around 52 000 homeless people – approximately 6% of the homeless population – live on the streets without any kind of formal roof over their head.

In 2016, a federal report revealed that 440 000 of Germany’s homeless population were refugees, according to BAG, the federal working group for homeless persons’ assistance. This number does not include the homeless living on the street. According to German legislation, refugees are entitled to an apartment although many are currently housed in mass accommodation.

Germany’s growing homeless problem and rising levels of poverty are ironic considering that the country’s GDP levels are growing. The country’s residents are either very wealthy or very poor, according to government conducted studies. Economic growth, however, does not extend into poorer communities, largely due to a lack of education. Solutions include providing stronger support to children from poor families, decreasing the number of children per class in schools and increasing the number of teachers hired.

While a growing GDP does enhance job creation, these jobs are often so poorly paid that they merely end up eroding the middle class. Digitisation has also had an adverse effect on employment, with many people losing jobs to automated systems. Until these issues are resolved, poverty – and homelessness – in the country looks set to continue increasing.

 

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By Ali Gregg