Around a third of students in Germany live below the poverty line
The German welfare association Paritätische Gesamtverband has recently revealed that almost every third person studying in Germany lives below the poverty line. This has been followed by calls for BAföG reforms and higher student loans.
Study reveals widespread poverty amongst German students
German welfare association Paritätische Gesamtverband has called for an increase in student loans and has called on the government to do more in its reform of the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (BAföG), Germany’s Federal Training Assistance Act. Paritätische Gesamtverband justified these measures by citing the results of its own study, in which it found that around 30 percent of all students in Germany are living under the poverty threshold. Students living alone were found to be the worst affected, with a massive 79 percent of them living in poverty.
In Germany, poverty is defined by household income, and the opportunity afforded for social participation on that income. Thus, a household that makes less than 60 percent of the median income is considered at risk of poverty. Currently, this figure stands at 1.265 euros per month. Poor students in Germany have an average income of 802 euros, which puts them 463 euros below the poverty line.
Paritätische Gesamtverband calls for increase in student loans
Last week, the traffic light coalition introduced upcoming BAföG reforms, which would see the maximum BAföG rate (including housing and healthcare allowance) increase from 861 euros to 931 euros per month in the autumn. Paritätische Gesamtverband has since called for significantly higher increases to tackle student poverty. "The old-fashioned clichés of a happy student life with little money but a lot of free time are absolutely outdated and have nothing to do with the reality of life and the pressure of studying nowadays," said Ulrich Schneider, general manager of the Paritätisches Gesamtverband.
Paritätisches Gesamtverband argues that the 5 percent planned increase in BAföG rates will not offer sufficient structural improvement or even maintain students' current purchasing power, given the current rate of inflation. In order to combat student poverty in Germany, actual BAföG rates will need to rise to around 550 euros instead of the planned 5 percent increase to 449 euros.
The federal government has also planned other BAföG reforms that aim to push the boundaries of who is entitled to loans to help cover tuition fees and other studying costs, including increasing parental allowances and raising the age limit. However, the Paritätisches Gesamtverband still argues that “it is necessary to raise the BAföG requirement rates appropriately and to update them automatically and regularly." The association's demands have been backed up by numerous student associations and representatives, as well as a number of social organisations.