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Exclusive: German Government Covers Up, Waters Down Poverty Report

Article illustrative image Partner logo One way of saying "no" to poverty in Berlin

BERLIN - Critical passages in the German government’s latest “Poverty and Wealth Report” have been smoothed over, and critical passages have been excised, reveals Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The newspaper was able to compare a draft version with a revised version dated Nov. 21 and released for comment by the trade unions.

In the introduction of the report, a statement saying "Private wealth in Germany is very unevenly distributed" has been removed.

The first draft of the “Poverty and Wealth Report,” which is released every four years by the Federal Ministry of Labor went out to members of Germany’s government in mid-September. It contained material that was critical of the status quo, including the following about salaries: "While upper-end salaries showed positive growth, in price-adjusted terms lower-end salaries went down in the past 10 years, thus increasing income disparity.” This damaged "the public sense of fairness" and could "pose a threat to social cohesion," said the report.

This has been replaced by statements saying that the fact that salaries went down in price-adjusted terms reflected “structural improvements” on the jobs market and that between 2007 and 2011 numerous new lower-paid fulltime jobs opened up that had enabled many of the jobless to find employment.

The new version is also watered down with regard to single people whose hourly wage at a full-time job does not add up to enough to live on per month. The first version stated that this increased the risk of poverty and weakened the social fabric – a statement that has disappeared from the present version. All that remains is a comment that this "should be seen as critical."

Certain facts are also missing from the new-and-improved version. The first draft said: "In 2010, just over four million people in Germany were working for a gross hourly rate of under seven euros." The new version leaves that out.

After reading the first version, Minister of the Economy Philipp Rösler said that the report "did not reflect the opinion of the federal government." Liberals were particularly disturbed by the statistics about growing income discrepancies in German society.

According to Annelie Buntenbach, a board member of the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB): "The federal government is trying to water down, cover up and embellish crucial parts of the report." A speaker for the Ministry of Labor said that there had been some requests for changes, but that in the context of approval by different members of a coalition government this was “normal procedure.”

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