Social divide in hamburg: making poverty more visible

The Left Party demands a poverty and wealth report to develop measures against the social divide.

From Blankenese, the poor sides of the city are difficult to see Photo: dpa

No other German city is as socially divided as Hamburg. Although the so-called poverty rate in the metropolis on the Elbe, at 15.3 percent, is just below the national average, if one includes the comparatively high cost of living, Hamburg ranks second in the old federal states, after Bremen, according to calculations by the Left Party.

At the same time, Hamburg has the highest wealth ratio nationwide and is home to nearly 1,000 income millionaires. While the average gross income from gainful employment in Veddel is between 14,6,000 euros, depending on the calculation, it is between 120,0,000 euros in Nienstedten.

And the social divide continues to widen: almost all scientists agree that the social consequences of the corona crisis will primarily affect people who have little to live on anyway. According to the Federal Employment Agency, 376,469 employees in Hamburg have applied for short-time work since the start of the corona pandemic. In addition, over 24,000 Hamburg*ers have lost their jobs since March.

This means that a total of 91,140 people were registered as unemployed in July 2020, an increase of 35 percent within one year. "The pandemic is exacerbating social inequality. The longer it lasts, the more people will be left behind," is how Left Party Member of Parliament Stephanie Rose sums it up.

Stephanie Rose, The Left Party

"The longer the pandemic lasts, the more people will be left behind socially."

There are many reports commissioned by the city on the situation of socially disadvantaged groups: Comprehensive life situation reports exist on each of the unemployed, families, refugees, and homeless or homeless people. They follow different methodologies and are almost all commissioned or produced by the social welfare agency, which has some interest in putting its anti-poverty strategies in a not-too-bad light.

"We are the city of many reports," Rose complains. Her parliamentary group demanded in the Burgerschaft on Wednesday that the Senate "present an action-oriented poverty and wealth report" every two years, which as a "comprehensive overall view" could be the basis for an inter-agency strategy to fight poverty. And so that this report does not mutate into a "performance show of the government", it should not be commissioned by the authorities, but should be the responsibility of independent experts.

Although the SPD and the Greens referred the motion to the Social Affairs Committee for further debate on Wednesday, they strongly criticized its content. The SPD’s social policy spokeswoman, Ksenija Bekeris, said that the life situation reports already provided a good basis for combating poverty. The two-year cycle proposed by the Left Party is also too short to really make trends visible. Bekeris rejected the idea of placing reporting on the social division of society in the hands of experts: "Fighting poverty is the core of our political work, we don’t give that out of our hands."

The Green Party’s Mareike Engels also does not want independent experts. A red-green opposition that caught the attention of Andreas Grutzeck of the CDU. "The way the coalition refuses to accept this proposal, there is a suspicion that the reports close to the authorities weight the facts in a way that is not objective," he said. Although he otherwise disagrees with the content of the left’s proposal, he said he "can certainly get on board with the idea of independent commission reports."

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