In 2021, more than every third pensioner in Germany drew a pension below the basic security level. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor (BMAS), this was 853 euros in 2021. The benefits paid out for around 6.8 million pensioners were below this limit.
In relation to the total of 18.5 million retirees in 2021, this corresponds to a share of 37 percent. These numbers come from an answer to a request from the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, which WELT has exclusively.
In the figures provided by the Department of Labour, there is a significant difference between men and women. For 5.2 million of the total of 10.3 million old-age pensioners - i.e. more than every second recipient - the pension in 2021 was below 853 euros.
In contrast, almost 1.6 million of the total of 8.2 million men received a pension below the threshold, which corresponds to around 19 percent.
There is also a clear gap in the amounts. The average pension payment amount for men who drew an old-age pension was 1227 euros in 2021 - for women, on the other hand, it was only 807 euros.
"Women in particular have to make ends meet with absurdly low pensions," says René Springer, labor market policy spokesman for the AfD parliamentary group. Family work should under no circumstances lead to poverty in old age, according to the MP.
"The available figures show very clearly that the statutory pension no longer fulfills the eminently important function of effectively combating poverty in old age," says Matthias W. Birkwald, spokesman for pension policy for the left-wing faction. "We need a rapid increase in the pension level from 48 to 53 percent that ensures a standard of living."
It is by no means clear from the figures that more than one in three pensioners is poor or at risk of poverty. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, a low old-age pension cannot generally be inferred from a low old-age income.
"Not every pension that is below the basic security level is an indication that the pensioner lives below the basic security level," says Tanja Machalet (SPD), a member of the Committee on Labor and Social Affairs.
Stephan Stracke, labor market policy spokesman for the CSU parliamentary group, has a more differentiated interpretation. “Only the number of recipients of basic security in old age can provide information about poverty in old age. Their share is currently around 3.2 percent - in the total population, on the other hand, a significantly higher proportion is in need," says Stracke.
"Even if the problem is not as big as the AfD would like it to be, we still have too many older people who are dependent on basic security benefits." The goal must be a noticeable increase in pensions for future generations.
It is also difficult to draw conclusions about poverty in old age because the figures do not take into account that two people usually contribute to the household income. In order to identify an actual risk of poverty, "the households and the total income from old age must be taken into account," says Pascal Kober, spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group on labor market policy.
For example, one spouse's pension payment amount can be significantly lower than that of the other. In addition, the figures say nothing about any private provisions and assets, widows' pensions, professional pensions or home ownership.
The responsible state secretary in the BMAS also points out that with low pensions there are often entitlements in other security systems, such as civil servant pensions. According to the AfD faction, however, this number only accounts for a small proportion.
According to the ministry’s old-age security report, in 2020 a total of 27 percent of former civil servants, judges and soldiers had entitlements from statutory pension insurance in addition to their civil servant pensions.
In relation to the approximately 1.4 million pension recipients in the federal, state and local governments, this means that almost 378,000 people are entitled to an additional pension. Calculated on the 6.8 million old-age pensioners who draw a pension below the basic security threshold, this corresponds to a share of only 5.6 percent.
The figures also show that 1.25 million pensioners were working at the end of 2021. Those persons who paid contributions to the pension insurance were recorded.
However, it should be taken into account that gainful employment after retirement age is "usually not carried out to avoid poverty", according to the ministry.
In addition to financial reasons, the main reasons for employment after reaching the statutory retirement age are also non-material aspects. "These include, for example: having fun at work, contact with other people or the feeling of being needed."
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