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Implications of the Activation Paradigm on Poverty and Social Exclusion in Germany: Facts, Hypotheses, Uncertainties

Author: PETRA BĂ–HNKE
Published in GPS, Vol. 6 No. 1

This article is an overview of how poverty experiences have developed during the last decade in Germany. It reviews how the related discourse has changed from the focus on monetary poverty to the issue of social integration and recapitulates the related changes in social policy design. The question to answer is how the underlying activation paradigm of the social policy reforms has influenced the poverty risk throughout society. Was it successful in bringing people back to work and diminishing poverty exposure? Who is at risk of becoming poor? Empirical findings on the extent and the distribution of the poverty risk are presented, and consequences of becoming poor in participation chances are shown. This is combined with a review of recent studies that deal with this subject with regard to the impact of the Hartz reforms. Poverty increased for children, long-term poverty expanded, and the percentage of working poor rose. The middle classes did not face a substantially higher risk of decline over the years. Although the majority of the poor came from poverty near positions, already disadvantaged in terms of participation, their overall quality of life diminished even more after falling below the poverty threshold. All in all, social and labor market policy reforms up until now did not prove to be as successful as intended with regard to diminishing poverty exposure. However, uncertainties remain, be-cause of the difficulty of disentangling the impact of economic activities, demographical changes and social policy frameworks on the development of poverty experiences in general.

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