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What Does It Mean to Be Poor in Germany? (spiegel.de)
385 points by nkurz on May 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 325 comments



I read the german version of this article a few days ago and paired with my own experience (I was born and raised in Germany and lived there until the age of 25) I came to the conclusion that: a.) being poor in Germany is much much better than being poor in most other countries (incl. the United states, where I reside now) and b.) When you are poor in Germany you can drastically improve your cash flow by not living in one of the expensive cities. Living out in the country in a small village will enable you to stretch your welfare checks compared to living in Munich, where most things and most people around you are much more.

I also think Germany has a unique opportunity here to tackle the problem of social mobility and could improve the way they deploy the welfare budget. For example supporting a young family with many children before they face sliding into "poor status", due to one parent staying home to take care of the family. The article did a great job highlighting three interesting situations and their challenges/opportunities.


> The article did a great job highlighting three interesting situations and their challenges/opportunities.

Yes it did and I agree with all you said. As a German I just wanted to point out one thing that might not be clear to many readers not familiar with the situation in Germany:

And as you said the article was "highlighting the interesting situations". These life stories are highly atypical.

Mr. Huber was an Engineer at Siemens. Even if he didn't make quite a career there, he had certainly one of the better paying jobs in Germany. He inherited a house at Tegernsee, which is wealthy area. In contrast to most other Germans he had all the chances he could have, but somehow (the article doesn't say) he lost everything.

The Ehlers' trouble started with the birth of their forth child. Only 3.5% of all families with children in Germany have four or more kids [1].

Mrs. Kramer is seriously ill. She is a single parent but has (apparently) otherwise no family to support her. She lives in her own apartment and has a good education. Her case is certainly the most typical of all three.

What does typical poverty in Germany really look like?

15.4% of the German population is considered poor[2][3].

    - Single Parent 41.9% 
    - Family with three or more children 24.6%
    - Unemployed 57.6%
    - Low level of education 30.8%
    - Foreign national 32.5% 
    - Migration background 26.7%

[1] https://www.destatis.de/DE/PresseService/Presse/Pressekonfer...

[2] http://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2016-02/armut-deutschland-2016...

[3] http://www.der-paritaetische.de/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl...


Germany has the lowest birthrate in the world. It seems like the German government should create policies that encourage men and women to have more children like free/heavily subsidized daycare, tax incentives, and maybe even payments.

Here in the US I can see how the Ehler's financial problems would became significant with a 4th child. But given the low birthrate in Germany it seems like Germans could be more generous to those who are willing to have more babies.

[source:] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32929962


>...free/heavily subsidized daycare, tax incentives, and maybe even payments.

We have all of this in Germany.

Child care is not free but heavily subsidized, even more there is a right to child care for children from age one to six [1].

Tax reductions are more complicated, broadly speaking the tax exempt amount for every child is around 7000 EUR - not too bad [2 (in German, look for the table in the section "Höhe des Kinderfreibetrages")] .

Payments "Child benefit" are [3]:

    1 Child	        184 EUR/month
    2 Children          386 EUR/month
    3 Children	        558 EUR/month
    additional child    215 EUR/month
The source has a comparison with other countries and while difficult to compare I think Germany is in the top.

[1] https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/politics/germany-europe/...

[2] http://www.kindergeld.org/kinderfreibetrag.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_benefit


Tax reductions are set against the payments though, so only really well earning parents actually benefit from them.

I suspect the reasons are more social ones. Examples:

Having children is not being valued highly, having a career is. Imagine a woman proudly announcing to some gala aquaintances that she has 4 children. In a lot of countries, this would be the norm. In Germany, the woman would be deemed low-class.

Lack of family cohesion, thus as a parent, you are on your own. Compare this to the luxury of letting the grandparents take care of the kids multiple times a week/month.

Consumerism. A German thinks he has to have it all. Kids are percieved as a threat to that. We are very good at making our own lives miserable by not valuing family and friends over having the newest car/stereo/boat.

Perfectionsm. Parents think they have to get everything right and only the best things for their kids (again, THINGS). And the society thinks the same - a mother should be perfectly dressed, handling her two perfectly dressed kids with ease and loving devotion 24/7, never just let them play on their own but instead already teaching them latin. AND of course, having a stellar career AND a slender waist at the same time.


I agree to some extend, but I don't think this explains the low birth rate compared to other very similar countries like France, the UK or the US, where many of the things you describe apply equally or in greater measure.

An aspect that seems more uniquely German is looking down on mothers that give their child to daycare "too early", meaning, before it's 3 years old.

Anecdotally from conversations with friends in their mid late twenties, early thirties, the idea that you have to justify yourself as a woman, or somehow fail as a mother, if you start working again too soon is still very prominent.


This is definitely true (not German, but with a German SO and a German sister-in-law ...)


Yes, thats one aspect of the perfectionism I was talking about.


> Having children is not being valued highly, having a career is. Imagine a woman proudly announcing to some gala aquaintances that she has 4 children. In a lot of countries, this would be the norm. In Germany, the woman would be deemed low-class.

i was amazed reading this. there are nations where the natives are proud of beeing breeders?

while its not something to be ashamed of, it most certainly not something you should be proud of either...


Well, you cannot reduce motherhood to the simple fact that a birth has taken place. That is why it would be pretty offensive to characterize a mother as such.

A woman that has given birth almost certainly has also taken care of the child(ren) for many years, which shows, at least, the ability to:

- master a high responsibility job

- take on a huge workload

- constantly juggle multiple tasks at once

- typically work overtime

- keeping team morale up despite competing needs

- setting goals for the further development of each team member, and keeping a steady eye on the progress that is being made

Sounds like a management job, does it not?

Not to mention the extreme commitment towards everything that accompanies the pregnancy and delivery itself, including, amongst others:

- pain and nausea

- heavy reconfiguration of the body

- strech marks and/or genital wounds

- risk of losing the child

- risk of having a ill or impaired child

- risk of dying

- risk of losing the man and being on your own with all the aforementioned tasks

Yes, a woman with decent kids can most certainly be proud of herself.


>There are nations where the natives are proud of beeing breeders?

In Israel the average woman has 3 children, and having 3-4 children is expected as the norm in the middle class.


You can also add 14 months of ma/paternity leave (67% of income replaced, max €1800/mo)

Child benefit (Kindergeld) goes until the age of 18


> You can also add 14 months of ma/paternity leave (67% of income replaced, max €1800/mo)

Yes, and it's a right, your employer can't refuse it. If I remember correctly the 14 months is only if both parents take part, 12 months otherwise. 12 months for the wife, 2 months for the husband is typical.

> Child benefit (Kindergeld) goes until the age of 18

Even until 25 if your children have no income of their own, e.g. when they are go to college.


There is a confusing but splendid program called elterngeld-plus. You take half time (25-30 std/wo) and get half money but for twice as long.

If both partners take it at the same time for 4 parallel months then you receive a bonus 4 months (which you can also take as half time which means 8 months). You could theoretically get 28 months of half-money/half-time.


Why do you have to incentivise an increase in the birth rate? Why does it always seem when there is a discussion of birthrate, it's somehow automatically assumed that low-birthrate == "bad", with the obvious next point being that it has to be fixed.

Honestly, from my point of view as a free-minded individual, this is exactly the sort of thing that is quite frankly disturbing about government intervention. Society is seen as some sort of grand-experiment that needs to be tweaked and prodded in order to optimize X or reduce the risk of Y, in endless different contexts.


> Why do you have to incentivise an increase in the birth rate?

The pension system needs a next generation that will pay when the current generation is in old-age pension. Feel free to call it an obligatory pyramid scheme.


Germany doesn't have the lowest birth rate of Europe, let alone the world.


Why make more babies when you can just take immigrants?


Because if you have an interest in Germany continuing to exist in the future, you need German people.

A country filled with Arabs, Africans, and Afghans isn't Germany, peoples aren't fungible in that way.


Yes. I'm sure all of the Germans of Turkish familial origin would agree... They aren't Germans. Even though they were born in Germany and speak German.

You can be non-Caucasian and still be German. That is what you were getting at right?


Many of the Germans of Turkish familial origin still self-identify as Turks, not as German, or as both Turkish and German, in the second or third generation.

You certainly can be German and non-caucasian, but you actually have to believe yourself to be German and be part of German culture.


I find the attitude of "if you consider yourself both Turkish & German you're not really German" disappointing.

My wife & I are immigrants in Germany (and pay a lot more taxes than the median German family, draw far fewer benefits, speak German and have plenty of German friends and acquaintances) and our son was born in Germany.

I would expect him to believe himself to be German when he grows up, but would also see it as unfortunate if he doesn't also see himself as Israeli & Austrian at the same time.


The native populations of Germany and Austria are the same genetically, and assuming Ashkenazi, then also pretty similar.

So why would you like your son to see himself as "Austrian" and "Israeli" just because his parents lived there, instead of simply as having a genetic heritage in the region that goes back millennia before the modern conception of the German and Austrian State?


What are you talking about? Germany over the thousands of years has seen many immigration waves - as many as Germans were all over Europe.

You have zero knowledge of European history.

Carl Zuckmayer:

Vom Rhein - noch dazu. Vom Rhein. Von der großen Völkermühle. Von der Kelter Europas! Ruhiger Und jetzt stellen Sie sich doch mal Ihre Ahnenreihe vor - seit Christi Geburt. Da war ein römischer Feldhauptmann, ein schwarzer Kerl, braun wie ne reife Olive, der hat einem blonden Mädchen Latein beigebracht. Und dann kam ein jüdischer Gewürzhändler in die Familie, das war ein ernster Mensch, der ist noch vor der Heirat Christ geworden und hat die katholische Haustradition begründet. Und dann kam ein griechischer Arzt dazu, oder ein keltischer Legionär, ein Graubündner Landsknecht, ein schwedischer Reiter, ein Soldat Napoleons, ein desertierter Kosak, ein Schwarzwälder Flözer, ein wandernder Müllerbursch vom Elsaß, ein dicker Schiffer aus Holland, ein Magyar, ein Pandur, ein Offizier aus Wien, ein französischer Schauspieler, ein böhmischer Musikant - das hat alles am Rhein gelebt, gerauft, gesoffen und gesungen und Kinder gezeugt - und - und der der Goethe, der kam aus demselben Topf, und der Beethoven und der Gutenberg, und der Matthias Grünewald und - ach was, schau im Lexikon nach. Es waren die Besten, mein Lieber! Die Besten der Welt! Und warum? Weil sich die Völker dort vermischt haben. Vermischt - wie die Wasser aus Quellen und Bächen und Flüssen, damit sie zu einem großen, lebendigen Strom zusammenrinnen. Vom Rhein - das heißt: vom Abendland. Das ist natürlicher Adel. Das ist Rasse. Seien Sie stolz darauf, Hartmann - und hängen Sie die Papiere Ihrer Großmutter in den Abtritt. Prost.


Where is your dividing line here?

You say "[a] country filled with Arabs, Africans, and Afghans isn't Germany" and then question someone who wants to preserve their child's Israeli and Austrian heritage.

Trying to use genetic heritage to determine nationality is an unproductive use of one's time. You would be right in saying that the native populations of South Germany and Austria are similar genetically, but native North Germans are more similar genetically to the Dutch, Danish, and Swedish. Perhaps you also argue for those nationalities to identify as German?

I wrote the preceding sentences before checking your comment history (and remembering the neo-Nazi reference of your username). Now that I have, I can see why you would have a problem with non-Caucasians identifying as German and German parents wanting their children to remember their non-German heritage.


Germany and Austria are similar genetically, but native North Germans are more similar genetically to the Dutch, Danish, and Swedish.

Differences among all those groups can be teased out when comparing them among themselves, but when comparing to Arabs, Africans, or Afghans, the differences among Europeans effectively vanish.

That was the point.

For Europe as we know it to continue to exist it's population must be Europeans.

Consider the types of societies one finds across the Arab world and Africa to the societies one finds in Europe.

neo-Nazi reference

I didn't even know about the "neo-Nazi reference" thing until someone pointed it out before(you?).

The truth is there are a series of account that were made when the number of saved stories was limited. i.e. cb1 ... 18

I just happened to stop on 18.

It's really absurd if every time you see the number 18 you shriek and go Nazi!!!

Do you watch sports where they wear numbers? Do you ever see prices in stores that say 18? There must be nazis hiding everywhere huh?


'cb18' = combat / Kampf Adolf Hitler.

That's a well known code for Nazis.


Nazis happened ~70 years ago, it's minuscule now and the world changed. I'd suggest you put your attention to more contemporary issues.

- e.g. the, lamentable sub par state of most muslim countries. Many of those countries have so much (oil) money but look what stupid things their regimes are doing with it. Certainly not building a modern society. It's oppression almost everywhere - stop the population explosion would be another subject. Contrary to 50 years ago we have now the medical means to stop it. No wonder everybody gets poorer 'when a small farm has to be shared between 10 children'...

(But of course you (all) know this - and a cure is difficult)


> I'd suggest you put your attention to more contemporary issues.

Like the rise of xenophobic, populistic, nationalistic, fascist groups in Europe - where I live.

> lamentable sub par state of most muslim countries.

I suggest you take care of that. It's not my business. I have nothing to do with muslim countries.

> stop the population explosion

Where I live, there is no such thing.


This is the same guy who was going on about /r/European being a misunderstood place that is definitely not a neonazi/white supremacist forum.


The truth is there are a series of accounts that were made when the number of saved stories was limited. i.e. cb1 ... 18

It's true that creating series of 18 accounts just to make a concealed Nazi reference is pretty extreme, so maybe it's just a coincidence this time. False alarm guys, put away the pitchforks.

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb18 2227 days ago

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb17 2253 days ago

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb16 2257 days ago

...

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb3 2668 days ago

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb2 2787 days ago

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=cb1 No such user.

But wait, there is no cb1! We've caught him in his crafty lies. Since there are actually only 17 accounts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/17th_SS_Panzergrenadier_Divisi...) his cover is blown. Unless he can immediately clear his name by somehow proving the existence a cb1 account created 8 years ago, we've (essentially) _proved_ that he is a Nazi who is not worthy of refutation!

For Europe as we know it to continue to exist it's population must be Europeans.

Less sarcastically, I think it would be better to debate the points he makes rather than dismissing him by shrieking "Nazi". Is Europe defined by its genetic heritage or its culture? Which is more important? Do the two go hand-in-hand? At what cost is it worth preserving either?

It's really absurd if every time you see the number 18 you shriek and go Nazi!!!

You tried to slip that last reference in at the end where no one would notice, but I saw it. Nazi!!!


> Is Europe defined by its genetic heritage or its culture? Which is more important? Do the two go hand-in-hand? At what cost is it worth preserving either?

Just define it by geography, problem solved?


"Consider the types of societies one finds across the Arab world and Africa to the societies one finds in Europe"

Let's do that:

European societies are nationalist (with distinct nations) and also functional.

African and Middle Eastern societies are pan-Arabic/pan-Islamic and dysfunctional.

I'm not claiming it's casuation not a mere correlation, but we should probably not fix what's not broken. Call when pan-Islamic Caliphate or pan-Arab Federation happens and is a success.


This is admittingly more topical with the Israeli and Jewish side than the Austrian.

I would like him to know and acknowledge his cultural background, the same as I would like him to be able to speak Hebrew (at the very least so he could speak to his grandparents and extended family). And I don't see anything negative in that, there is no limit of having only a single identity.

I also don't see what genetics have to with it. Indeed my grandparents had to flee Europe for similarly phrased reasons (being ashkenazi didn't help them at the time) and I find them just as distasteful now as then.


> [...] the same as I would like him to be able to speak Hebrew (at the very least so he could speak to his grandparents and extended family).

It's a shame Yiddish couldn't take that place that Hebrew got.


And I don't see anything negative in that Of course there's nothing wrong with that.

What I found strange was that you thought he would want to identify with a neighboring political entity(Austria) instead of just as Germanic-European and Ashkenazi-European.

Also what I saw occuring was this symptomatic absurdity that occurs from our genuine desire to not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Which is acting like a migrant from Afghanistan or Syria is the same thing as an immigrant from Austria(!) or even Israel, Askenazim are mostly European.

In our fervor to not repeat past mistakes, we are willfully blinding ourselves to the fact that not all people are the same. And the kinds of societies that result when different peoples form societies are very different.

Thinking all these muslim migrants are going to somehow become model germans is madness.

The sad irony is, who do you think the biggest anti-semites in Europe are today? Muslim migrants and the Muslims already in Europe...


I can see how is it disappointing.

However you can also see how broad inclusion can be disappointing for "German Germans". You see, as an Israeli you have more flexibility and perhaps specific community support and, being a minority, additional lobbying power.

Whereas "German German", while being exactly same German as you (or your son), lacks all that and therefore at a disadvantage. They become "just Germans". These incentives lead to fragmentation of core German identity: everybody gains from declaring them as "German and Somebody Else". But fragmented society is a liability how we saw in Syria or Bosnia or many other troubled countries.

Therefore, while "German Germans" and "non-German Germans" should be equal almost everywhere, the former should have distinct weight at shaping society culture and policy. It's just more natural that way.

Disclaimer: I'm not a German but from a country that have similar issues.


That's no different from 2nd and 3rd generation Asian-Americans identifying their race as Asian and their nationality as American. I don't think they're any less American than Caucasians who've been there for 2 or 3 generations more.

To your specific example, I'd say football is a pretty big part of German culture and there are footballers who identify with the country they came from but feel more comfortable in a German shirt. They choose to represent Germany for that reason, becoming a massive part of that culture. Now would you say that Mesut Özil or Sami Khedira or Emre Can or Jerome Boateng aren't that German just because they remember where their family came from?

If you do, its interesting because others in Germany share that opinion. For example, one leader of a political party said a couple of days ago that Boateng remained "alien" despite his popularity and that people would not want "someone like Boateng as a neighbor." [1]

[1] - http://www.dw.com/en/afd-provokes-anger-with-racist-comments...


Fairly sure that most Americans of Japanese ancestry consider themselves both Japanese and American. Same goes for most other ethnicity. Does that make them any LESS American?

Many Puerto Ricans consider themselves both Puerto Rican AND American. This is especially interesting given Puerto Rico is an American territory yet it is considered a different cultural group.

Germans of Turkish descent are in fact still Turkish regardless of generation. Similarly Germans of Chinese descent are still Chinese while also being German.

Your final sentence is the nut. The rest of it is just discrimination (small d) of people into cultural groups.

(Edit: As an aside... Is Doner German culture? Or is it Turkish?)


Döner is a traditional Turkish meal. It is sold as a dish on rice, on a bread, or in a wrap. However, the Döner Kebab as it is known in Germany today originated with immigrants in Berlin.

I don't think it's easy to say what culture it is. The German Döner is still very similar to the traditional meal, but "Eating a Döner" has engrained itself deeply into German culture.

Normally, when eating foreign food, you'd call it by the country it comes from. If you order a burrito, you're "Eating Mexican", if you order a Pasta you're "eating Italian" and if you are having sushi you are "eating Asian". But you don't "eat Turkish" when eating a Döner.

I don't have an Answer, I just thought I'd share my thoughts.


Döner in Germany is like Curry in Britain.

Ie they are both enthusiastically adopted and adapted to local mores. Some of the changes even make it back to Turkey and India.

Hamburger are about as American as it gets. Of course, the name gives the origin away.


Yeah I thought it was ham burger as burger with ham


Alas, there's no ham on them burgers.


The issue is rather that others identify them as Turks and so it gets part of their identity.


If an Icelandic couple moves to Africa, learns a Bantu language, and has a child who then also learns the language, is the child then a Bantu?

You can be non-Caucasian and still be German.

A country is the spirit and character of a people. That's what makes a country what it is. Not political boundaries on a map. And groups of people don't just take on a new spirit and character if they move into new political boundaries en masse.

The spirit and character of a people comes from their DNA. And their DNA comes from their environment over many thousands of years.

If the majority of the population in Germany were to be African or Arab, do you really think Germany would retain it's particular character that makes it European and German? No of course not! You would have to be insane to think that it would.

Were that to come to pass, Germany would look a lot more like countries in Africa or the Middle East than a European country.

With the recent migrant madness we are already seeing troubling signs of this, with loads of horrendous crimes hitherto unknown in Europe.

It's not just the excess of crime that doesn't bode well, but that these foreign populations, even into 2nd 3rd generation receive welfare at much higher rates than the general population.

Why would it ever be a good idea to take in loads of immigrants who are a net drain on the economy in multiple ways? Europe can't babysit the world in this way. Not only does make it make no sense, but it is unsustainable, the time at which our welfare states have become totally dismantled from this looting is rapidly approaching.

Many resources are finite. Why should grandparents who spent a life time contributing to the system have their benefits cut, so politicians can try to import future voters in order to extend their reign? It's madness. It is destroying the western world.

So, that's a long-winded way of saying, no a "non-caucasian" or anything else but an ethnic European, ethnic German cannot be a "german." Maybe someone else is a citizen of the Bundesrepublik. But that is just a piece of paper symbolizing an abstract system of agreements. The biological reality of what makes the German people what they are and by extent what Germany is, is another thing entirely.

---

I'm sure all of the Germans of Turkish familial origin

Funny you picked the Turks, who are notoriously unintegrated in Germany. Just like all the muslims across Europe of course, but some of the Turks have been here since the 1970s. So it makes people take notice and say, "uh oh!" In fact, this was more or less the reason for Angela Merkel's dictum years back saying "Multiculturalism has failed."


> The spirit and character of a people comes from their DNA.

Would you then suggest that a country of mixed-nationality immigrants, like Canada, can never have a national identity? Do you believe that the patriotic affinity between Canadians is somehow lesser than that between Germans, because we don't share a well-defined genetic heritage?

You're right, Turks have integrated poorly in Germany. Temporary foreign workers were brought over en masse and ghettoized to fuel the economic rejuvenation of the nation; unsurprisingly, many chose to stay. Too many to integrate properly. The result is a huge chasm between German-born Turks and Germans, with resentment on both sides. But this was the result of a poorly-executed policy, albeit one that may have been necessary at the time; either way, it's not the normal way that immigration happens in Germany or other countries.


I'm not an expert on Canada, I know there was a little bit of tension between the Quebecois and the rest.

because we don't share a well-defined genetic heritage

This is not true. The genetic heritage of both Canada and the USA is European. It is only in recent decades that there has been non-European immigration of any significance.

Therefore the national identity of Canada and the USA is European. After all, they are part of the western world, they have the characteristics that are common to the European/western world.

When I have to explain this stuff, I feel like the world is going crazy. I mean it is so obvious. But it if helps someone, great.


> Would you then suggest that a country of mixed-nationality immigrants, like Canada, can never have a national identity?

Switzerland is a better example---since they don't have big groups that want to split the country.


>Do you believe that the patriotic affinity between Canadians is somehow lesser than that between Germans, because we don't share a well-defined genetic heritage?

Lesser patriotic affinity for minorities? Absolutely. (I am Canadian)

There's even a study[1] showing that with increasing diversity, you get:

Lower confidence in local government, local leaders and the local news media.

Lower political efficacy – that is, confidence in one's own influence.

Lower frequency of registering to vote, but more interest and knowledge about politics and more participation in protest marches and social reform groups.

Higher political advocacy, but lower expectations that it will bring about a desirable result.

Less expectation that others will cooperate to solve dilemmas of collective action (e.g., voluntary conservation to ease a water or energy shortage).

Less likelihood of working on a community project.

Less likelihood of giving to charity or volunteering.

Fewer close friends and confidants.

Less happiness and lower perceived quality of life.

More time spent watching television and more agreement that "television is my most important form of entertainment".

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007....


I think you're shadow-banned. Your two most recent posts are dead.


It would be instructive to compare Switzerland here. They are famously made up of German, French and Italian speaking parts. (And a fourth language that nobody cares about. And lots of immigrants these days from all over Europe.)


The US would seem to counterpoint that, esp. with tons of people participating in voluntary work and civic engagement (compared to other countries).


I won't go into too much detail, but this is just flat-out wrong. "German-ness" is emphatically not genetic. "spirit and character" are not either.

You're just trying to have a "filthy migrants are all criminals" whine dressed up as something other than bigotry.


It's really a shame that it has become so difficult to be have important conversations because people have become so trained to insult people they perceive as uncouth, all the while ignoring all the important substantive matters raised.

"German-ness" is emphatically not genetic.

German-ness comes from ethnic Germans which are a genetic subgroup.

"spirit and character" are not either.

Then where else would it come from? Spirit and character come from people, people are genetic.

---

Just answer this, you don't need to go into too much detail.

If an Icelandic couple moves to Africa, learns a Bantu language, and has a child who then also learns the language, is the child then a Bantu?


It's really a shame that it has become so difficult to be have important conversations because people have become so trained to insult people they perceive as uncouth, all the while ignoring all the important substantive matters raised.

I'd argue what's far more problematic is the desire to portray oneself as the target of attacks as a method of evading argument, while posing reductio-ad-absurdium trick questions, but we digress…

German-ness comes from ethnic Germans which are a genetic subgroup.

I don't agree that this is the definition of nationality. It seems obviously false, given that at some point fairly recently in evolutionary terms there was no such thing as an "ethnic German" - so where did they come from? Following your argument, the only thing that can produce an "ethnic German" is the process of other "ethnic Germans" having children. I'm sure you see why that's not possible.

Isn't it far more likely that nationality is defined by shared cultural and social context? One becomes "German" by participating in and sharing the experience of other Germans? By its nature, this is going to be a fuzzy concept. One could certainly be forgiven for arguing that a first-generation immigrant who makes no effort to learn the German language or participate in German civil society isn't "German", but even then it's not clear.

Then where else would it come from? Spirit and character come from people, people are genetic.

People are far more cultural and social than they are genetic - that is, social and cultural differences between people are far greater than genetic differences. It would seem ludicrous for example to suggest that a child born in Germany, who speaks German and is an active participant in that society is somehow not German because of both of their parents were from, say, Turkey.

If an Icelandic couple moves to Africa, learns a Bantu language, and has a child who then also learns the language, is the child then a Bantu?

Isn't this exactly an example of where nationality and ethnicity is fuzzy?

If said child grows up in Africa, and the cultural experience of that upbringing is Bantu (the culture rather than the ethnicity) then why would that child not be Bantu? Simply because their genetic history took a detour via Scandinavia? That seems silly to me.


I'll just leave this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMQkV5cTuoY


You are trying to dress up your genocidal thoughts of the German people as something politically correct and inclusive.

Try to make the same exercise with the Aboriginal Australians: It doesn't matter if they don't reproduce; there's plenty of whites around to take their place.

Why do you hate diversity?


We've banned this account for repeatedly violating the HN guidelines.


I'm confused about your reference to Australian Aboriginals. The majority of them were decimated by disease and out right violent attack from whites... how are either of those scenarios relevant here?


It is probably about time to get rid of nations within the EU and just call the place Europe. Soon after we can get rid of the other nations and call this place Earth.


Nah, lots of people who are bona-fide Germans these days had ancestors that were considered eg Polish a generation or two ago.

But you are right, Germany does a pretty bad job at integrating newcomers.


We are all Prussians!


Come to think of it, the old Prussia probably did a better job. Eg when they welcomed the Huguenots after the French kicked 'em out.

"Preußen und die Marktwirtschaft" (whttps://www.amazon.de/Preu%C3%9Fen-die-Marktwirtschaft-Erhar...) is a fun read, if you don't mind taking it with a pinch of salt or two.

The author argues how much more efficient the Prussian state was compared to modern Germany. Eg 200 years ago they were devastated from the defeat by Napoleon but managed to invent and establish the modern university that everyone copied---and all that with less public servants for the whole of Prussia than a medium sized town these days.


The genetic distance between a German and an African is many, many multiples of the genetic distance between a German and a Pole.


There is vastly more generic similarity than difference... racism is never about genetics, it's always about shared (or not) culture.

The genetic arguement is completely bogus, shouldn't you be removing all the dogs first before you start splitting difference between humans?


It's almost as if the basis of racism is completely arbitrary and unfounded!


You don't say.


To steelman your argument, you should be talking about some kind of `cultural distance'.

Still, doesn't make too much sense.


Seemed to work for the US.


The article gives a brief sketch of Huber's downfall:

But at the beginning of the 1990s, his life came crashing down around him. One of his main customers stopped paying. He fought for years to get the unpaid money and restructured his debt to get seed capital for his new business plan. He fought desperately -- and ultimately in vain. In 1997, he was forced to capitulate. By that point, he had already been unable to work for two years and was on welfare. He lost his family home in a foreclosure and his pension and retirement insurance plan was seized. His landlord evicted him. Manfred Huber was ruined.


He's a college-educated electrical engineer with IT consulting experience. Why can't he find a job somewhere?


He's a college-educated electrical engineer with IT consulting experience. Why can't he find a job somewhere?

Because ageism is real. I finally got hired to a good job, with a boss who appreciates what I do, but before that happened, I got (rather snidely) accused of "googling the answer," had people blow off my phone appointment, was basically called a "fake programmer," and had people angry at me or look at me like I'm a piece of crap during interviews.

I have never, ever, been treated like this in my professional life, except in the Bay Area. Knowing what you don't know is generally best learned by getting some bruises in the process. Really, the lesson is that not knowing what you don't know can be very extremely painful. It's one thing to know that abstractly, another to know it from direct experience. There are some people who just knee-jerk say you can't do this or that. There are other folks who have enough experience to have a good feeling for how to navigate what they don't know, in such a way that the team can see it coming.


Yeah, I empathise with you. Once the crystal embedded in your palm starts flashing red(1), nobody in the industry even wants to acknowledge your existence, let alone your experience. I have a youthful voice and went to university for CompSci long after graduating from a technical high school, so when I show up for the in-person interview, the atmosphere often gets sucked out of the room.

The absolute worst experience was a technical phone interview that was going very well, I thought I connected with the interviewer(2). So I was shocked after being complimented on the breadth and depth of knowledge I had, near the end of a 45 minute conversation, there was a pause and he asked "so, when did you graduate from high school?" Needless to say, the tone changed somewhat and I didn't get the in-person interview for the position that "wasn't really a good fit for me," and he, "wasn't really sure [we're] going to actually fill this position," forgetting that he earlier said he wanted someone as soon as possible.

(1) See Logan's Run -- it's a documentary about the Bay area companies' solution for aging software engineers. /s (2) And I knew him, but only in the sense I knew him from several mailing lists stretching back to the days of USENET as a knowledgeable, respectable guy with a good reputation.

TL;DR ageism is a thing everywhere.


A friend of mine, aged 46, recently graduated with an IT degree.

He has had many interviews, and in about half of them he tells me he was rejected by the interviewers at the end because they're "looking for someone 'fresher'." One interview he had started out with a phone interview, and they loved him and his experience. He turned up for the interview, and the first question it was some time before the first question was asked because of all the awkward ways the interviewer tried to broach the topic of my friend's age.

I'm 41, with a Computer Science degree, and I don't even get half the number of interviews he has. He previously worked for an educational institution, I worked for what turned out to be one of the least reputable employers in town. That guy's business practices destroyed any hope of finding work that I've had. (In my country, if you're unemployed and signed up with the government support agency, whether receiving financial support or not, you agree to accept any reasonable job offer.)

Aside: in the last eight years, I've had three interviews. The first one found out that I have a disability, and much like your interview, he forgot that he'd told me I was well suited to the role due to my knowledge and skills. He turned bright red and started screaming at me, literally screaming. He was threatening me with legal action and bills, for wasting his time because I didn't have enough experience, threatening to lay a formal complaint with the referring agency.


>Aside: in the last eight years, I've had three interviews. The first one found out that I have a disability, and much like your interview, he forgot that he'd told me I was well suited to the role due to my knowledge and skills. He turned bright red and started screaming at me, literally screaming. [...]

wat. I presume this was after you called him out on his contradiction?


I'm sure unemployment is worse than paid employment , but it sounds like people who do work with that hiring manager would also have a pretty bad time of it. Hateful ill-tempered people rarely compartmentalize it (except when sucking up to power)


Please tell your friend that most engineers have no business interviewing anyone. They may be intelligent in some ways but my experience in interviewing 100+ candidates for various positions is that most of my fellow engineers should stick to computers.


@tamana

I'm a great interviewer because I have a bit more empathy and interest in understanding other people.

You can downvote me if you like but my words still ring true.


Perhaps you should too..


FWIW my company does embedded development and we take in many older engineers because of our skill base working with low level hardware and unmanaged code that much of the younger crowd is lacking.


I suspect that the trouble is that, while work like yours does favor the pre-Ruby/JavaScript generation, there just isn't a whole lot of it. It is probably growing in absolute numbers though, while the supply of low-level near-metal experience is not.


Yeah, I can imagine. About half the kids (adults, really -- it was a grad course) in a systems programming course I took had that deer in the headlights look in the computer lab sitting at a Unix prompt. Not that they couldn't figure it out, but there was a definite learning curve.


Wow, that's bizarre. I am not aware of such a culture existing here in Seattle. I hope it doesn't spread, because that sounds just... obviously maladaptive.


I'm sorry, but that is just not an acceptable excuse in this case. I acknowledge that ageism is real, but I've also worked in companies where we went out of our way to hire older engineers.

That said, the article makes it sound like this guy has been out of work for close to a decade or more. Maybe he can't get a cutting-edge IT or engineering job, but he could do tech-support, an entry-level job, or even drive for Uber or a taxi.


Don't forget that people do not want to work after reaching 60-70...


Careful. There are many people over 60 that would like to work though maybe not full time. Personally I know my father would love to work but really can/should not as he has dementia. My mother wouldn't but volunteers as a dance instructor 10-20 hrs/wk and loves doing it in her retirement.


Incidentally I do hiring and I can tell you that in Munich there is an abundance of ex-Siemens people most of them in their late fifties and early sixties. It is difficult for them to get a job. It's sad, sad, sad.

The more interesting question is why his customers stopped paying, but the article doesn't say. In the end I think many things had to happen for such a fall to take place.


Right. Leaving out obvious questions like "What exactly happened to this guy?" does a lot of damage to the credibility of the article as a whole.


I disagree. Unless you live in a world where ordinary failures are punished by a lifetime of penury, it doesn't really make any difference. We've all failed projects; we all expect to be able to get up afterwards and try something else.

Personally, I find this talk of age discrimination super scary, and I do my best to ignore it, just because I've spent most of what I should have spent on retirement savings on my business ventures, so I myself plan on working through his age. I already seem to be "not a cultural fit" even in my mid-30s, though I suspect for reasons other than age, but certainly, the social expectations for technical people have... changed, even within my own career.


I hear what you're saying, but if you read between the lines in the article, this guy has left behind a trail of failures of the sort we'd normally give hurricane names to. He had a lot of advantages in life and wasted them all, one by one.

It seems likely he has mental issues, which suggests the system is failing him in ways that have nothing to do with poverty or conventional welfare support. His life situation probably shouldn't be used as fodder for a generic cri de coeur article on those topics. But we can't be sure because the journalist couldn't be bothered to elaborate.


hmm? I didn't see anything that suggested mental issues beyond what most people employed in the industry before the last boom had.

He left a job to work on his own business, and failed, and handled the failure badly. If that's "a trail of failures of the sort we'd normally give hurricane names to." - then I am in serious trouble.

Of course, as you said, there wasn't much detail, but very likely that was because the person in question didn't want to revisit those things.


Again, I'm reading between the lines because the author left no other option. Things like, "A customer (his only one?) stopped paying (why?)"

I don't think you're wrong to be concerned about age discrimination, of course. But maybe this is an example of it, and maybe it's not.


> Again, I'm reading between the lines because the author left no other option.

Sure, there was no information indicating the guy didn't have serious mental issues... but there was also no information indicating that he did. Your "reading between the lines" I think blames the old guy... when there's really no evidence presented, one way or the other.

>Things like, "A customer (his only one?) stopped paying (why?)"

The vast majority of small computer businesses (corp to corp contractors) that I know only have one customer at a time, because they only have one worker to rent out; themselves. It's really common. It's less common for those customers to stop paying after work is rendered, but it has happened to people I trust to not bullshit me on the matter. (It's kind of common for some of these small contractors to get pissed when the "contract" ends early, and to demand compensation for that... One of those mistakes a lot of people make before they learn how things actually work, at least in my jurisdiction, the length of the contract has no bearing on anything at all. You usually get paid for hours worked; really there's no further guarantees.)

>I don't think you're wrong to be concerned about age discrimination, of course. But maybe this is an example of it, and maybe it's not.

I agree. Well, I'm not 100% certain I need to be concerned about age discrimination; it's in my "might be an irrational fear, but I'm not certain either way" bucket right now, but I agree about the article.


Apparently he was out of work in 95. At that time in Europe, IT was not that hot. It was starting but he probably didn't have the proper profile. Germany was not great at the time either anyway.

Then the hiring mentality in continental Europe is not as openminded as in the UK or the US. Being out of work alone is a big red flag on your resume. Moving from independent to employee is another one.

The cardinal sin is being over 50. When I was a kid, losing your job when you were in your 40s was the nightmare of all families - the event you do not recover from like the family terminal cancer. It is getting a lot better, but even 20 years later finding a job when you are over 50 is ridiculously hard. In my home country we even have the concept of pre-pension (i.e. unemployment payment with an extra added by the company) to get rid of older workers easily.


> Moving from independent to employee is another one.

I've heard/feared this as well, but in light of the statistics on startup infant mortality it seems crazy to stigmatise.


Worth noting that Germany was considered "the sick man of Europe" due to its poor growth and high unemployment from the middle of the nineties to a bit into the 2000s. Not sure that is the entire explanation of his problems, but is probably related.


The "recovery" out of that sickness is a bit fake, it's just because 18 other countries agreed to use German currency (a.k.a. the Euro) that Germany now is looking better than the rest of the continent: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/22/greece-...

And Hartz IV is a neo-liberal's wet dream.


It was more like "other countries (aka France) demanded the Germanies to join the Euro in order for them to reunite". No Euro, no reunification. The German people were really scared of joining weak currencies like the Lira and others, having gone through multiple hyperinflations historically and finally having a super solid and strong Mark. That is also why the ECB is a) independent of the member state goverments and b) in Frankfurt and not somewhere in France or Belgium like the other EU buildings are.


> [...] having gone through multiple hyperinflations historically [...]

In the 20s and at the end of WWII? Any other one I missed?


Not to my knowledge. Maybe I should have written "two" instead.


Thanks.


> And Hartz IV is a neo-liberal's wet dream.

Not really. UBI would be. The effective marginal tax rate for poor people is pretty high. (The conventional taxes are low, but each extra Euro earned pre-tax cuts into welfare a lot. That incentive ain't great---especially since welfare is a very stable income once you have all the bureaucracy sorted, but the kinds of jobs poor people get are often less stable. Especially jarring if getting a job involves sunk costs like buying a car or moving to a different city.)


Funny enough, the Euro was a quid pro quo in return for French approval of unification. (The French were basically forced to copy the Bundesbank's monetary policy. Their politicians had hoped to meddle more with the ECB.)

See eg http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-price-of-uni... (lots more to be found with some searching).


His particular skillset might not be quite up to date anymore.


Which is just another way of saying he 's probably out of touch and his knowledge/experience is not worth much.

I'm not in the Bay Area but in Amsterdam, NL, which also has a sizeable startup culture, and I'm in that age group as well. I think both things are true, yes many older programmers have trouble keeping up (hell, even youngsters are complaining about Javascript fatigue), and I see them struggle, but on the other hand ageism is real, and many people in my age group are hit by it. Unwarranted in many cases.


It's a real shame, because if you learned about fundamentals like compilers, data structures and operating systems eg in the 80s and then slept for 30 years, you would still pass a Google interview today.

It's not even that you had to be lucky to guess right. The fundamentals are easy to identify.

But of course, lots of people chased and are still chasing the latest superficial thing; and complain that they can't keep up.


> It's a real shame, because if you learned about fundamentals like compilers, data structures and operating systems eg in the 80s and then slept for 30 years, you would still pass a Google interview today.

LOL, on my own Google recruiting track, it turned sour after I admitted I am significantly older than my LinkedIn profile shows. I believe I was reasonably good on fundamentals during the phone interview as you say ;-)


We have a bunch of self-described old farts working here in the Google office in Sydney without any problem.

They do however seem to expect more seniority out of the senior candidates.


Even if you know all the fundamentals, you're not going to be able to just jump into current programming languages, frameworks, tooling and development processes.

If you're young and looking for a junior position, employers will have no problems teaching you some of these things but there are limits.


Eg Google is a huge black hole, they don't expect anyone from the outside to be familiar with their internal-only tools.

Current programming languages: just stick to the ones that will be around for a while. (Simple heuristic: pick the ones that already have been around for a while. In the 80s, that would have been C for example.)


Thank you for sharing context, details, and links! Very helpful.


Exactly this. I moved to Germany around 6 years ago, and I've noticed huge differences in cost of living just in the few cities I've lived in (southern Germany was the most expensive i.e. Munich).

Also, as someone who has lived in the US and Argentina, and has spent a good portion of life living in the "poorer class", I have to say being "poor" in Germany seems lightyears better than it is in those two countries, although I haven't experienced being poor here, only in those others.

The first time I saw a German ghetto I thought it was joke. A German ghetto is a pretty nice place to live in most countries, in the US it'd be like living in a multicultural poorer neighborhood where everyone has healthcare and there's no guns or violent crime.

Anyway, it still amazes me sometimes how far Germans go with the "lets help the world" mentality. One of the first things, I got asked after arriving in Germany was if I wanted Hartz IV? I already had a fulltime well-paying job, but hey I wouldn't start for a couple months so they wanted to give me money until then! What country does that? So sure, you pay huge taxes, you get safer cities and even "poor" people have apartments, healthcare, food, tv, internet, etc.

This isn't to say all is perfect. There's plenty of things wrong in Germany (aka 6 month winters), but on the issue of "quality of life as a poor person", they are rocking it IMHO.


> Anyway, it still amazes me sometimes how far Germans go with the "lets help the world" mentality. One of the first things, I got asked after arriving in Germany was if I wanted Hartz IV? I already had a fulltime well-paying job, but hey I wouldn't start for a couple months so they wanted to give me money until then! What country does that? So sure, you pay huge taxes, you get safer cities and even "poor" people have apartments, healthcare, food, tv, internet, etc.

I find that a bit surprising; one of the downsides of Hartz IV (Germany's guaranteed minimum income scheme) is the hardnosed bureaucracy that tends to go with it.

That said, GMI schemes are generally pretty cheap; the welfare budgets of European countries are typically dominated by healthcare spending and pensions, not ensuring that everybody has a minimum standard of living, which generally makes up a relatively small fraction of public spending.

As Felix Salmon wrote a while ago [1]:

"At the same time, the amount of money that we need to spend in order to feed and clothe ourselves has never been lower. In much of the developed world, basic calorific and shelter needs have been taken care of, with their costs converging to zero. In dozens of countries, we have largely solved the physiological needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, and indeed the safety needs one level up. Extending that security to all citizens is a matter of political will, not a question of adequate resources."

[1] http://fusion.net/story/197297/star-treks-utopia-is-already-...


> What country does that?

In France, if you're not planned to have revenue for more than 3 months, you get the RSA+APL which is 650€pm (source: I've had it when my startup had no revenue yet), even if you have a lot of money in the bank or if you're not French. The minimum salary is ~1000€. That's if you've depleted your unemployment benefits (80% salary for 2 years, if you've worked for 2 years). RSA was just enough for me for food+housing, no clothes or extras.


gross minimum wage in france is about 1500EUR


Net minimum is 1150. What's the use of saying the gross salary, when foreigners don't know the amount of taxes and can't compare it to RSA?


that's true. but, US salaries are also expressed gross, that's why i wrote gross french minimum wage


The first time I saw a German ghetto I thought it was joke. A German ghetto is a pretty nice place to live in most countries

I've seen video from the inside of the cells in a Scandinavian prison. Those looked nicer than the apartment my friend spent her sabbatical in, in Chicago. And she's a college professor!


You're probably talking about Norway, which is in a unique position, because it has 5 million people (one big american city) in an area bigger than California and a good source of oil. It's kind of like alaska, only populated by nicer people.


Norway is 148,718 mi² and California is 163,696 mi² but you're right in that they're relatively close in size.


Swedish prisons are very similar.



> (aka 6 month winters)

That's Canada, not Germany.


At least you'll have a harder time catching skin cancer than in Australia.


Perhaps, if you're not on a coast


I'm currently on welfare in mid-sized city in Germany and can say that it's definitely possible to stay alive as long as you stay the obedient slave of the Jobcenter.

What does suck is when something breaks. Your computer, your car, something bigger in your house. Expensive hardware parts are really hard to save money for.

I have to say, the Jobcenter is the worst employer ever. They don't require my presence most of the time, yet I can't plan in leaving the city unless on very short notice, as they require me to ask for "vacation" one week before. Soo.. I can save a little money to fly somewhere, book in advance and then I ask them one week before I'm going and they can decline!

I hope to get out of this, the sooner the better. Sadly, it's not the jobs that are lacking, it's discrimination by law in my case.


... not being able to fly somewhere because of red tape is not a complaint I usually hear from people complaining about being poor...


When we were refugees in Germany, my parents felt stuck in a tiny town with few jobs because the job center made mobility out of the place you "landed in" extremely difficult. Being able to travel and move about the country freely can make a big difference economically.

By the time we moved to a different place Germany decided to kick out every refugee, and in the meantime made rules requiring jobs go to natives first, if one is applying, and refugees second. So in the end it didn't matter that we didn't live in a big city because everyone got the boot. We weren't terribly poor, not average certainly, but it was more of a struggle than it should have been.

In the US, on the other hand, they barely spent any time on government assistance because they moved upwards professionally, got compensated well, became citizens, bought a house, and funny enough sold it and bought couple more in Germany.


>and in the meantime made rules requiring jobs go to natives first, if one is applying, and refugees second

Do you have a citation for this one?


I come from non-EU country and recently got a job in Germany, you can not get agreement from the federal employment agency to take that position if there are German citizens, or people from other EU countries, who would be qualified and interested in that position.

I think the company also had to agree to allow employment agency to, either anonymously or publicly, publish ad for the job themselves for a couple of weeks.

Source from the federal employment agency:

>Die Ausländerbehörde holt die Zustimmung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit ein: Dort wird geprüft, ob es für die Ihnen angebotene Stelle bevorrechtigte Bewerberinnen oder Bewerber gibt. In diesem Fall können Sie für diese Stelle keine Zulassung auf dem deutschen Arbeitsmarkt erhalten.

https://www.arbeitsagentur.de/web/wcm/idc/groups/public/docu...

Note: There are different types of visas, and this might not be a requirement for all of them, but it was the requirement for me.


> you can not get agreement from the federal employment agency to take that position if there are German citizens, or people from other EU countries, who would be qualified and interested in that position.

I'm also from a non-EU country, so this rule applies to me. I've been living and working in Germany for a few years, and while this rule does exist, I've never seen it used to deny me a work visa.

> I think the company also had to agree to allow employment agency to, either anonymously or publicly, publish ad for the job themselves for a couple of weeks.

Yes, the company has to prove that they at least tried to hire Germans or other Europeans. However, just because there are potentially people who are qualified, doesn't mean the company is obligated to hire them.

The company is obligated to show that they published the job description and allowed Europeans to apply, and that they made some amount of effort (e.g. interviews) for Europeans, but none of them had the skills, or fit the team, or were willing to be paid the salary offered.

> Note: There are different types of visas, and this might not be a requirement for all of them, but it was the requirement for me.

Typically you can avoid this if you have studied a Bachelor or Master degree in Germany, as then you are viewed as a preferred candidate and are basically on the same level as native Germans (some restrictions apply).

We've actually been trying to hire another team member at my current company, and of all the applications we received, less than 10% of people were German, and probably only 60% were part of the Eurozone. This isn't a job which requires rocket science, but seemingly no Germans want to apply, so we're going through the process to get a visa for someone from a European (but non EU) country because they were the best candidate and didn't have ridiculous salary expectations (someone said they wanted 120k EUR for a mid-level IT position... mmmmmmkay, no)


https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1998/07/bos-j16.html

>As early as the end of September 1997 the employment offices were given instructions to systematically withdraw the work permits for Bosnians. Thousands of Bosnians, many of whom had worked in Germany for years, received duplicated forms, in generally restrained wording, notifying them that the employment centres had to first check whether there was a German available for the job.


Okay, I might get downvoted for this, but do you have a source that is not published by a marxist political party and called "World Socialist Web Site"?


It is true and called a "precedence check". Unfortunately I don't have an English source, here is §39 of the German residency law: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/aufenthg_2004/__39.html

Maybe Google Translate can help you getting the gist of it. Bottom line: Foreigners can only be employed if there are no negative consequences for German citizens.


If you can pick the time, flights can be very, very cheap. Like, €50 both ways cheap.


> on welfare

> Your computer, your car

> your house

> I can save a little money to fly somewhere

Being poor in Germany certainly sounds different from being poor in other countries.


I'm by far not a measure of the bottom of the poor. I don't have kids (as single mother), I'm not addicted to alcohol or substances, I can manage my money well and I'm intelligent. That filters out a lot of the risk factors for real poverty. Also: I don't have any debt that needs to be paid off! So many people have, and it's easy to fall into debt.

It's easy to mess it up though. If you don't show up to appointments to the Jobcenter, they will give you less money. Suddenly you get 90% of the benefits (which is measured as minimum amount of money you need to survive per month). Do it again and you get only 60% for multiple months. Do it again, 30%. Still not showing up? They throw you out, including rent payments and health insurance.

Again, while I'm considered poor in the statistics, I'm not part of the group that's at risk of ending up without any benefits money or be homeless.

My city of about 260k population has over 900 homeless people according to the friendly volunteers of a homeless shelter. I know that because we sometimes bring food over to those places, if they're happy to accept it (not all of them do). That happens because I'm responsible for my town @ https://foodsharing.de/ - we rescue food from supermarkets that they'd throw into the bin otherwise. While being active there saves me some good cost of living, the amounts of food are huge and we have to distribute it too, mainly to homeless shelters in town.


> Sadly, it's not the jobs that are lacking, it's discrimination by law in my case.

At the risk of making a too personal inquiry, what discrimination by law are you referring to here?


Germany has a Transsexual law from 1987. Currently I'm undergoing the name change process, since all paperwork has to go under my old name (who is this guy?? Why do I have to sign for someone else?). They won't even change my bank account name, which would be a start (I've been a customer with them for over 20 years and they don't trust me and my "transgender passport").

So, currently, a judge is deciding on my fate on this. I've done their interrogation, visited two psychologists now and one of the letters has some crap written in it, which might, at worst case trap me another 1 1/2 years in this situation.

Without the legal name change done, work life is limited: - I have to tell any employer my old name - If I start/join a startup, I have to use my old name. Plus it'll cost lots of money to change it once my name change process succeeds. - If I want to do freelancing, they want my old name for all paperworks. Then the thing with my bank account..

Using my old name is discouraging to any job I do. Also not being treated as an adult who can make their own life choices is highly discouraging.


So I have no experience of this, and I'm perhaps being insensitive but...

Would it not have been possible to continue using your old name for legal purposes, and just use your new name in all other contexts?

I can certainly imagine various downsides of doing so, but if the name change process is that onerous, perhaps it might still have been better overall?


I'd never get anything done. The feeling is quite hard to explain to cis people. But I'll try anyway. So you're trapped in a life that you don't want to live in. You've been trapped in there for too long. When you finally step out, you need to fight your outside world. But despite doing the right things and hurting nobody in the process, some of the outside world fights against you. You hate it. You feel patronized every time that happens. You're not the free person anymore that you used to be.

[This might be possible to deal with for some other trans people. Some have both boy and girl mode where they switch. My mind is not up to that because one side of it is a lie]


I suppose what I'm imagining is that you would treat it as a legacy identifier for legal purposes, and you'd only ever have to use it very infrequently for the benefit of bureaucrats. Like, that's just the string on your birth certificate, it doesn't define you as a person any more than your [relevant governmental ID number].

That said, I can certainly see how that could still be unpleasant, but to me, it sounds like the process you're going through at the moment is far more disruptive and unpleasant?


First of all, it's not that infrequently, if you add checking your bank account. That's one thing you do way more often if you are (self-)employed.

Problem is, seeing my old name might, if I'm in a very good mood not do anything, or if I'm in a not so good mood dig up/trigger my emotional trauma that sits deep inside of me. You couldn't understand how it feels like, assuming you're a cis person.

Trying to reason with logic does not work, this is an emotional issue. And it won't go away until I have eliminated the source of this problem. In addition, taking female hormones do make emotional issues more... intense.


Maybe you could write a browser extension that replaces your old name with your new name? I understand it would not fix the problem, but maybe make it a little bit easier. Also have you consider moving to a country that is more trans friendly?


Moving country is difficult. First, I'd need to change nationality, which is neither easy nor fast.

Then I have to see that I get my treatment continued in the other country. Hormones I'm getting paid, hair epilation I'm getting paid to half and my operation I'll get paid in Germany. But going to another country means I need to figure out how stuff goes, possibly get another therapist who knows about the process in that country, get the letters that I have either translated into their language or get new ones... it's not like there's any country that doesn't have a piece of doubt to any trans person unless you have lots of money and be able to pay it all yourself.


My legal address is at my parents house. I had lived in 7 different houses since I lived there. Don't let a burocrat decide who you are or where you live! You are who you are.


I'm cisgendered so I don't know what it's like for you. But I hear that you are saying this is difficult, and despite it being difficult for me to imagine, one thing I and others can do is take you at your word, as a person living your own life, and adult who is trying your best to be who you are.

It sounds like it must be constantly exhausting, mentally speaking. Like trying to get along in a country where you don't speak the language well and are struggling to learn it, when people tell you, "hey just learn to talk". Except the language is your body, your identity. But I'm just guessing, I don't know. In any case, I'm sorry things are difficult, and I hope you find success.


Thank you for the insight, as a man I don't quite understand viscerally the struggles that trans folks face but I want to, and to help where I can. Even if that's just being a good listener and sounding board.

(By calling myself a man I mean no disrespect, that's who and what I am)


Is it the name change itself that's the source of the bureaucratic difficulty? Or is it the sex assignment M to F and F to M change what's instigating the problem?


Name change and gender assignment change is basically one thing in Germany after parts of the law got nullified. They required you to get sterilized before you could do the gender assignment change, before 2011.


I have no idea what the laws are in Germany for contracting, but would it be possible to open up your own company and freelance through that? That way clients should should only have to deal with the business name not your personal name. This is relatively easy to do in the US, not sure about Germany though.


If you have a business in Germany, they require you do use your name on your passport. They require the name of the director on an "imprint" page on your website. Plus, obviously the costs of going to the notary when my name change goes through.


Holy shit. I'm so sorry. I can't even begin to imagine what hell this must be. Is there no hope for change of the laws and how society deals with this?


The changing of the law is long overdue. Parts of it have been nullified by the highest German court in 2011 already. The conservatives probably won't do anything unless the EU forces Germany to update their laws.

Society is fine with it, with very few exceptions. As long as I don't include the right winged xenophobic/islamophobic idiots to society. Unfortunately they've gained a lot of strength lately.


The problem here is quite similar to the issue of marriage for all. Technically there is (probably) a majority for it but the CDU which is currently in government is against it.

Additionally there are other issues that are considered more important either because they're more popular or affect more people, so the SPD isn't willing to burn political capital.

Given the current political situation in Germany and more broadly in Europe, there won't be any policy change in this legislative period or the next, so at least ~5 years. In fact there is a risk the situation might get worse in the next legislative period. Hard to predict what will happen beyond that, a lot can happen in that timeframe, Merkel will probably retire and the political landscape could shift drastically in response.


What? Do you have to go to a judge if you want to change your name in general, or is there a special law that say that if you change your name to something differently gendered you need a judge?

I have a trans friend and the biggest name related problem E. had was getting a new user account at work (as far as I know anyway).


Changing your name in general is not easy in Germany. There is a short list of allowed reasons for doing so, each with its own process. Reasons would be things like: Marriage, gender change (in Germany at least one for your first names needs to indicate your gender), unfortunate or funny name, or at naturalization to make your name more German-sounding.

Outside of that it's almost impossible to change your name.


However, getting a stage name or artist pseudonym recognized is relatively easy. (But probably wouldn't help a transgender person feel better.)


By the way, I always wondered how Germany treats name changes in other countries.

I grew up in Germany. I live overseas now. I could change my name here relatively easily, I think. I wonder how hard it would be to get that recognized back in Germany.


What kind of welfare/poor are we talking about here? How much money do you make in a month on welfare?


It's called Arbeitslosengeld II and I'm getting rent paid + 404€ for my life per month.


> When you are poor in Germany you can drastically improve your cash flow by not living in one of the expensive cities.

Well yes and no. I personally find virtually everything is cheaper in a city except that which comes at a premium: rent.

Now of course rent is a big chunk out of your cashflow, but in many European countries housing projects for the poor lock in the rents, such that they don't differ all that much across the country. In some countries, rents float freely, but there's rent subsidies that scale up, such that up to a certain maximum rent, your effective rent doesn't differ much across the country.

But living in the city usually means dramatically higher degrees of accessibility to university education, broad public transport, diverse cultural offerings, job opportunities etc, many of them at a discount to the rest of the country, and subsidised by the rich population and economies of scale.

Take London for example, various studies have shown poor kids do very well because London's infrastructure is so highly developed.

Further I personally feel it's easier to get ahead in cities if you're new, or you're down and out. It's easy to get a restart. Cities are used to strangers, companies are used to hiring unknowns, people are used to meet new people. In rural areas, I feel all of life, whether it's personal relationships or job opportunities, are more dependent on your social connections, relatively speaking. It's harder to start anew, or enter a rural area as a stranger and thrive, in the way one can in a city. But that last paragraph is a personal preference, I'm sure it'll be the exact opposite for others.

Anyway so it depends on the country, I'm not super familiar with the German situation. In the Netherlands though, I'd much rather be on welfare in a big city.


It's not expensive city vs rural. There are plenty of cheap cities, that still offer the good infrastructure---especially in East Germany.

The one thing they don't offer is jobs, that's why rent is cheap.


> Living out in the country in a small village will enable you to stretch your welfare checks compared to living in Munich, where most things and most people around you are much more.

I'd qualify that by saying to pick a small or mid-sized city over an actual village. Public transport is much better in cities than in rural areas and you are more likely to have stores in walkable or bikable distance, so you're either adding the cost of a car to your living expenses or reducing your quality of life and options for the future significantly by living in a village.


Living costs are similar in Denmark where I'm from, where the lower middle class frankly can't afford to live in the cities, even with two working adults. Being in IT I'm able to pay for our three room apartment even though my fiancée is still attending university, but I make as much money as two lower end jobs and we had a million Danish kroner to get us started. This is the kind of income and startup capital you need to live in the cities.

There are two problems with moving away. The first problem is that cities are where the jobs are. If you're unemployed you could benefit from moving into the wild lands, but you could easily be 4-5 hours of public transportation away from any job interview. The the second problem is that you actually have to move pretty far away. Most of the smaller cities near the city centers are already occupied by the wealthy class who wants nature + a short drive to work.

Poor people are obviously much better off here than they are most places. They can get medical care, they can get education for their kids, and the system will even help pay their rent.

The stigma remains though. Perhaps especially so, in a society where we haven't yet gotten used to inequality.


> When you are poor in Germany you can drastically improve your cash flow by not living in one of the expensive cities. Living out in the country in a small village will enable you to stretch your welfare checks compared to living in Munich, where most things and most people around you are much more

You're right, but that's the start of welfare dependency. If you have kids, you probably kill their life chances as well. I'm talking of the UK, rather than Germany, but I imagine the same is true anywhere in the rich world.


IMO "welfare dependency" is by and large a myth. The vast majority of people want to work, want to make money, want to be self-sufficient, and want to participate meaningfully in society. A few people I know who are arguably dependent on government provided benefits (in the US) are that way because they're physically ill, have inadequate or no access to health care, and literally cannot work as a result. The others are full-time employees who work 40 hours a week but are paid wages that can't possibly support their family's existence.


I didn't mean to imply that people who are 'welfare dependent' are workshy layabouts, far from it. I meant it in the 'non-pejorative' sense of "somebody who is dependent on welfare for a majority of their income for a significant period of time". That might be because of illness, or some other reason - I make no judgement.

So, going back to the original comment, moving to a small village to make your benefits go further makes it harder to find a job. Thus, you remain on welfare for a longer period of time. On the other hand, if you stay in the city, you're more likely to get a job, but it's also harder to eat and find good accommodation.

So these things are difficult. It is clearly a big social problem that people have to face these kinds of difficulties.


Agreed but when you have a generous system sometimes it's just easier to stay on benefits and putting off developing career etc. Of course we should help people who cannot be self sufficient. Those who can should be given very clear incentives (and prodding) to join the workforce.


The disincentive to work has more to do with the welfare trap that removes benefits quicker than they are replaced with income. That can happen with any level of generosity in benefits.


Yeah I can illustrate a personal example. I lived with my dad who'd been ill for years and on welfare. His income was supplemented to about 950 euros or so a month, however, if I had a part-time job making 350 euros, he'd only receive 600, because the household income was 950.

So here I am, a poor student paying my own way through college with no support from my parents, working part-time and going into debt, and they slam this on me. So I was forced to financially support my parents because there's no way to pay rent, food, insurance etc on 650 bucks. After many calls it turns out there was no solution, the -benefits was 1:1 with the +income I was earning.

This created an incentive for me to stop working. If I earned 100, my dad got 100 less, if I earned 600 my dad got 600 less. It'd only make sense for me to work if I quit college and got a job that paid more than he'd get in benefits, such that if I made 1k a month, my dad would get 0, I'd give him 950, and keep 50 bucks a month for working full-time at minimum wage.

So I stopped working and started desperately looking to move out (so that my income was no part of the 'household' income of my dad's place). Eventually did, got a job again and finished uni.

Anyway it's just one of many bad policy planning examples that look sensible in general... which is, if you're working, you don't need benefits anymore. And if you're living with people who are making all kinds of money, there's no need to depend on the state anymore, so they're counted as part of your income that the benefit requirements are tested against.

Then there's indeed examples where benefits are replaced quicker than income. Worse than 1:1. Like when you make 900 bucks, you get an exemption from a municipality tax of 150. But if you make 901, you pass the threshold, such that your effective income dropped to 751 by earning 1 euro extra, which puts you in a nasty situation in a country where rent, insurance puts you at 750 already and there's nothing left for food, culture or connectivity.


This also creates a really, really strong incentive to look for a job that pays you under the table.

Each unreported euro earned is effectively worth two euros (the euro earned plus the euro lost to clawbacks) in addition to any unpaid taxes.

Not the kind of incentives a rational policy maker should strive for exactly.


Why didn't you take Bafög?


This is just an example of welfare policy issues in general, when edge cases creep up that cause all kinds of problems. It's not a German example however, never lived there.

I did receive cheap student loans by the way, but I don't want rack up lots of debt so I liked to work part-time where I could. And even with loans covering tuition fees, for the two of us to live on 950 euros a month (or even 3 when my brother lived with us) is not a great deal even if I didn't have any college costs, or had all of them covered by a state program.


I don't know about IkmoIkmo, but I think there are some cases where it's hard to get for some silly reasons.


> That can happen with any level of generosity in benefits.

Yes, the effective marginal tax rate is important here. (And another argument in favour of giving anyone a universal basic income, and just using the normal tax system to claw back benefits from people who earn enough.)

An even better system is to just tax land. There are no disincentives with that at all: the supply is fixed.


Definitely agree, and that is part of my point. Under many welfare states, you're worse off (utility and something monetary-wise) after you try to enter the labor market, since you're suddenly working 40 hours a week for almost the same amount of money you got for working 0 hours a week.


One of the major problems I see is that people are generally bad at distinguishing "can't" from "won't". Things like major depression (which, for anyone unfortunate enough to experience it, feels as physical as being chronically poisoned) have a way of turning in to "you're just being lazy".


I agree mental health issues like depression are disabilities that can prevent one from keeping down a job. We should support and treat people with depression as a society.

But I think at least for mild depression, living off welfare and not having a job can make things worse and spiral into major depression.

From personal experience living in Scandinavia, anxiety and depression are known as easy reasons to get on disability pay and stop working. Of course these are real issues in many cases. But there are people who don't suffer from them and use them as an excuse to get government pay.


Provided a doctor was required to certify that the health condition existed and was disabling, I'd consider myself unqualified to second-guess the existence of a diagnosed health condition. I'd be interested in data over anecdotes – everyone seems to have the latter.


This assumes there is a workforce with openings to join. That is becoming an increasingly more difficult problem for many people. It also assumes that it is good for everyone to join the workforce—which itself intrinsically ignores reality, in which there are simply not enough jobs available to reach 100% employment.

There is an odd mental hang up, especially in the US, that invariably and automatically views people who receive social benefits in a viscerally negative light, demonizing them in the public sphere and consciousness. This is, to me, an odd choice versus choosing to recognize as a social positive that there are benefits that can be designed and operated correctly to ensure we do not allow people to fall below a minimum living standard.

If we want to realize a society in which every able-bodied member is employed in the workforce, I do not believe we can do so without significantly altering the expectation of full-time employment as a standard. I also seriously doubt we can achieve full employment without realigning the world of business and work toward achieving social incentives first, instead of profit incentives.


You need high labor force participation to make a system that can support a strong welfare state. Scandinavian countries have arguably the best welfare states in the world, but they also have the highest labor force participation rates in the world. Indeed their benefits like maternity leave help increase the rate, but I don't think they could support their strong welfare programs with less people working.


Have a look at New Zealand. The current government is slashing the welfare system yet several key figures (no pun intended - PM is called Key) grew up in state housing in a welfare state. They benefitted from the system and have risen to the top of it.


Sounds like the Australian government's ongoing siege of the tertiary education system, when they were the last group to enjoy a fully state funded university education.

Damn hypocrites.


The current NZ government is not slashing the welfare system.


I call BS - they're not keeping up with real inflation (rents in particular are going up far faster than nominal inflation), people are living in cars because Key's people are pandering to those who are raking it in from the property bubble rather than looking aftyer those who really need help


The current government took office in 2008. The following numbers are NZ Government fiscal spend on Social Security and Welfare in $NZmillion for each financial year starting two years before the present government took office. Source http://www.treasury.govt.nz/government/data

  2006  16,212 
  2007  17,266 
  2008  18,420 
  2009  19,844 
  2010  21,142 
  2011  22,029 
  2012  22,148 
  2013  22,737 
  2014  23,308 
  2015  23,881 
Budget 2016 schedules a further modest increase in this spend. All in an environment of historically low inflation. This is entirely consistent with the nature of this government which is characterised by a steady-as-she-goes approach, with tweaks and priority adjustments much more the order of the day than dramatic policy changes.

You do not get to call steady, modest increases in real expenditure "slashing the welfare system". Sure we have a housing problem. You could make an argument that the government should be taking drastic action to address that problem, but you cannot argue that failure to take any such drastic action is the same thing as "slashing the welfare system"!

And you absolutely do not get to "call BS" when someone points out a simple statement of fact.


They are shifting people off benefits and cutting their entitlements whilst deriding beneficiaries at every opportunity. State housing is being sold off (or they are attempting too, but judging by Friday's news that they have botched it, it isn't easy to find a buyer) and much is sitting empty. Welfare recipients do not receive enough to cover living costs, and payments have not kept up with inflation at any stretch. A welfare recipient is vastly worse off now than 10 years ago. I can't tell from those figures (on mobile and the linked site behaves badly) but do they include state pensions? Also, are you sure they are right? The figures are in millions?


America too.

Paul Ryan, who never met a welfare program he didn't want to cut, received social security payments after his father died at age 16.


What a preposterous argument, that having ever received government handouts somehow disqualifies you from thinking the programs are a bad idea.

I pay plenty of money in taxes. You can bet that if I ever qualify for handouts, I'll be cashing them. You would be stupid not to.


I'm in general anti benefits myself, but I think the payments received by a minor on death of a parent are one of the most fair, and best investment for society. They're pretty hard to game (you'd have to kill your own parent to get that money) and they prevent a child from slipping into desperate poverty and crime.


I wasn't commenting on the specifics, just on the general line of attack. I'm inclined to agree with you.


So your motto is "Fuck you. Got mine." right? Should get a bumpersticker printed up!


Okay, from now on anyone who uses Facebook can't criticize Facebook. Same with Spotify, Twitter, and Apple products. Not one peep! Come to think about it, that would stop a lot of the whining around here so maybe it'd be a good thing.

Further, any advocates for higher tax rates should immediately begin to voluntarily pay the higher tax rates that they advocate for. You are allowed to donate extra money in taxes to the government if you'd please. So I demand that people put their money where their mouth is.

And while we're at it, I'm sick of these affirmative action advocates at elite universities who always want to give up other people's spots. All affirmative action advocates should immediately give up their positions at elite colleges and well-regarded employers, to make space for less-privileged people.

Can you see how this is not a reasonable line of argument?


“Move somewhere less expensive” (= rural) is terrible advice, and I’m not sure how it gets bandied about so much.

Ignoring the often prohibitive costs of moving itself and possibly needing to buy a car for local transport, for example, the last thing an unemployed person needs to do is move away from the available jobs.


There's a lot of nuance to these things. For example, in the US, you can save a ton of money by living in the country. But rentals are hard to come by.


Well, certainly its easier to become poor if you live in an expensive city. But once you are poor, how can you afford moving?


It's not that expensive. Rent a van, get a bunch of friends to help you.

If you have lots of stuff, sell some of it.


How can you afford to rent a van if you can't afford to buy a beer in a bar twice a year?


I am talking about Germany here. You can afford a beer in a bar at least once a week there on welfare, no problems.

(I grew up on welfare in Germany. We had vacations, and we could afford to move. The biggest hassle is the bureaucracy with the Arbeitsamt involved.)


This stinks of a lack of awareness on par with "let them eat cake".


I think it's fair to provide incentives (either fixed cash payments across the whole country, or other incentives) for poor people to move to areas where labor is relatively highly valued relative to living costs. A lot of US/etc. welfare policy, because it's funded locally, actively discourages that.

A national basic income would solve this with little overhead, but a more conventional policy with actively marketing cheaper areas to poor people (and, marketing areas where labor is in high demand; maybe providing transportation/transitional housing/etc.) would be a way to help people out of poverty.

People used to migrate for jobs; this happens a lot less now.


Cheaper areas are usually cheaper because the economy isn't doing so well.

If you can work at all (eg no medical problems keeping you unemployed), you should probably move to Munich to get a job.

Lots of East Germans migrated to the more expensive west, and are still doing that. For the jobs.


> Cheaper areas are usually cheaper because the economy isn't doing so well.

That is basically not true in germany. We have a lot of smaller cities which are really close to bigger ones or even have small towns which are having a really good economy. Let's take Freiburg as an example. The city has disastrous rents and has a good economy. But, if you live in a town in some counties near Freiburg you can have a way cheaper live and still live in a town with a good economy + a fast way to work in Freiburg, which you don't need since there are really good companies, too.

Take Zalando for example they build a huge building down in Lahr, Ortenaukreis near Freiburg or Rust (Europa Park) which will employ a lot of people (not only warehouser, there will be a lot of office jobs as well) and the city is really cheap to live in compared to Freiburg and has some towns around which are even cheaper.


To be fair that's mostly the case in Baden-Württemberg and parts of Bavaria. Additionally the agglomerations in North Rhine-Westphalia. All other states have their workforce more concentrated in the bigger cities. You can move to the periphery but most jobs would include a commute to the next bigger city.

But Germany in general is pretty decentralized and you certainly don't need to move to Munich to get a job – there are many in cheaper cities as well with different sectors usually preferring different regions.


In a small commuter town next to Frankfurt am Main I was paying way more in rent than I was ever paying in dirt-poor Magdeburg in the East.

Of course, the rent in that commuter town was way less than the one's in Frankfurt itself.


> Living out in the country in a small village will enable you to stretch your welfare checks compared to living in Munich, where most things and most people around you are much more.

Of course, that also sites you away from the jobs.

But yeah, eg the student welfare benefit (Bafög) goes much further in cheap cities.


> But yeah, eg the student welfare benefit (Bafög) goes much further in cheap cities.

Simply not true. Bafög is paid based on what your parents have. And how far you are away from them. They have a "base" need for everything in your students life which is something of ~650€ as of today and then they calculate how much your parents "should" give you (even if they can't) and give you the rest of that money (monthly).

And after something like 4-5 years your last payment was made you need to pay half of it (the rest is yours even if you don't make it, if you make it you don't get any bonuses, but making good grades or other super stuff will actually) back in junks of 150€ per (month, paid in quarters if you are wellthy) or you could make upfront payments which will reduce your payment need drastically.


This may be a very American perspective, but I utterly fail at any sympathy towards the parents that had two kids and were doing fine, then decided to have two more and are whining that someone else didn't step up to pay for them. I mean, it's not as if babies being up all night is a predictable part of having a baby or anything. The mother whines that kids shouldn't be like a mercedes, where you decide beforehand if you can afford it. But that's exactly what kids are like. And if only there where some way (algebra) to know that per-capita income would shrink with each child! Hell, you may even think the country should pay for unlimited kids, but they couldn't be bothered to check before having the 3rd and 4th child if Germany does or not. They are irresponsible parents.


Well, it is official German policy to encourage people to have more children. So, if you have financial difficulties raising more than a couple of kids, there's a policy failure somewhere.


Encouraging is not the same as making it free and completely painless for everyone, regardless of their income and how many kids they are having.


Well-adjusted and well cared-for children are the edifice sustaining both public and private investment - their future productivity will generate the demand that gives value to savings and investment. I suspect Germany will get a good rate of return on the rabbit-raising, goatherding,beekeeping, highly-valued Ehler kids.


As the article clearly points out, the Ehlers are not able to support and take care of 4 children. They all will not be well-adjusted and well cared-for children. They will not form a cornerstone of the German economy or society. They will not be as productive as they could be if they were being raised by mature, responsible parents who know their own limitations.


From the brief description, and the photos, they appear to be raising healthy children in an orderly home with an level of enrichment and parental investment many children would envy. I suspect the burden of the financial strain is being borne largely by the parents. Poverty of this sort does not necessarily, or even generally, produce maladjustment. German politicians endlessly polemnicize about the need to increase the birthrate, and there are a lot of contradictory social pressures surrounding family size (Rabenmutters: yay or nay?). I am not surprised that based on political rhetoric and the confusing tangle of statutory entitlements the Ehlers expected more financial support than they eventually discovered. If it were possible to buy 'Ehler offspring futures', I would invest.


You can offer them a loan at a reasonable interest rate, and profit from their future.


That's (unfortunately) indeed an American perspective, that I totally share.

Obviously nurses in Germany earn too little money. Obviously society would benefit if the state would help in cases like these.

Still it bothers me that this family is actually paying off its house, which means they are taking part in capitalism and creating capital for themselves, but rely on the state to do so. They decided that the benefit they are already getting (3 year job security, 14 months of wage-like financial benefits), which every American parent can only dream of, are not enough for their child.

Germans don't invest in the capital market (4,14% of Germans have stocks, compared to 23% in the UK or 56% in the US [0]), Germans - especially women - choose their careers without considering how much they will earn. Being rich has a dirty connotation in Germany. If you are rich, you better be a doctor or a lawyer, then you get an excuse, other than that you probably did something shady or just benefited from other peoples work. Business school is for people who were too stupid to become engineers. They will earn more, but be worth less, because they won't be a Diplomingenieur (okay, this one is gone now, the Master of Science has much less reputation). When Germans finally realize that a bit more would be nice, they complain that the state is not fixing their situation.

[0] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktion%C3%A4rsquote


>Being rich has a dirty connotation in Germany. If you are rich, you better be a doctor or a lawyer, then you get an excuse, other than that you probably did something shady or just benefited from other peoples work. Business school is for people who were too stupid to become engineers. They will earn more, but be worth less, because they won't be a Diplomingenieur

Wow, it's the same situation here in Argentina, word for word. Amazing considering the differences in culture and history.


Here you go[0], figure 3. You are referring a shrinking fraction of households here in the US[1].

Interestingly though, combining this data with the total numbers of households[2] since 1970 means that in 1970 there were 13M households of 5 or more...while there are 12M now...so the total number of these households has remained constant--although the demographics of that group may be quite different today.

[0] https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-570.pdf

[1] US, since you claim this is a "very American" perspective.

[2] http://www.statista.com/statistics/183635/number-of-househol...


> "I utterly fail at any sympathy"

agreed


Instead of looking at this as "just desserts"n


It's definitely a very modern, selfish American perspective.

The net effect of that attitude is that larger families break up,are fully supported by the state and have worse outcomes. And when the "DINK" couples get old, society will be stuck supporting you fully after you become unable to manage without the type of support that adult children usually provide.


> And when the "DINK" couples get old, society will be stuck supporting you fully

Because countries like Germany force the current generation to pay for the previous generation (and you can't opt out, it's called "intergenerational contract"), which is the reason why they need to motivate people to produce children, so that somebody can pay for that system. It's basically an intergenerational ponzi scheme.


The distinction is merely accounting. "Saving for retirement" is just calling dibs on future production. You still need strong young backs to harvest the wheat to make cereal for old people, even if those old people pay for that cereal with money they "saved" for retirement.


Most of our jobs are outsourced to a different country and automation is increasing our productivity. We don't really need more people.


If a country stops producing useful things, it's currency will become worthless and they will no longer be able to outsource things. Any form of retirement inherently relies on the productive capacity of subsequent generations. There is no way around that.


Why do you mention DINK? Parent didn't say you should avoid having kids, even if you have a good dual income. He said you should not have more kids than you can afford, taking into account child-induced career changes. That seems like a very reasonable statement.

The net effect of that attitude is not that larger families break up. Larger families break up because they are trying to do something infeasible (i.e. trying to support more children than they can afford to support)


Studies show that the rate of single motherhood increases dramatically with rises in welfare. It's no surprise to anyone whose eyes are open that people are generally rational, and act to further their own interests.

It's morally abhorrent that it's accepted practice that people vote for politicians that promise them money taxed from others. Social democracy is simply authoritarianism.


Do these studies show what proportion of those single mothers would otherwise be forced to endure some kind of abusive environment if welfare didn't enable them to get out?


The studies show that women are far more likely to give birth while unmarried when there are higher levels of welfare available, so this is not measuring the incidence of women who already have children in a marriage and then get a divorce.

Given abortion, adoption and not getting pregnant in the first place are possibilities which a person has some control over, I don't think you can argue that all of those single mothers would otherwise be giving birth to children in abusive relationships if not for welfare.

Furthermore, welfare is funded through abusive tax laws, which throw those who refuse to hand over a share of the currency they receive in private trade in prison, where they are kept in small enclosures, and often suffer mental illness and are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. There is nothing compassionate about authoritarian income redistribution.


Yeah, well, you know that's just like uh, your opinion man.


Children shoudnt be a risk. Everyone should be encouraged to have at least two and getting help from the government to raise them.


Officially supporting families who have more children than their income allows encourages bad parents to have (and neglect) more children so that they can claim additional benefits from the government.

We would be better served by loss-of-income insurance, where people who made reasonable choices based on their income and then lost it would be able to continue supporting their families.


> Everyone should be encouraged to have at least two

Why?


Help from the government means forcing people, through threatening them with time in the dungeon, to help.

It's collectivist ideology turned into dogmatic religion.


That ship sailed a long time ago with the disappearance of the frontier and homesteading opportunities. Now that it's virtually impossible to completely opt-out of society, some safety net is a necessary correlate of removing that liberty.


Because it's considered to be requisite to interact with society, it's necessary to initiate force to collect funds for a safety net? I don't really follow.


it's now impossible to use foraging or subsistence farming as a last-ditch survival strategy because all land is claimed by public or private actors (not to mention regulatory and land use obstacles). With the disappearance of that formerly natural right, we are obligated to provide at least minimal support to persons we've locked into the modern system. While there might be other mire common justifications, the loss of the choice to opt out is the ultimate grounding behind the social safety net, in my view.


We have no natural right to forage any given plot of land.


You did before the plots existed. albeit on the level that a wild bird has a right to forage for wild berries.


I had the means, not the right. As soon as someone homesteaded it, I lost the means. By definition, you cannot have a right to unclaimed property. Having a right to it is synonymous to having a claim on it.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclosure_Acts

> The Inclosure Acts (or "Enclosure Acts" in modern spelling[1]) were a series of United Kingdom Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual Enclosure Acts were put into place, enclosing 6.8 million acres (2,800,000 ha; 28,000 km2).[2]

> Prior to the enclosures in England, a portion of the land was categorized as "common" or "waste". "Common" land was under some kind of collective control.[3] Called the open field system, a single plot of land was divided among groups, often a lord and employed or participating peasants.[4] This facilitated common grazing and crop rotation.[4] "Waste" was the only land not officially claimed by any group, often cultivated by landless peasants.[3]


That's specific to British subjects in the UK, and would only possibly create a legal justification for raparations paid to descendants of those who had legal right to the commons, with revenue raised from taxes levied on that land. This is not the same as any given person having a natural right to forage any given plot of land, especially when there was no established commons and subsequent enclosure. And the history of the enclosure acts in the UK certainly in no way justifies the naked authoritarianism of modern income tax laws, which relate to a tax levied on private human activity (as opposed to land), and which necessitate blatantly privacy infringing laws requiring people to report their private financial details to the government, including all of their private sources of income.


There are actually a number of national legal frameworks that would disagree with you. See "everyman's right" in Finland, Iceland, Scotland, Norway, which has law backing it up. Just because in England such a right wasn't recognized doesn't mean that everyone agrees on this.

(In Finland, by definition of "everyman's right", everyone has a right to hike and to respectfully pick berries and mushrooms on claimed and unclaimed property -- in essence, all of society has limited rights on your land.)


Those are explicit national legal rights, limited to the citizens of a particular nation, granting them rights to land under the legal jurisdiction of the national government. It's not the same as a general implicit right possessed by any given person to forage any given plot of land.

In this comment I further explain why I don't believe these national legal rights, and their subsequent abolishment, in any way justify a tax on private income:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11797024


The rights granted by Nordic countries to forage are not limited to the citizens of a particular nation -- that's why a lot of folks from Thailand fly in each year to pick cloudberries.

How is the right to forage a tax on private income? That's a non sequitur.


As far as I know, Nordic countries don't allow unrestricted entry into their country for foraging of their commons. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The OP argues that a tax on private income is justified by us no longer having a right to forage the now privatized land. I thought you were supporting the OP's position, which is why I made that argument.


At least two? We've exceeded the carrying capacity of Earth already. Governments encouraging further population growth is a looming disaster.


A. No we have not.

B. That's what the Malthusians said.

C. Google: [demographic crisis europe].


A. There is obviously nothing like THE carrying capacity of earth¹, it heavily depends on the consumption per capita and the technology available. I never did the math but I always wondered what would happen if we upgraded every human in existence to the first world. I think seven billion people with first world living standard are possible but I am not sure it would end well today, resource consumption would increase by a factor of maybe two. So I can imagine that we are not in big trouble with seven billion people and current technology and consumption only because we still have a lot of relatively poor people.

C. We improved living standards and decreased mortality in early years, so a pyramid shaped population structure is a thing of the past. And countering this with continued population growth is not an option because it is not sustainable. Some countries could nonetheless use a few more babies to get back to 2.1 children and avoid an inverted pyramid due to a shrinking population.

¹ There is certainly some theoretical upper limit but that is also certainly not relevant here.


resource consumption would increase by a factor of maybe two

That's significantly lower than most estimates I've seen. Jared Diamond for example says that the first world versus developing world resource consumption ratio is 32, with the majority of the world's population being much closer to the developing world:

The estimated one billion people who live in developed countries have a relative per capita consumption rate of 32. Most of the world’s other 5.5 billion people constitute the developing world, with relative per capita consumption rates below 32, mostly down toward 1.

He goes on to say that if China was to increase to match US consumption levels --- with no change in population or change in consumption elsewhere --- that alone would double the worlds consumption:

Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below ours, but let’s suppose they rise to our level. Let’s also make things easy by imagining that nothing else happens to increase world consumption — that is, no other country increases its consumption, all national populations (including China’s) remain unchanged and immigration ceases. China’s catching up alone would roughly double world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html


Your numbers are probably closer to the truth, as I said, I never did the math or looked for existing calculations. I just looked up the energy consumption in 2008 - EU-27 40,821 kWh/capita, World 21,283 kWh/capita - which gives a factor of 2 and hoped that energy consumption would be a reasonable proxy for resource consumption. I definitely expected something more than 2 but would not have guessed more than maybe 5.

A factor of 32 is a lot but that is also the extreme. China at 11, that leaves 5 billion people. If they were all at 1 that would drag the average down to 2.7. So maybe between 3 and 5 in the end? That still means a 5 to 10 fold increase in their resource consumption and matches my expectation. Suddenly needing twice as much of everything is probably already way harder than it first sounds, but up to 10 times...


I'm not familiar with the numbers either, but your estimate sounds plausible to me. Tom Murphy has a nice presentation from which a more exact figure can probably be extracted, but I don't see it there directly: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2013/09/the-real-populat...


The so-called "demographic crisis" is blatant racism.

There are plenty of people who would love to live in Europe. If Europe needs more people, let in more immigrants instead of adding even more humans to the world.


>The so-called "demographic crisis" is blatant racism. //

Yes, but in this situation is it wrong? For example genetic diversity appears to be a benefit to the species, allowing that to reduce may be a net loss even if there is a period of over-population (nations apparently reduce their birth rates as they develop which suggests we should be able to get a handle on population; hopefully before we ruin things too much!).


How about replacing people that are already there? There's so much Germans, what's the problem if they have enough offspring to keep their numbers? If you oppose to that right it's much much worse than racism you mentioned.


I don't think it's a "problem" if they have enough offspring to maintain a constant population.

I also don't think it's a "right" to have as many children as you want and to expect state support for those children.


The so called "demographic crisis" ignored current technological development.

We don't need more people without jobs.


You're right about everything except the demographic crisis.

There is no crisis, and there is not going to be a crisis. That premise is identical in concept, funny enough, to why the malthusians were wrong.

Robotics / greater automation + basic AI will more than dramatically take the place of the lost productivity from declining populations. Declining populations are not going to be a threat over the next century, not at all.

Japan and Germany should be cheering peak population. The inbound robotic boom is going to provide an extraordinary bounty for the remaining population, as productivity and GDP per capita soars in advanced nations. The absolute last thing any nation should want at this inflection point is more people.


Thank you.

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