Posted on May 8, 2024

Germany: Study Shows Correlation Between Racism and Poverty

Marcel Fürstenau, DW, May 7, 2024

Racism is widespread in Germany. But what does this really mean for the people affected? The German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) in Berlin published a study entitled “Limits of Equality. Racism and the risk of poverty” which shows a correlation between racism and the risk of poverty.

Social scientists Zerrin Salikutluk and Klara Podkowik based their research on data from the National Discrimination and Racism Monitor (NaDiRa). Salikutluk is one of the researchers for this project, a recurring representative survey of everyday racist experiences, financed by the federal parliament, the Bundestag, since 2020.

“If you look at the official statistics or the federal government’s poverty and wealth reports, data is mostly broken down by migration background and whether you have German citizenship,” Salikutluk explained. “What we haven’t been able to say so far is how people who are affected by racism in Germany are really faring,” she told DW.

Everyday discrimination in Germany

The researchers found discrimination in the education system, the labor market, the housing market and the health sector. Previous studies showed that individuals with a migration background often face discrimination when looking for a job. This increases the risk of having to live below the poverty line.

In Germany, people are considered to be at risk of poverty if they have less than 60% of the statistical average income. In 2023, this was €1,310 ($1,410) per month. When asked about their monthly income, 5% of Germans without a migration background who had a full-time job said their income falls below the poverty line. However, that figure rose to 20% for Black, Muslim and Asian respondents.

The figures were similar for respondents with a high level of education or vocational accomplishments: People encountering racist discrimination were two to seven times more likely to experience economic hardship.

At 33%, Muslim men were the most at risk of poverty. Researcher Salikutluk puts this down to the high number of Muslim men among the refugees who came to Germany since 2013: Around 20% of the Muslim respondents to the discrimination survey came from Syria and Afghanistan, countries severely affected by war and poverty. “And we already know that refugees are more at risk of poverty due to their limited access to the labor market, for example,” Salikutluk explained.

But even people with foreign roots who have lived in Germany for a very long time or were born in the country or hold German citizenship are discriminated against. Salikutluk points to experiments in which identical application documents were sent out with different names. The result: “People who have a Turkish-sounding name, for example, have a smaller chance of being invited to a job interview,” she said.

How the poverty rate could be reduced

Salikutluk believes that the findings of the survey underline the need to take targeted measures to combat poverty and promote equal opportunities for disadvantaged groups. The researchers argue that educational and professional qualifications acquired abroad should be recognized in Germany.

“This would accelerate the entry of refugees and other migrants into the German labor market and give skilled workers with foreign qualifications access to suitable professions,” the researchers write in their study.

To speed up labor market integration, the team of researchers call for faster access to language and integration courses. They argue that the high poverty rate among refugees can only be reduced if it is ensured that they can earn their own living.