A tale of rich and poor in Germany

( AFP ) - Not far from the lakeside villas of Potsdam lies Prenzlau, capital of Germany's poorest region where discount stores and residents on the dole tell the story of the country's deepening social divide.

Purchasing power in Prenzlau is lower than in the Czech Republic and certain parts of Romania and the fact is tangible on the main street, Friedrichstrasse, where shirts sell for one euro (1.55 dollars) and jackets for four euros.

The town is the capital of the northeastern Uckermark region, part of the former communist east of the country. Population: 135,000. One in four unemployed.

Since the Iron Curtain fell nearly 20 years ago, 20,000 people have left.

A study by the Eurostat institute published last month has shown that the GDP per capita here is 74 percent of the average figure for the European Union, compared to 115.2 percent for Germany as a whole.

"If you are 57 years old, there is nothing here for you," says Berndt, who lost his job in 2005 and is living on welfare payments of 347 euros per month.

He shares the outrage of many at Germany's biggest ever tax evasion scandal in which up to 600 members of the business and social elite are suspected of hiding their wealth in secret accounts in Liechtenstein.

"It's obscene, they should lock them all up. Those bastards should really get the stick."

The ongoing tax fraud revelations have heightened bitterness among lower classes who have long felt that they are being forgotten while rich bosses line their pockets.

A study released this week confirmed that more and more people are joining Germany's lower income bracket as the middle class has shrunk by eight percent since 2000.

The DIW research institute calls it a "bigger concentration on both ends of the scale," meaning the rich have become richer and the poor not only poorer but also greater in numbers.

Those who officially qualify as poor because they earn less than 70 percent of the median annual income of 16,000 euros, have grown from 18.9 percent of the population to 25.4 percent in 2006.

- 'It is really hard to motivate young people living here' -

The phenomenon has been felt hardest in the former communist east where unemployment is higher than in the west and salaries are often so low that even those in jobs cannot get by without state welfare.

"More than 5,000 people here get some state help to complement their salaries," said Ramona Neumann, a spokeswoman for the local authorities in the Uckermark.

"They work all day long and still earn less than if the stayed at home and simply lived off full unemployment benefits," she said.

Sandra, a 26-year-old part-time waitress, said she took a job at the Dolce Vita pizzeria on Prenzlau's high street because it is better than sitting at home.

"I make two to three euros a day, and then I get social welfare. So it is really not 'la dolce vita' but just having a job is already something here."

The mayor of the hamlet of Uckerland, Monica Becker, said to help some of its 3,400 people keep body and soul together, the council tries to "find them mini-jobs that pay one euro an hour or get them into job share schemes where with three-year contracts where they earn 1,000 euros a month for 30 hours of work."

"During communist days, people worked on the East German farming cooperatives, but now many have no choice but to get out of here," she told AFP.

"It is really hard to motivate young people living here."

Twenty-year-old Dennis Sooth says he has been "lucky" to find a trainee post because most of his peers have no career prospects.

"They stay at home, drink beer and some of them become violent and go out onto the streets to beat people up."

Back in Potsdam, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) from Prenzlau, the picturesque former residence of the Prussian royal family, damaged by bombs in World War II, has been neatly plastered over in the past two decades.

Contrary to other parts of the east, the capital of the state of Brandenburg has seen its population grow rapidly post-reunification. In 2001, it had 120,000 residents and by last year the number had grown to 150,000.

It is conveniently close to Berlin and to a cluster of lakes where the wealthy set stays in lavish villas overlooking the water and sails at weekends. Tourism is good and unemployment stands at 8.7 percent.

Der Spiegel magazine said Potsdam was "attracting the beautiful people" while mayor Jann Jakobs, a Social Democrat, said rising property prices risked making the town a millionaires' enclave.

"One day soon only the rich will be able to afford living here."

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
LUKOIL Uzbekistan Operating LLC opens tender for supply of shut-off and control valves
LUKOIL Uzbekistan Operating LLC opens tender for supply of shut-off and control valves
Russia offers Azerbaijan to switch to barcoding for fruit, vegetables exports
Russia offers Azerbaijan to switch to barcoding for fruit, vegetables exports
Tripartite gas swap deal with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, may help Iran kill two birds with one stone
Tripartite gas swap deal with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, may help Iran kill two birds with one stone
Loading Bars
Georgia releases COVID-19 data for December 4
LUKOIL Uzbekistan Operating LLC opens tender for supply of shut-off and control valves
Mikheil Saakashvili not to be treated abroad – Georgia's minister
Russia offers Azerbaijan to switch to barcoding for fruit, vegetables exports
Tripartite gas swap deal with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, may help Iran kill two birds with one stone
Azerbaijan Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund issues record amount of loans in 10M2021
Goods movement across Azerbaijani-Russian border to be accelerated
Azerbaijani oil prices increase
Kazakhstan boosts trade with Romania over 9M2021
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's oil & gas sector
Weekly review of Azerbaijani precious metals market
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market
Treatment of servicemen injured in helicopter crash of Azerbaijan’s State Border Service continues
Turkey to support Azerbaijan in installing seismic stations in Karabakh
Iran aims to increase local solar power production
Gamaleya Center ready to accept state order for up to 10 mln sets of Sputnik M
Kazakhstan’s Intergas Central Asia to buy welding equipment via tender
Georgia’s export of oil products increases
India’s air defence gets a big boost, Russia starts delivery of S-400 missiles
India's defence procurement guided by national security interests: MEA
Uzbekistan shares domestic COVID-19 data for December 3
Iranian currency rates for December 4
Turkey's export product labeling changes
S.Korea reports record-high COVID-19 cases, deaths
Iran, China review cinematic cooperation
Georgia and Poland have potential for development of bilateral trade
Kyrgyzstan, Russia presidents hold telephone conversation
Japan PM Kishida likely to cancel U.S. visit due to Omicron
Militants kill at least 31 in central Mali, say local authorities
Tunisia confirms 1st case of Omicron variant infection
Turkey confirms 21,495 daily COVID-19 cases
France announces new travel restrictions
IMF chief says Omicron could dent global economic growth
France evacuates more than 300 people from Afghanistan
UK records more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases
Italy's economy projected to grow 6.3 pct this year
Kazakhstan decreases petroleum gas export to Hungary amid global pandemic
Militants kill 7 soldiers in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state
Iran nuclear talks adjourn, resume next week
South Africa hit by fourth COVID wave driven by Omicron
Budget for social rehabilitation and childcare to reach 52 mln GEL next year, Georgian PM says
Putin informs Erdogan on main results of Sochi trilateral meeting
Turkey introduces action plan to improve lives of the disabled
Construction of 50MW solar power plant underway in Kazakhstan
Azerbaijani FM, OSCE rep exchange views on OSCE Charter (PHOTO)
Human remains discovered in Caspian Sea and recovered - SOCAR
Iran highlights need for more customs cooperation with Pakistan
Volume of investments in construction of bp's power plant in liberated Azerbaijani lands revealed
Turkmen gas may be supplied to Europe via Caspian Connector project - ambassador
Turkish, Russian Presidents hold phone talks
Azerbaijan’s Pasha Holding talks about development strategy
Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNICEF sign another memorandum of understanding (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijani, Turkish military pilots conduct joint training flights in Baku (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijan confirms 1,703 more COVID-19 cases, 2,180 recoveries
Turkmenistan can supply natural gas to European market until 2050 - ambassador
Azerbaijan discloses export volume of petroleum coke
Azerbaijan's Finance Ministry to auction gov't bonds via Baku Stock Exchange
SOCAR begins testing of new mobile diving complex
Israeli co Fireblocks raising $400m at $8b valuation
Croatia remains one of Russia’s key partners in EU
Value of goods transported via road increases in Azerbaijan
U.S. job growth misses expectations in Nov.
Policy and Management Consulting Group shares data on Georgia’s economic outlook
Georgia, Qatar discuss favorable investment climate
Price indexes of financial, trade sectors at Uzbek stock exchange fall
Uzbekneftegaz obtains new industrial gas flow from Kulbeshkak field
Uzbek Statistics Committee shares data on imports of meat for 10M2021
Georgia’s economic climate remains stable – PMC
Uzbekistan reveals volume of bank loans allocated to various sectors of economy
Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan gas swap - win-win deal, says Iranian analyst
FMs of Azerbaijan, Poland hold meeting within OSCE Ministerial Council
Co-op between Turkmenistan, EU to focus on improving business climate till 2027
Azerbaijan's food import volume down for 10M2021
Zones free from animal diseases being created in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh, East Zangazur
Azerbaijan considers opening Indonesian Chamber of Commerce
Azerbaijan increases chemical production volume for 10M2021
Azerbaijan, Turkey begin work on establishing joint university - minister
Azerbaijan’s liberated territories have several types of renewable energy sources– RES agency
Azerbaijani parliament adopts amendment to servicemen insurance law
Azerbaijan may exempt sale of electric cars from VAT
Azerbaijan introduces excise taxes on electronic cigarettes, shisha
Concept for creation of "green energy" zone in Azerbaijan’s liberated territories prepared
Transaction to sell Chinese oil company’s stake in Azerbaijan closed
Output volume at Azerbaijan’s Kursangi, Garabagli fields revealed
Austrian interior minister becomes candidate for country’s next chancellor
Azerbaijan begins geological exploration at Tutkhun gold deposit in Kalbajar
Iran to import hay from Russia
Uzbek home appliance manufacturer Artel joins United Nations Global Compact
Economic stability - framework of Iran`s next year budget
BioNTech CEO confident of quickly adapting vaccine for Omicron
Situation is still fragile in South Caucasus - OSCE Chairperson-in-Office
Azerbaijan to strengthen social protection of population in 2022 – PM
Azerbaijan may exempt import of books and paper from VAT
Iran reveals its non-oil trade in 7 months
Iran aims to build new oil, gas refineries amid growing consumption
Uzbek Central Bank shares data on leading banks in terms of loans
Azerbaijani PM talks on measures to curb price increase
Iran seeks to establish joint banking network with Syria
Azerbaijan to expand agriculture dev’t in Karabakh in 2020 – minister
All news