In the next 20 years, one-third of retirees could suffer from poverty in Germany. Currently, about 20.5 million people are retired in the country. In 2011, 2.6 percent of retired people over 65 were dependent on welfare. Right now, 760,000 have a part-time job to supplement their pensions. The situation is likely to worsen as more retirees face dwindling pensions.
"The German retirement system is at risk," warned Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen this past summer. Estimates show that in 20 years, people who gross 2,500 euros ($3,242) a month average while working for 35 years, but lack a private pension fund, would receive a pension of around 680 euros monthly. Many would then require additional state support.
Scenes like this - of an old man picking through a trash can - could become more common in the future: If ever less retirement money is paid out, around one-third of those who retire in the future will be poor. That's according to Cologne-based political scientist Christoph Butterwegge, who covered the topic in his latest book, "Povery in Old Age."
Soup kitchens were originally created to feed the poor and homeless. But these days, more and more older people are lining up to get a free meal as costs for rent, heat, medication and groceries soar.
Retiree Hugo Kleine, 76 years old, talks on the phone at his job as a receptionist at a Kiel-based state agency. The German Statistical Office said that around 760,000 retired people held part-time jobs in 2011; 120,000 of them were 75 and over. The number of retirees who need to go back to work has apparently increased in the past few years.
Poverty in old age affects women more than men: they live longer, and work only part-time in greater numbers, so they pay less into the retirement system. According to the German Labor Ministry, women who had earned only 400 euros a month in a part-time job and had worked for 45 years would receive merely 140 euros a month in pension.
People of immigrant heritage are also more affected by poverty. The poverty rate stood at 7 percent for women older than 65 with foreign roots, as opposed to 2.4 percent without, in 2010.
How to tackle the problem of elderly poverty in Germany? There have been plenty of suggestions, including that of Labor Minister von der Leyen to offer a state-supported pension supplement. But a concrete solution remains elusive.
Old and poor: If pensions continue to sink further, one-third of all retirees could fall into poverty within 20 years. As of now, 760,000 pensioners are working side jobs in order to make ends meet.