Business, Economics and Jobs

Germans among the poorest in Europe: ECB study


Visitors, mostly homeless men, wait outside the Bahnhofsmission Protestant charity facility for a free lunch as theology student and volunteer Markus (R) prepares to let them in at Zoo train station on February 20, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Both poverty and pensions that have not kept up with the rising cost of living will be contested topics in federal elections scheduled later for this year.


Sean Gallup

Germans are one of the poorest groups in Europe, even poorer than those in the troubled peripheral nations of Greece, Spain and Italy, according to the surprising findings of a joint survey by various divisions within the European Central Bank.

The Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) looked at household wealth in some key euro area countries.

According to the report, "the composition of net wealth is primarily driven by real assets," of which the main component is owner-occupied housing wealth.

For countries that don't have high rates of home ownership and have not experienced significant house price increases, net wealth looks more markedly muted, such as Germany, which is "poorer" in terms of net wealth than some countries it bankrolls through bailout programs.

The survey identified household participation in real assets across five categories: main residence, other real estate property, vehicles, valuables and self-employment businesses.

The participation was the lowest for Germany of all the countries surveyed.

Germany had one of the lowest participation rates when it came to main residence and was one of the lowest in terms of other real estate.

Greece, Cyprus and Spain all showed higher real asset participation rates and subsequently higher net wealth.

(Read More: Soros Tells Germany It Should Leave Europe)

One factor, which could have skewed the results, is that the survey looked at wealth of households and not individuals. Therefore those countries which have a tradition and cultural preference for larger households, predominantly in southern Europe, may appear to be wealthier.

Net wealth according to the findings is substantially higher in Cyprus at 671,000 euros compared to a rather paltry 195,000 euros for Germans.

Spain punches higher than Germany too with net wealth at 291,000 euros. Italy's at 275,000 euros.

Given the macro-economic facts on the ground it might surprise some to learn that Germany as a country overall is 'poorer' than Cyprus, a country on its economic knees, and Spain where unemployment stands at 26 percent, compared to the euro zone rate of 12 percent.

(Read More: Expect Long-Term Damage in Spain: JPMorgan)

"The measurement of wealth is subject to the fact that the variation of wealth is affected by the institutions and macro-dynamics, which have recently differed substantially across various households, regions and countries both with the euro and elsewhere," the ECB said.

The notion that the citizens in peripheral nations have squandered their wealth and been frivolous, is also debunked by the research.

Italians come out as the most frugal of in the study with the lowest participation in terms of debt.

Seventy five percent of Italian households have no debt at all, compared to around 53 percent in Germany and 34 percent in Netherlands.

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