Inflation and rising energy and food prices worry Germans greatly. More than every third German citizen (38 percent) is concerned that they will no longer be able to make a living. This was the result of a representative survey commissioned by the credit agency Schufa, which is available to WELT AM SONNTAG.
As a result, the fear of financial problems has increased significantly in just a few months. As recently as January of this year, only around one in four citizens (28 percent) shared the concern that costs could no longer be borne. For the survey, Schufa interviewed a representative population group of 1,000 people in May.
Around one in seven people will “with a high degree of probability” even have to take out a loan in order to be able to maintain their standard of living. According to their own statements, just as many have already had to borrow money from relatives, acquaintances or friends. And almost a quarter of those surveyed have already overdrawn their account due to the current situation.
This is the highest value since the series of surveys began in September 2020. The consequences of the Ukraine war are also depressing the general mood in the country. Almost two thirds (62 percent) now look to the future “rather worried” or even with “very great fear”, as the survey shows.
With the financial worries, the expectations of the federal government are also growing. A clear majority of 79 percent calls for the state to provide financial support to consumers in the event of an economic crisis. Almost two thirds would prefer direct help, such as energy money. On the other hand, only 15 percent say that the state should first support the companies affected, for example with emergency aid.
As a result, further aid from the state could soon be necessary, said Sebastian Dullien, director of the Institute for Macroeconomics and Business Cycle Research (IMK) of the trade union-related Hans Böckler Foundation. “The great financial worries, combined with the sharp rise in energy and food prices, show that the relief packages do not sufficiently compensate for the additional burdens for many households.”
For many consumers there remains a noticeable gap, and the increases in food prices have not yet been compensated at all. “It should therefore be necessary for the federal government to provide further relief,” predicted Dullien. On the one hand, this applies to groups that have so far been largely excluded – such as pensioners and students. On the other hand, from the economist’s point of view, prices are likely to remain high in the coming year and wage increases will not compensate for the lost purchasing power in the foreseeable future.
However, only a clear minority is afraid of losing their job, as the survey shows. Almost nine out of ten employees see their jobs as “very” or “fairly” secure. “The situation on the labor market is currently good, companies have full order books and, due to demographic developments, skilled workers in some areas are becoming increasingly scarce,” said Dullien.
However, the economist sees not insignificant risks for the future on the labor market, such as a gas supply stop from Russia. Then it would again be important for the state to react quickly to support employment with short-time work and aid programs.
The Federal Consumer Protection Ministry of Steffi Lemke (Greens) emphasizes that the federal government has launched “comprehensive and quickly effective relief” for citizens. Nevertheless, it is to be feared that “the risk of over-indebtedness will increase, especially for low-income households,” said a spokeswoman. It is also important to strengthen debtor and insolvency advice.
The ministry announced that it would probably spend one million euros a year on this. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection is working at EU level to ensure that protection against unfair market interest rates and usury is strengthened for all types of loans and that misleading advertising is banned.
Welfare organizations have long been demanding better equipment for advice centers and a right to free debt counseling. The waiting lists in the debt counseling centers are long, according to Diakonie Bayern. The corona pandemic and inflation are making the situation in many households even worse.