The gap between rich and poor is widening. This social inequality is also becoming a problem in Germany and is causing tension. But political measures could ensure more justice – at least in the long term.

The inequality of income and wealth is increasingly causing social tensions in Germany. This year, public companies around the world paid out the highest dividends ever recorded. The fortunes of millionaires and billionaires grew faster than ever.

At the same time, many less well-off people often no longer know how to pay their bills or the school trip for the child due to rising prices, especially for energy and food. Inflation and the loss of purchasing power are hit particularly hard by low-income earners.

Not only is the current unequal distribution problematic, but also the fact that there is an increasing lack of development opportunities, opportunities for economic advancement and social participation. Poverty and wealth have become equally entrenched.

So that those who are poor do not remain poor, a different policy would be needed. This cannot be changed overnight, but in the long term political measures can ensure that things are fairer again in Germany.

For this reason, I would like to take you, dear readers, on a little journey through time to Germany in 2025: The autumn morning is cloudy like today, but I see a few rays of hope in the headlines of the day. For example, it is reported, mind you in a future yet to be written, what people will be able to do with their “basic heritage”.

dr Ellen Ehmke works as a senior expert on the topic of inequality for the Robert Bosch Stiftung. She previously worked for Oxfam Germany, among others, and did her doctorate on social policy in India at the University of Kassel.

Just to explain: this basic inheritance is intended to represent a kind of unique start-up capital to which every citizen is entitled – regardless of their social background. It is not tied to any conditions and should ideally be a life booster. Help that is needed to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

Because the inequalities in our society have accumulated over the decades and reached a temporary high in autumn 2022. Not only in Germany. In Italy, for example, demonstrators burned gas bills on the streets, while in Great Britain tenants refused to pay their energy bills.

People are angry. They resist requests to tighten their belts if they don’t have enough money for food or heating.

Also read: FOCUS online series: Germany 2025 – 1.2 million jobs, 1 million unemployed skilled workers: This paradox can be solved

At the same time, another crisis is more evident than ever before – and yet continues to be ignored by many: the climate crisis. In the summer of 2022, Europe’s largest rivers dried up, half of Pakistan’s land area was flooded in the autumn, which cost the lives of over 1,600 people. In Somalia alone, three and a half million people are suffering from hunger during the worst drought in more than 40 years.

But back to Germany: as I read in the newspaper of the year 2025, there were also protests here as a result of the dramatic increase in the cost of living. People demanded that those in government fight growing inequality and the climate crisis equally, instead of playing them off against each other.

In the winter of 2022, the federal government then decided on measures that should go far beyond the coalition agreement from the previous year. More than ever before, crisis winners and the wealthy would make a larger financial contribution to the extensive investments in social and ecological public infrastructure.

Germany is 84 million people. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world. Germany likes to present itself as modern and cosmopolitan. But there are many places in our country’s engine room that are stuck. The effects of Corona and the Ukraine war are clearly noticeable. Of course, we are by no means lost. On the contrary! FOCUS online has asked bright minds from science and practice, from associations and think tanks to draw up a roadmap in their respective fields for the future of our country, for Germany 2025. The question was what Germany must do now in order to be successful in the short, medium and long term. For example in the energy supply, internal and external security, public finances, the fight against pandemics and many other topics.

Survey results underscored that these measures were supported by broad approval: They proved once again that an overwhelming majority wants a fairer distribution of income and wealth as well as decisive action against the ecological crises.

The reformed inheritance and wealth taxes were central to this bundle of measures. Their income subsequently made the basic inheritance possible, i.e. the “inheritance” that all adults receive regardless of their parents’ account balance. Wealth inequality has been clamped down: wealth has been shed at the top to allow new wealth to be built across the board.

A reduction in income inequality was achieved, among other things, by a more even distribution of working hours across the entire working population. The massive expansion and upgrading of health, nursing, care and education services also led to higher wages and more employees in these sectors.

This ensured that this systemically important work was not recognized for a long time. Not only did the numerous women in these professions benefit from this, but also those who were previously unable to work (full-time) due to unpaid care work – and of course the children, elderly and sick people, who now had better equipped services at their disposal.

All these investments will certainly also be reflected in an improvement in the new, broader indicators of the well-being of people and nature, which the federal government has been using to measure itself since last year. Following New Zealand’s example, she had moved away from looking solely at economic growth when it came to the state of her society.

Oh yes, my favorite headline was: A medium-sized manufacturer of heat pumps was taken over by its own employees. In the interview, the managing director explains that her basic inheritance and that of her colleagues formed the cornerstone for the capital required to take over the business. Thanks to this basic inheritance, employees not only have the knowledge, but also the capital to continue the business – and the wide distribution of business assets in society further reduces wealth inequality.

What good news! Unfortunately only in one of many possible futures.

Looking ahead, however, one thing is certain: there are numerous ideas on how inequalities can be sustainably reduced. After jumping back from 2025 to today, I think that three years might not be enough to implement all of this. It is all the more important that we set off now for a better future in which a good life is possible for everyone.

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