Why is the NDR allowed to broadcast at primtime…

…contribution-financed employer propaganda?

A point of view by Norbert Häring.

Panorama by NDR rushes in a current contribution on pension policy senselessly and without reason young against old and poor pensioners against people with good pensions. A story is told throughout the report according to taste and with the arguments of the employers with an employer economist as the only expert, who however is not made recognizable as such. The contribution leaves important things out, distorts the facts and places them in wrong contexts. It couldn’t be worse.

The pension contribution in Panorama on 10.10. by Zapp presenter Johannes Jolmes was simply enough knitted (1). The question (NDR-Tweet) “Poor pensioners, rich pensioners – Why are they all given presents” is supposedly answered. I want to show the many contradictions and distortions, in order not to disturb the argumentation of the author, only with numbers (see in the text version) and list afterwards correctly numbered.

The Report

A pensioner who has to work to top up her 900 euro net pension illustrates the poor pensioner (1). She is allowed to say things like that pensions should only be increased for the poorer pensioners. She can also conclude by saying that most pension increases only serve to get the government more votes in the next elections (2).

The “poor” pensioner is confronted with cheerful old people who are interviewed in a Baltic seaside resort on the beach and who report that they are doing well and that they travel a lot. This proves the thesis: there can be no question of widespread poverty among pensioners. This is then also backed up with numbers. The Hartz IV recipient rate among the total population is compared with the significantly lower rate among the over-65s. (3) (4) (5)

It is scandalized that the government, although poverty is not a problem for the elderly, always does something for the elderly, for example with the maternal pension and the pension from the age of 63. An economist of the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW) can say that this is bad. (6) (7)

It is argued, and the IW economist confirms this as well as the compassionate pensioners in the Baltic seaside resort, that boys of retirement age will be much worse off later on than today’s pensioners. We must therefore do something for them instead of  helping today’s pensioners, who are not in danger of poverty in all their breadth. The main problem is that everyone agrees that young people hardly get stable, well-paid jobs, but have to make ends meet with internships, temporary work and odd jobs for a long time, so that they cannot accumulate decent pension entitlements. So instead of giving more money to pensioners, it would be right to promote initiatives that help secondary school pupils with poor grades or other problems to find an apprenticeship. (8) (9) (10)

So far, so superficially obvious. And here are the problems:

(1) With her net pension (after taxes) the poor Panorama pensioner is about a quarter above the average gross pension (before taxes) of pensioners in West Germany (2) and almost at the gross level of pensioners in the new federal states. If she is to represent the poor pensioner, this means, contrary to the thesis of the contribution, that the average pensioner in Germany is poor, even poorer than she is.

(2) There is no reference to the pension formula, which for some time now has largely removed annual pension increases from short-term political decision-making, as a counterpart to the largely false thesis of the poor pensioner that pension increases are usually only an election gift from the government.

(3) Those who receive help from the state, such as Hartz-IV, are poor. This is a very unusual, restrictive definition. Hartz-IV only secures the subsistence minimum. The usual definition is that people who have less than 60 percent of the average (median) at their disposal are poor.

4) A comparison of the social assistance rates of the total population and the over-65s may not have taken into account the fact that particularly many pensioners do not make use of their entitlement to social assistance. What has not been taken into account is that many still work at retirement age to supplement their pensions, which, according to the moderator, should not be the case in a rich country.

(5) More importantly, although at the beginning and the end the program only talks about pensioners and pension policy, state pensioners (pensions for people working for the government) are included here. It is indisputable that today’s state pensioners are privileged and extremely well provided for. There is practically no need for them. The rate is much higher for pensioners, who are only the subject of the report.

(6) There is no suggestion that the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft is an employer lobby. The IW economist is presented only as an economic expert.For years, employers have been running an intensive PR campaign against the statutory pension – whose contributions they have to co-finance – and for private provision. There is no indication of this. Instead the author makes himself with its one-sided and distorted contribution part of this campaign, financed with a forced contribution above all by employees and pensioners.

(7) Nothing is mentioned about what makes it possible that the pension level in Austria is much more generous than in Germany (e.g. higher contributions and a uniform system into which everyone pays without the low German income thresholds), without this being noticeably harmful to young people.

(8) There is no explanation for why the maternal pension should be an obstacle to promoting qualification initiatives for the troubled school-leavers.

(9) In view of the politically promoted and intended expansion of temporary work and the low-wage sector into a huge labour market segment, it is almost cynical, and with naivety almost impossible to explain, that the contribution presents it as if a few programmes for the small minority of school leavers with handicaps could solve the problem that the young generation in general finds it difficult to find a secure and decently paid job.

(10) Everything about the contribution could come from the pen of an employer lobbyist. The obvious solution of ensuring easier access for young people across the board again and creating well-paid jobs by reducing the excesses of temporary work and the low-wage sector is not even addressed. This solution would not even be to the taste of employer lobbyists.

If I may say so, this contribution is a disgrace to public service broadcasting.


  1. https://www.ardmediathek.de/daserste/player/Y3JpZDovL25kci5kZS85MmNhZjhjZC03ODFiLTQ5ODktOGY3Ny00ZmQ4NTY5YzU1MzY/
  2. http://www.sozialpolitik-aktuell.de/tl_files/sozialpolitik-aktuell/_Politikfelder/Alter-Rente/Datensammlung/PDF-Dateien/abbVIII29_30.pdf

Note of the author N. Häring: modification note (11.10., 7 a.m.): item 7 (Austria) inserted and changed in the heading “fee-financed” to “contribution-financed”. Original point (2) deleted, because not entirely relevant, and new point (3) inserted instead (definition of poverty).


image source: Screenshot 14.10.2019 YT ARD


This article appeared on the blog of Norbert Häring on 10 October 2019


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