BERLIN, July 4 (Xinhua) — An increasing number of senior citizens in Germany are relying on social assistance in addition to their state pensions, with the figure reaching a record 720,000 in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).

This marks an increase of around 35,000 people, or 5 percent, from 2023, and a rise of 40 percent from 2015.

“The fact that more and more pensioners are dependent on social welfare shows that the German pension system condemns many old people to degrading poverty,” said Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the left-wing Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), dismissing it a “socio-political scandal.”

While less than 15 percent of Germany’s population is at risk of poverty, nearly 20 percent of those aged 65 and older are currently reported at risk. According to Andreas Steppuhn from Tafel Deutschland, “poverty in old age will explode.”

With rising rents, energy, and food prices, Germany’s charitable food banks are struggling to meet demand. To address this, the government increased annual pension payments by 4.57 percent at the beginning of July, surpassing the expected inflation rate of 2.8 percent this year.

Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil said this was “good news for pensioners,” attributing the increase to a strong labor market and favorable wage settlements.