Financial Times Limited

Germany: the hidden divide in Europe's richest country

I survive but I cannot live," says Doris, a 71-year-old retired nurse, in the former German coal mining town of Gelsenkirchen. "I have no money to go to the ballet, or even €10 for the cinema. But what really eats me up is that I can't afford to give presents to my grandchildren."

Doris highlights an uncomfortable truth - that even as Angela Merkel tells Germans that they "live in the best Germany ever", many poor people in her country think otherwise.

Parliamentary elections in September offer them a chance to make their voices heard. Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat leader and main rival to the chancellor, is putting social inequality at the heart of his campaign. "Time for more equality. Time for Martin Schulz", is the SPD's main slogan.

The focus on inequality might seem a surprise, especially when the rest of the industrialised world looks on in envy at German economic performance. is a rich country, with the highest income per head of the EU's larger countries, comfortably ahead of , and . Unemployment is the lowest

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