Germany approves a new social assistance system for the long-term unemployed

Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Briesleng, Germany. / Reuters

Ends the criticized 'Hartz IV' in force for two decades

The German government today gave the green light to the long-awaited social reform, the flagship project in this field in the tripartite program of Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Liberals (FDP). The council of ministers under the orders of the federal chancellor, Olaf Scholz, approved the bill prepared by the federal minister of Labour, Hubertus Heil, for the introduction of the so-called "citizen basic income", the minimum aid from the state for those who they no longer collect unemployment insurance and have no income.

With its introduction at the beginning of 2023, the basic income will replace the 'Hartz IV' aid, which was approved at the beginning of the millennium by the Social Democratic and Green government coalition of then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, and which has been the subject of criticism since then. because of the bureaucratic complexity of your request and the severe conditions to receive it. The new state subsidy will be 502 euros per month per adult without a family, compared to 449 euros for "Harzt IV".

In addition, and if they have it, another 451 euros per month will be paid for the interested party's partner, another 420 euros for each child between 15 and 17 years of age, 348 euros for those between 6 and 13 years of age and 318 euros for those under 5 years of age. These subsidies are also complemented by other aid for the payment of rent, heating or the purchase of furniture and appliances, among other things. The costs of renting the house will be assumed in full by the state during the first two years and the savings of up to 60,000 euros may be kept without being taxed by the state. And during the first six months, penalties will be waived if the affected person does not accept a job offered by the employment office.

Hubertus Heil stressed that "there are incentives in the new system to find ways to end poverty" and recalled that two out of three long-term unemployed lack any professional qualifications. The bill contemplates premiums of up to 150 euros per month for those who sign up for vocational training and obtain a certificate. "We don't want to manage poverty, but rather give people jobs," Heil said.

Demotivation

The bill has been the object of arduous negotiations within the tripartite government and criticism from the opposition and the city councils, who are ultimately responsible for paying these subsidies. The conservatives of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) consider that the relief of demands on the beneficiaries, such as going periodically to the employment offices or taking on unwanted jobs that were strictly in force until now, will boost unemployment. of long duration as a good part of the sanctions disappear.

"It can lead to that income being cemented and discouragement being encouraged instead of employment," said the leader of the Bavarian CSU in the Bundestag, Alexander Dobrindt. From The Left, its parliamentary leader Susanne Ferschl, affirmed on the contrary that the project establishes "poverty by law", since the increase in the subsidy does not compensate for the strong inflation. It should have been increased by at least 200 euros, plus electricity costs, Ferschl demanded.

The German Diet of Municipalities also considers that the bill needs improvements and that the balance between aid and demand should not disappear, that is, between the payment of subsidies and the obligation of the beneficiary to accept a job even if it is not of his or her own. liking. In spite of everything, the «citizen basic income» puts an end to the great injustices of the 'Hartz IV' system. For example, subsidies for housing and heating can no longer be withdrawn if the interested party does not bother to look for a job. The children of unemployed people will be able to keep the money they earn with mini-jobs on their vacations and if a family member dies, the rest will no longer have to move to a smaller one within a maximum period of 12 months as before.

In addition, in the future it will not be imperative to obtain a job as soon as possible, but training will be promoted so that those interested can obtain better jobs. Since the introduction of the 'Hartz IV', the perception of job loss has also changed. Before it was considered a personal failure, now there is the conviction that there are many external factors that lead to job loss. From the economic situation in general to that of the company in which you work in particular.

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