The sharp increase in citizens' money at the beginning of 2024 is causing discord in the Union. The social wing is resisting demands from the party leadership to stop the increase. CSU boss Markus Söder and leading FDP politicians, however, are calling for the increase to be reduced by twelve percent.
The more than five million citizens' benefit recipients should receive an average of around 12 percent more money on January 1, 2024 - single people will then receive 563 euros. In contrast to previous adjustments, the sharply increased inflation for months was taken into greater account in the calculation for 2024 due to a change in the rules.
Söder: “The balance between supporting and demanding is not right”
“The traffic light must postpone the increase planned for January by a year and start it again completely,” said Bavarian Prime Minister Söder to the magazine “Stern”. "It takes more motivation to go to work. That's why we will introduce an initiative in the Federal Council to completely overhaul citizens' money. Because the balance between support and demand is not right," said Söder, justifying the initiative. "Anyone who works must receive noticeably more than someone who doesn't work. That's why we need changes."
According to General Secretary Carsten Linnemann, the CDU wants to significantly reduce the citizens' benefit of able-bodied young adults if they take over the government if they refuse job or training offers. It cannot be the case that 600,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are neither working nor in training," argued Linnemann in the "Tagesspiegel" (Monday). "Anyone who could work, especially at a young age, but consciously doesn't do it and takes advantage of the system, "We would have to expect 50 percent or more instead of a 30 percent cut," he said.
FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai called for the significant increase in citizens' money to be reversed. “Every third euro that the federal government spends goes towards social spending. That is no longer possible,” said Djir-Sarai to “Bild am Sonntag”. “Therefore, it is now urgently necessary to reassess citizens’ money. The planned increase on January 1st is no longer appropriate,” he added. It cannot be the case that the government increases citizens' benefits by twelve percent in times of tight budgets and with the lowest inflation since 2021. Social Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) must stop the planned increase. “Everything else cannot be conveyed to the working population,” explained Djir-Sarai.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner has named the social sector with citizens' money as one of three areas to close gaps in the budget for 2024. With regard to citizens' money, the FDP leader pointed out in the newspapers of the Funke media group that the inflation rate is developing significantly better than predicted when the standard rate was set for 2024. Inflation fell to 3.2 percent in November - the planned increase in citizens' benefits from January is still based on inflation of 9.9 percent, as FDP social expert Pascal Kober explained.
Social Minister Heil had already rejected calls for the increase to be suspended. The minister points to the mechanism that the sharp increase has to do with the high inflation this year. But if inflation falls again in 2024, the resulting increase in citizens' benefits will be "relatively measly," the minister recently predicted.
CDU social wing warns: Don't unsettle people
The chairman of the CDU employee association CDA, Karl-Josef Laumann, also objected to canceling the increase in citizens' benefits planned for the beginning of 2024. “It was urgently necessary to adjust the standard rates for citizens’ benefit,” said the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Social Affairs to the Editorial Network Germany (RND). It is wrong to only criticize social benefits in the current budget situation. “Nobody should think that the CDU is not on the side of the common people,” warned Laumann.
CDA Vice President Christian Bäumler also emphasized: "The demand for social cuts in Germany unsettles people and endangers social peace. A policy that makes the poor ever poorer and the rich ever richer is incompatible with the Christian view of humanity," warned Bäumler . He warned against destroying the intellectual foundations of the Union with “welfare state polemics.”
No citizen's benefit for newly arriving Ukraine refugees?
There is another demand from the Union. Söder wants a stop to citizen benefit payments to newly arriving Ukrainian refugees. “It would not be legal to delete something retroactively. But we have to change course for all new cases,” said the CSU politician. "And for everyone else who comes to us, social benefits should only be available after five years instead of after 18 months."
The Union parliamentary group's domestic policy spokesman, Alexander Throm, also spoke out in favor of ending the payment of citizen's money to newly arrived refugees from Ukraine. "The fact that the war refugees from Ukraine would all immediately receive citizen's money was well-intentioned by everyone involved when it was decided," said the CDU member of the Bundestag to the German Press Agency. However, the decision proved to be counterproductive in terms of the willingness to take up work.
CDU leader Friedrich Merz warned in the ARD program “Report from Berlin” that a greater differentiation should be made between wage replacement benefits financed by contributions and social benefits financed by taxes. "I am even in favor of those who receive unemployment benefits, for example, perhaps even receiving higher benefits in the first few months so that they can secure their standard of living."
The inflation rate is significantly lower than expected at the beginning of the year, said Merz. That's why the increase of 12.6 percent that Minister Heil is now planning is "simply too much when you consider that those who receive it should have an incentive to go into the job market as social benefits."