Reform: basic income takes the first hurdle: "Leave Hartz IV behind us"

Millions of people in need in Germany are to receive more money and better care from January 1 with the citizen benefit.

Reform: basic income takes the first hurdle: "Leave Hartz IV behind us"

Millions of people in need in Germany are to receive more money and better care from January 1 with the citizen benefit. The federal cabinet gave the green light for the central social reform of the traffic light coalition. Citizens' income is intended to replace Hartz IV in its current form for the more than five million affected.

Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said: "With the basic income we are strengthening the welfare state and getting people out of unemployment permanently."

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) announced on Twitter: "We will leave Hartz IV behind on January 1." FDP leader Christian Lindner emphasized: "The basic income gives people trust and offers a greater incentive than before to take up work themselves." Green parliamentary group leader Britta Haßelmann told the German Press Agency: "We don't leave people who have little alone." Union and employers accused the coalition of leaving the needy in the aid system permanently. Social associations and unions criticized the planned monthly rates as too low. The Bundestag and Bundesrat still have to approve the law.

Higher rule rates

The standard rate of basic security should increase from 449 to 502 euros. Adults living with partners receive 451 euros. Young people aged 14 and over get 420 euros, children from 6 to 14 years 348 euros, under-6-year-olds 318 euros. Normally, the regular increase in standard rates based on price and wage developments leads to far smaller increases. The mechanism has now been changed to take account of the exceptionally high inflation - the adjustments should therefore continue to reflect price developments more promptly and effectively in the future.

sanctions

Those who do not cooperate with the job center should have fewer sanctions to fear. Such sanctions had already been suspended by law in advance. Now the possibilities for reducing benefits in a six-month period of trust are to be severely restricted. Payments should only be reduced in the event of missed appointments at the job center. In the case of breaches of duty, such as not accepting reasonable work, there should be no more sanctions in the first six months. Later, in the event of repeated breaches of duty and failure to report, a maximum of 30 percent of the standard requirement can be reduced. Accommodation and heating costs are not reduced. Furthermore, a de minimis limit of 50 euros is to be introduced for reclaims.

assets

Waiting periods should apply in the first two years of receiving citizen benefit: The costs for rented apartments or owner-occupied residential property are recognized regardless of the area. You should also be allowed to have assets of up to 60,000 euros for two years, even if you receive citizen income. After 24 months of receiving citizenship benefit, assets and the suitability of the apartment should be able to be checked. More assets than before should remain untouched.

incentives

"Instead of demotivating, often counterproductive sanctions, the citizen's income is based on positive incentives," said Green Party Vice President Andreas Audretsch of the German Press Agency. A further education allowance of 150 euros is to be given to those who are unemployed or receive top-up benefits as a low earner and take part in further education related to a vocational qualification. If necessary, those affected can attend retraining in three years instead of the previous two years. A bonus of 75 euros per month is to be introduced for participation in measures for sustainable integration. Heil said: "We want effort to be worthwhile and for people to get work so that they can live independently." The priority of placement in a job over further training will also be abolished. The unemployed should also get more coaching.

cooperation

It is important to the coalition partners that job centers should meet those affected "on an equal footing", as they have already written in their coalition agreement. At the beginning, a cooperation plan should be drawn up. What does the unemployed person wish for in their further career? Better than before, these wishes should be taken into account. Audretsch draws attention to another planned innovation: "In future, everyone will be written to by the job centers in friendly, clear sentences," he says. "No complex legal texts, no instructions on legal consequences that are often perceived as threats."

criticism from employers

Employer President Rainer Dulger criticized the plans as "a fatal milestone in terms of labor market policy". "This does not build bridges into working life, but into the social transfer system," said Dulger. CSU regional group chief Alexander Dobrindt told the "Augsburger Allgemeine": "The principle of demanding and promoting is further restricted by the citizen's income." This could lead to entrenched benefits.

Criticism from social organizations

In view of the inflation and the high energy prices, the amount of the citizens' benefit was criticized. "The increase of 50 euros a month is just a long-overdue inflation adjustment that comes a year too late," said the president of the social association VdK, Verena Bentele. According to DGB board member Anja Piel, a greater increase in the standard rates on the FDP has failed: "But the citizen's income retains the old flaw of the Hartz IV system: it does not effectively protect against poverty."

Challenge for job centers

The Green labor market expert Frank Bsirske now sees the job centers facing a double burden - because of the new basic income and the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. "It is all the more important that they are provided with sufficient funds," said Bsirske of the dpa. "That is not yet secured with the present draft budget." The former head of the Verdi trade union demanded: "There must be significant improvements here."

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