With the replacement of “Hartz IV” by “Bürgergeld” it will be much easier for the unemployed to get support. It is a farewell to the principle of “support and challenge”. Asset control and personal responsibility are reduced. What is particularly surprising is the role played by the FDP.
In social policy, the traffic light wants to set a new course. Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil will present a draft law for the new citizens’ allowance in the summer, which is intended to replace the current Hartz IV benefits. Heil recently announced that the “very big” reform should be discussed and decided in parliament in the second half of the year.
The traffic light parties have indeed embarked on a very major reform. It starts with the choice of words. Until now, the important social benefit to which the unemployed are entitled after the regular unemployment benefit has expired was officially called unemployment benefit II. In general usage, however, the talk was of Hartz IV.
But it doesn’t stop with verbal cosmetics. “The basic income should respect the dignity of the individual,” says the coalition agreement. Which can only be translated as “we will increase the standard rate”. The SPD, Greens and FDP also want to fundamentally change the previous practice of sanctions. Previously, recipients of Hartz IV benefits could be sanctioned if they failed to keep appointments at the job center, declined a job that was offered, or refused to complete training or further education.
dr Hugo Müller-Vogg is a journalist, book author and former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).
This was part of the basic principle of “promoting and demanding”: the state helps the unemployed but requires them to make their own efforts to get a job again. The coalition agreement speaks vaguely of “obligations to cooperate”. It can be assumed that these will be milder than in the past.
These current resolutions already anticipate important elements of future citizen income. The coalition agreement states: “In the first two years of receiving citizen’s income, we grant the benefit without taking assets into account and recognize the appropriateness of the apartment. We will increase the protective assets and reduce the bureaucracy, digitize and pragmatically simplify their verification.”
Because the maximum penalty is currently a deduction of ten percent or 45 euros if a beneficiary refuses more than once to attend counseling or placement appointments at the job center. If you refuse to accept an offered position, there is currently no threat of deduction of money. And there is nothing to suggest that the parties that have now decided to return to a more rigorous policy of demands in the future. So far, the standard rate of currently 449 euros per month (excluding housing costs) has been reduced by up to 30 percent.
Before the Bundestag elections, none of the parties in power today spoke out clearly in favor of this controversial basic income, which basically cannot be financed. However, the Greens showed their sympathy in the election program by promising model projects for an unconditional basic income. At the same time they promised to replace Hartz IV with a “guarantee protection”. This should guarantee “the socio-cultural subsistence level without sanctions”.
The SPD, in turn, announced that it would fundamentally revise the “basic security” and develop it into a citizen’s allowance. The term Hartz IV was carefully avoided. “Duties to cooperate” are to be imposed on the recipients of the citizen’s income – with the abolition of “unsensical” and “unworthy” sanctions. Since almost every aspect of the “demand” is likely to be senseless or undignified for the SPD-Left, one can guess how gentle these duties to cooperate will be.
The FDP election program said: “We want to combine tax-financed social benefits such as unemployment benefit II, basic security in old age, subsistence allowance or housing benefit in one benefit and in one state agency, also in the sense of a negative income tax. Self-earned income should be counted less than today. This is how we want to combine the tax and social systems.” However, the SPD and the Greens are not prepared to coordinate the tax and social systems.
The expected red-green-yellow citizens’ benefit will therefore have nothing in common with the liberal concept apart from the name: more financial support while largely waiving claims on the beneficiaries. The traffic light under the leadership of Hubertus Heil will bury the Hartz IV reforms. And of all people, the FDP, which is actually market-oriented, will be there as a pallbearer.