With the introduction of citizen income, it is no longer worth going to work. This claim is spreading widely on social networks, and the CSU is also involved. But there is more than one catch.

In January, the federal government wants to introduce the new citizen’s allowance . The basic security for the unemployed should then be about 50 euros higher than the previous Hartz IV benefits and associated with less pressure from the job center. Even before the final decisions are made in the Bundestag and Bundesrat, there is a discussion: is it still worth going to work at all?

Various example calculations are used to argue time and again on social media, among other things: people who are unemployed and receive citizenship benefits will in future have just as much money in their pockets every month as some employees. Some even claim that the unemployed have hundreds of euros more.

For example, CSU boss Markus Söder recently said on ZDF that certain people in the lower income brackets would “ultimately have less if they work than if they don’t work”. His party had previously initiated the “Achievement must be worth it!” campaign.

The CSU calculates, for example: A single person who will receive citizenship allowance from 2023 will supposedly have just as much money left over to live on as a comparable employee with a gross wage of around 2500 euros. Because unlike the unemployed, the employee gets neither housing nor heating costs financed by the state, but has to pay everything out of their own pocket, so the theory goes.

For its example, the CSU uses exactly the same data that the right-wing conservative weekly “Junge Freiheit” and several AfD district associations had distributed weeks earlier.

In examples like these, government benefits are often concealed that employees in the low-wage sector are entitled to: such as housing benefits, child allowances, maintenance payments or tax exemptions – i.e. additional money that only employed persons can apply for. By embezzling these subsidies, the results of such calculations for employees in the low-wage sector are sometimes several hundred euros too low.

Calculating the difference between citizens’ allowance and salary is not as simple as is often suggested. On the contrary: Calculations of needs, even for low-wage earners, are highly complex – and above all individual. Whether state benefits are paid depends on specific factors such as the size and cost of the apartment, place of residence or the number of family members.

In principle, working people in Germany have more money at their disposal than current Hartz IV recipients and future citizenship benefit recipients. Unemployment also has consequences in old age. In the case of citizen’s allowance, no contributions are paid to the pension insurance. Each month of basic security reduces future pension payments.

People on low incomes can receive various allowances – especially families. That would be for example:

Housing allowance: The amount depends on the net income of the household, the number of household members and the rental costs. With low salaries in a three-person household of a single parent, the amount can easily amount to several hundred euros. From January 2023, according to the plans of the traffic light coalition, the housing allowance is to be increased and the group of recipients is to be expanded by 1.4 million citizens.

Child allowance: The amount of this allowance is decided individually depending on income, housing costs, size of the family and the age of the children. The prerequisite is that a single parent has a gross income of at least 600 euros and couples of at least 900 euros. Example: A mother with two children gets up to 229 euros a month per child with a gross salary of up to 2100 euros and rent including heating of around 790 euros.

Child Support Advance: This government benefit for children of working single parents is paid when the other parent does not provide regular or full support for their children. The advance is (as of January 1, 2022) for children between the ages of six and eleven a month up to 236 euros, for older children even up to 314 euros.

When the CSU writes that a citizen’s allowance recipient has zero euros in energy costs, that’s wrong. Electricity has to be financed from the standard rate provided.

The costs for housing and a reasonable consumption of heating are actually covered by the office. In view of rising rents and gas and oil prices, this is exactly what causes a lot of resentment on the part of employees.

The president of the social association VdK, Verena Bentele, therefore draws attention to wages. A certain distance between earned income and citizenship allowance must be maintained, she recently explained on Deutschlandfunk. “In sectors where this is not the case, there is an urgent need for improvement.” In other words: In their opinion, it is not the citizens’ income that is too high, but the salaries in some cases too low.