Berlin (dpa) – More than 15 years after the Hartz IV reform came into effect, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to significantly defuse rules for the long-term unemployed with a law.
In the future, basic security recipients will no longer be able to face extraordinary hardship through sanctions for breach of duty. The simplified access to basic security for jobseekers, already introduced in the wake of the corona pandemic, needs to be “stabilized”, according to one of the bills submitted to the German news agency in Berlin.
The “Spiegel” had already published an interview with Heil the day before. There Heil announced: “The basic security must become a social benefit, for which no one should be ashamed who needs it.”
The Federal Constitutional Court had already severely curtailed the employment agency’s sanctioning practice in November 2019 after years of criticism. Since 2005, job centers had disciplined non-cooperative Hartz IV recipients on the principle of “support and challenge” by cutting off the money supply. The Constitutional Court ruled on November 5, 2019 that monthly discounts of 60 percent or more are incompatible with the Basic Law. The employment offices are allowed to reduce the monthly benefit by up to 30 percent if Hartz IV recipients fail to meet their obligations.
Since the ruling, the old sanctioning practice has been defused by instructions from the Ministry of Labor and the Federal Agency. Due to the corona pandemic, there were also fewer and fewer sanctions anyway. Heil now wants to permanently regulate by law that the monthly reductions do not exceed 30 percent of the standard requirement. Under the draft, this should apply if beneficiaries have repeatedly violated their obligations or missed personal reporting appointments for no good reason.
According to Heils’s plans, no one should be afraid that housing costs will be affected by lower benefits. Any reduction in performance should be checked to determine whether it is exceptional deprivation in the individual case. In particular, there has been a dispute for years about stricter special rules for young people under the age of 25 – according to Heil’s plans, these should now be finally lifted.
The planned law should also ensure permanent access to basic security in the Corona crisis. During the crisis, the employment office investigation into housing and property was suspended – namely how big the apartment is and whether they have savings of up to 60,000 euros. During a waiting period of two years, according to the design, assets must be protected to the specified amount and the rental costs are not checked for suitability.
The Salvation Ministry said Saturday, “We want an eye-level welfare state that offers more security and creates new confidence.” For example, anyone who is looking for temporary work and falls under basic security must be able to trust that he will not have to worry about savings and the housing situation for the time being.
In the coming weeks it will now depend on the Union’s attitude to rescue plans. If there are no more reforms in this parliamentary term, the plans could become a template for the SPD for the start of the Bundestag election campaign. At their party congress in December 2019, the Social Democrats had already decided to leave Hartz IV to break the 2010 agenda of their former chancellor Gerhard Schröder on key issues. The SPD’s proposals went well beyond the now legally planned Hartz reform.
The unions responded enthusiastically to rescue plans. DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann told the German news agency: “This is a socio-political milestone.” This could defuse the conflict over the Hartz IV system, which has been smoldering for years and is perceived by many as discriminatory. “Now it is up to the parliamentary group of the Union to support these reform plans constructively.”
The Hartz reforms were implemented between 2003 and 2005 by the red-green federal government led by Schröder. In some cases, they led to noticeable cuts in social benefits, such as the duration of unemployment benefits.