The traffic light coalition wants a mass relaxation of the existing Hartz IV regulations. Until mid-2023, the long-term unemployed should be almost free from sanctions, such as reducing money in the event of inappropriate behavior. So far, the government only planned to suspend sanctions until the end of the year. The only remaining sanction will also be eased in the future, namely if the unemployed do not make appointments, such as job offers. They learned that the Greens had pushed through this easing against the resistance of the FDP South German newspaper. The SPD had other ideas as well.
The sanctions have been questioned since the introduction of the Hartz IV in the mid-1990s, which is officially called the primary safeguard. The traffic light coalition wants to replace the concept hated by many unemployed next year with a citizen benefit, which is to express more recognition and less harshness. But what happens until then?
The Greens not only forced that almost no sanctions will apply until July 1 next year. The only option left is also significantly reduced in size. Previously, it was assumed that the long-term unemployed could receive a reduction in their Hartz IV monthly payment if they missed an appointment at the employment office. Now this should only happen if they don’t show up a couple of times. Only then should their efficiency be reduced, and only by ten percent. Losing money due to failure to report is the sanction that has been imposed the most for years.
In a 2019 judgment, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that even stubborn refusals to work could be reduced by up to 30%. For years, practitioners in employment offices have warned against the complete lifting of sanctions. They insist on the possibility of attracting a minority of unemployed reluctant to participate. In total, about 1.5 percent of the approximately 3.5 million Hartz IV recipients who were able to work received sanctions.
The Greens mean a type of unconditional basic income where you should put as little pressure on people as possible. Frank Bsirske, a member of the Bundestag and longtime head of the Verdi trade union, negotiated the binding rules up to the amount of citizens’ income. The fact that the Greens were pushing through such lax rules until mid-2023 is clearly causing trouble for the coalition. Apparently, it was approved only so as not to worsen the already tense mood in the coalition. It is noted from the FDP that they enforced something themselves: once again there should be sanctions on citizens’ money, which reduces to 30 percent of the amount of money.
Experts say a long, largely unpunished period could set a precedent. If almost all sanctions are lifted by mid-2023 and the non-registration is largely inconsequential – can sanctions be reintroduced at all, given the reluctance of many to do so as soon as citizens’ incomes emerge?
In the past, numerous organizations opposed the total lifting of the sanctions – from the city council to even the social association Germany, critical for Hartz, which ultimately wants to receive financial consequences. At a hearing in March, the Federal Employment Agency said that if the sanctions were also lifted after various concessions for Hartz IV recipients, it could be considered unfair. Both from other compliant recipients of basic collaterals and from the “taxpayer financing community”.
The conditions for basic collateral have recently been eased. For now, it will no longer be checked to see if anyone has any assets to use before receiving Hartz IV. The rent for flats, which is actually classified as too expensive, is also taken over.
It is unclear whether the government needs the Bundesrat’s CDU / CSU approval to ease sanctions by mid-2023. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor, such approval is not necessary, but there are other views as well. EU politicians, such as the leader of the parliamentary group Hermann Gröhe, have already stated that they consider the suspension of sanctions to be wrong. It also sends the wrong message to those long-term unemployed who have fulfilled their duty to cooperate: “This cannot be done with us.”