Government under fire for €5 Hartz IV increase

Opposition parties and welfare advocates gathered their forces on Monday to launch a major attack on the government’s modest €5-a-month rise in long-term unemployment payments.

Government under fire for €5 Hartz IV increase
Photo: DPA

In the wake of the government’s revelation on Sunday that under its welfare shake-up, the 4.7 million adult recipients of Hartz IV benefits would receive a smaller boost than expected, opposition parties vowed to fight the changes.

From next year, Hartz IV recipients will receive €364 rather than the current €359. For the roughly two million children in families that are dependent on Hartz IV, there will be no extra money at all.

Those children will, however, be eligible for extra non-cash benefits such as access to more education services.

A decision about whether to change the cap on additional income Hartz IV recipients may earn before it affects their benefits has been delayed. That decision will affect about 1.3 million people who use Hartz IV to top up incomes that are not sufficient to survive and raise a family.

Senior members of the centre-right coalition of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) agreed on Sunday to Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s recommendation for the small rise.

Merkel said the remainder of the package of reforms would be finalised in the next month. The government has been forced to make the changes by a Constitutional Court ruling in February that stated that the way in which Hartz IV rates were calculated was unconstitutional.

Green leader Cem Özdemir told the Hamburger Abendblatt: “The federal government has an immoral compass.”

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) deputy chairwoman, Manuela Schwesig, told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that Minister von der Leyen was “horse-trading on the weakest in society.”

The SPD’s acting parliamentary leader Joachim Poß told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the party would oppose the modest rise both politically and legally.

“I have great doubts whether the calculation … hasn’t been fiddled,” he said.

Von der Leyen defended the changes Sunday night, telling broadcaster ARD the coalition’s overriding concern was to ensure the long-term unemployed had an incentive to find work.

“We have long-term unemployed who need work – now let’s get to work on that,” she said.

DPA/The Local/dw

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