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Germany's hearts fear: Is the welfare system too harsh?

The Local · 27 Sep 2010, 12:20

Published: 27 Sep 2010 12:20 GMT+02:00

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The government’s long-awaited announcement on the Hartz IV reforms has divided Germany along political lines. So it is with the nation’s media.

Conservatives are praising the meagre €5-per-month rise as an acknowledgement that Germany simply cannot afford to subsidise long-term unemployment. Liberal papers, meanwhile, see the announcement as plain heartlessness.

“Can you feed a child on €80 a month?” the left-wing taz asked. “Does €300 a year suffice to replace an adolescent’s jacket, jumper, pants and shoes, which they’ll outgrow again in the blink of an eye?

“We have to have a debate about such questions. Instead these questions have been sacrificed on the altar of budget discipline.”

The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung condemned not just the size of the rise, but the dismissive attitude the government took towards the poor in shoving the change through without consultation.

It pointed out that the government had spent considerably more time and effort taking soundings from the energy industry in coming to its decision to extend the lifetime of the nation’s nuclear reactors.

“The 'black-yellow' conservative coalition apparently regards the 6.7 million Hartz IV recipients as lesser citizens who can be fobbed off with lesser policies.

“Democracy is a community whose future is shaped in co-operation. In co-operation! The coalition’s conduct during the adjustment of Hartz IV demonstrates that they put little value on co-operation with the poor in this country.”

But the conservative daily Die Welt found considerable encouragement in what it saw as a shifting attitude away from the destructive idea of welfare money as something-for-nothing.

“It’s not the banking and financial crisis that has brought our states to the brink of bankruptcy, but the welfare state,” the paper wrote. “For this leads paradoxically to disputes, stagnation and division because no state can replace the positive connection of family and work – much less the freedom and self-reliance that are the motor of any society.”

Society was built on work, the paper wrote, noting that 56 percent of Germans are against the increase to Hartz IV money, according to a new poll.

“That is an encouraging sign. The state has nationalized the underclass – taking on all of its life risks. It gives, without asking for anything in return. That cannot be good.”

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland read a political subtext into the announcement, noting that the government is eager to appear more decisive and active since the lull of the summer break, during which its popularity reached record lows.

The paper described the Hartz IV rise as “puny” but acknowledged that it was a reasonable calculation, given the constitutional court decision that sparked the review found fault not with the rates themselves, but the lack of transparency in calculating them.

“Sure, a strong rise, such as those being demanded by the opposition and welfare groups, would have pleased the 6 million Hartz IV recipients. But the state must not only justify itself to them, but also to millions of low-income earners,” it wrote.

“Hartz IV is not there to give anyone a carefree life, rather only to cover essential living costs. One must have doubts about whether it is also there to pay for cigarettes and alcohol. Excluding these not only has the desired effect for the coalition by lowering the overall rates of the standard payments. It also appears to their constituency as tough on supposed freeloaders – even if the drinking behaviour and cigarette consumption of the unemployed doesn’t change.

“Only more jobs can do that.”

Story continues below…

Centrist Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel wrote that although the government says it can’t afford more and polls show some 70 percent of Germans are against increases to welfare benefits, current payments are mercilessly small.

“It is relatively insignificant whether it’s five, 10 or 20 euros more, because at €359, €364 or €375 per month a good life is hardly possible,” the paper said.

While Hartz IV was designed to discourage long-term unemployment, and has done so with relative success, it has also created a sector of low-wage workers willing to work at any price. This may have benefited the economy in the short term, but a massive shortage of skilled workers is set to put an end to this, the paper warned, urging a change in both industrial and social policies.

“State aid should allow a dignified life that includes social participation. And it should also optimise chances to break out of the system of welfare benefits,” the paper wrote, adding that this would mean higher taxes for wealthier citizens.

“Because temporary workers don’t make world export champions. And cuts to Hartz IV make the social system unjust,” the paper added.

The Local/dw/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:31 September 27, 2010 by simski
It is important that a walfare state such as ours cares for all its citizens. We need equal opportunities for all members of society, which means free education on all levels for everyone, and we need to support those who can not do it themselves because they can't find a job or are unable to work in one. Current Hartz IV rates, especially what is calculated for children, are barely at the existential minimum, if not below. A dignified live is not possible with that little money.
14:43 September 27, 2010 by freechoice
damn my ever increasing heizung costs more than hearts fear itself! 6 millions on dole that's also 2 billion of the national budget. maybe the state can save money by stop bombing Afghanistan or starts to persecute those who move their assets away to off-shores to avoid taxes?

oh yeah, kinder floer markt is very economical when you want to save money for your kids...
14:48 September 27, 2010 by mehta_p
Too much talk by politicians and too much rules and regulations and laws here in Germany that makes everyone to get screwed.

When you are unemployed, you should not expect good life. But 359 Euro per person is very less when you have to pay health insurance otherwise 700 Euro for two person living together is enough for house and food only.

(phone, transport, hotels, restaurants - do u need luxury life when u r unemployed?)

Assylbewerber are increasing each year here and government keep providing them hauses first with some amount of money on monthly basis. Later education or permission to work as well that makes Government to spend less on Germans who are unemployed. When Assyl (or Refugee) gets money and later job, then why unemployed Germans having not-good life.

I suppose, employed people pay extra on health insurance when they don't visit doctors for longer period. Why there can not be a rule, that when somebody doesn't visit much (spending) Doctors in a year or two then X % of this health insurance goes directly to Government for Hartz VI or any other use??

I keep paying since yrs on health insurance and visited doctors jst becasue of some fever or cold in last 6 yrs. And when I calculate the whole amount it is more than 7500 Euro ( 3 yrs student + arnd 3 yrs employee).
14:58 September 27, 2010 by chicagolive
The main problem is the disconnect the government has to the hardships of the people, and the policies that they have that increases this burden. No welfare is not supposed to be end station for vacation, but the people who use it like that are a small percentage and they know very well how to keep from being affected by changes on the system. So nothing is hurting them, the only people who are being hurt are the ones who are in dire need, and how can we help that need give them a decent living while also giving them the opportunity to grow in mind and in wealth. 1 euro jobs are a bleeping joke it is just slave labor hell it is lower then slave labor my Great Great Grandfather got more for his work then the 1 euro jobbers and he was a slave. Almost none of the companies actually give these people jobs even though they say that is the main purpose of the program. They just keep asking for the cheap labor that the government is providing them.

Now back to what I said earlier about making living better, I little sympathy for the single people on welfare(unless so medical issue is involved that is different)they can suffer some and still get a better chance at something by the simple fact that the only one they have to worry about is themselves. Now people will children that is a whole other physical and psychological issue to deal with, when your children are constantly asking for this and that when you know if I take this job I might be off welfare but I will still be without anything. What needs to happen is a total top down change in the system. Education is the single most important thing to end poverty and raise people out of poverty. Money does not solve anything when people are to dumb to handle it plan and simple.

Tell the people listen we will take care of you and your family during this time of need and in turn you will go to school or through a training course to give you the increased chance of finding a viable position, because the majority of people on Hartz IV are under educated. Next make a minimum wage scheme it does not have to be high say €5 and it is not taxed minus the health care you have just now increased the power of people to be able to spend money in the country which in turn increases work flow.

People who are on welfare would not have their benefits cut as long as they are going to school or training. Now you have just increased their value to society and you have just giving them and their children a psychological boost of saying hey you are worth something. You can be come something and we are going to help you as a society to get their.
14:59 September 27, 2010 by catjones
The question is: what percentage leave the program every year and what percentage remain after 5,10,20,30 years?
15:29 September 27, 2010 by freechoice
why is a capitalist state with strong social welfare do not have min wage? this is unacceptable!! LOL!
15:46 September 27, 2010 by mehta_p
Hey God, please give everyone job here. So there won't be Hartz VI and so the discussion. :p
16:29 September 27, 2010 by deutschamer
Socialism has worked in the nordic countries and Germany because the people as a whole have been mainly naturally industrious and have had a sense of responsibility. It has NOT worked in the US and other countries where a large segment of the people are not this way. Back when Bismarck and the Kaiser created the first welfare system, the culture was very much this way. But today I fear it is no changing. Things change. When a large part of the population is uneducated and lives their entire life on the welfare system, its not going to work for much longer. As Margaret Thatcher once said, the Government runs out of other peoples money.
16:49 September 27, 2010 by mehta_p

thanx to many here - to let me think abt the expenses when you have kid.

Some yrs back I was also a kid....thanx to my parents as well for giving me everything i needed.
17:01 September 27, 2010 by chicagolive
I don't know what planet Krieg lives on or if this person even has children, but the idea that children can't survive on hand me downs and flohmarkt is silly. Regretfully this is not the 50's -80's when kids could actually get away with that living and still make it through school mentally stable. €300 is nothing especially if you have more then 1 child and good forbid that all your children actually do not just get fat on the couch all day but actually participate in a physical activities which will destroy clothes quickly and second hand clothes even quicker.

Plus their are things you just don't by second for the simple thing of health. I don't give my child second had shoes, underwear, and socks that is just nasty plus you are endangering the long term health of your child but some people don't care about those things. Things like shoes have a lift span and it is not forever nor is it transferable to another person because they form to your feet after awhile.

Me and my wife mix some C&A, H&M, KIK, Flohmarkt and Erstings Family in are shopping and we still spend way more then €300 with the 1 son doing sports and the other son about to start it is killer the bill and you can't give them old stuff to do athletic training in if you care for their well-being.
17:20 September 27, 2010 by OkieinBerlin
It's nice to see an active new discussion, not the usual bunch of scribblers...!
19:02 September 27, 2010 by grazhdanin
how inventive, an article in which appear the term crisis, please post more of those
21:32 September 27, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, every nation will always have people that need government assistance.

And therefore it is the responsiblity of the government to care for them. At the same time, the government must not INABLE such people. Self-sufficiency should be the goal of all 6.8 billion people here on this planet.

Humanity has been disfunctional since the beginning of time. Humans tend to make the same bad decisions over and over again. However, there is a very simple solution that could literally solve ALL of their problems.

If humans were to subscribe to the exact same, Efficient and Conservative psychology as the universe, then obviously they too would function in a very consistent and harmonious way. Fights over welfare reform and Neanderthal-like behaviour would vanish.

The universe is the most brilliant because it is non-emotional. Humans could be this way too. They just have to imagine something new.
23:49 September 27, 2010 by JohnPaul44
I visited Germany in 1953 and was very impressed with what I saw of the German people. They were still rebuilding after the destruction of the war. I saw hard-working honest people, and heard no whining.

Any modern society should provide a basic safety net for its citizens, but anything more than that is ultimately self-destructive. A welfare state creates the problems it purports to solve. While liberal politicians pontificate from their ivory towers, the German spirit is rotting away around them.

The words of the song, "We march, though the world in ruin falls" applies just as much to the modern German welfare state as it did to the Nazi regime. I fear for the future of Germany.
03:04 September 28, 2010 by JohnPaul44
"A minimum wage would make a good start." ???

That might be true if wages simply floated down from heaven as the liberals believe, but wages come from employers, many of whom are already struggling to keep their business afloat. I remember the cartoon which showed the manager of a fast-food place talking to his employees: The manager says "The good news is that your wages are going up. The bad news is that two of you are fired!"
14:58 September 28, 2010 by anh
I work in architecture and know for fact that we young architects get an average of 2000€/month brutto in Berlin, that means 1300€/month after tax and insurance. 45-50 hours/week is normal, in famous offices people may work up to 60 hours/week, no overtime payment. And that is after 5-7 years of education at university, plus enduring unpaid or very low-paid internship(s) which can last for a year after graduation, plus a little bit of luck to get a spot in the field which ironically could disappear again after 1-2 years or even after probation due to the precarity of the profession.

I get now after some years of experience about ... 15€/hour and knowing the reality of my field i can only be thankful to have a full-time job. And here people think working in Aldi for 12€/hour is not enough?
18:18 September 28, 2010 by Rana Imran
I think the German policy is just to give some think to eat...... This Heart iv is just addressing the people don't wana work. There are a lot of highly qualified people who are continuously struggling for job in Germany but couldn't. If you are giving them 364 euros per month to them, it does not make any sense. These people wana work and then to earn money. The need is there to increase the opportunities for them. as written in the same news paper some days before that German companies need workers but still international skilled persons are not welcomed. That's really regretful. I am totally against this heart iv money but there should be jobs available for everyone. everyone should work hard and contribute in country progress. Ok I agree with the language issue but companies will pay a little more attention on flexibility of work. Language can be learnt on job. I would not mind to put some extra efforts for language when I have a job in a good company.
01:02 September 29, 2010 by MonkeyMania
Try working for a change dikwads!
18:29 September 29, 2010 by closeenough
It's the old story of the Haves vs. the Have-nots. Even tho theres not enough work for everyone in modern societies the Haves aren't satisfied unless their poorer brothers and sisters are really down and out. Its not a very pretty part of human nature.
12:30 October 5, 2010 by Bia
If you're complaining about jobs, I don't know what to say about other countries. For example some Eastern Europe countries....You get unemployment help if you worked at least 1 year. The "help" consists of 100 Euros per month for six months. If you worked for 3 years or more, you get the 120 Euros for one year. No health insurance, no other facilities....

Oh yeah, when you protest that conditions are awful for everyone, no discrimination (I for instance have one college and one master degree + I'm a student at a second college, but those that have just high school are having an even harder time finding work) you know what the president if the country answers?

He says "That is why we joined the EU, so you can go abroad and work! Stop complaining!" So I'm asked by the president to go elsewhere and work, because my country can't afford to take care of me until I find a job. I can't live on my scholarship which is about 50 Euros per month. But rent is 200 Euros, food is about 150-200 Euros (yes, food is more expensive than in Germany) utilities like heating, water and electricity are about 150 Euros more ; I have not included stuff you need for cleaning (yourself and your clothes) , doctor appointments, dentist, books and clothing. No car included, because we're including it in the "rich people" category. God forbid you should come down with something like the flu. More money for medicine.

So, be happy that you have jobs or, if you don't, your government still takes care of you. Cause in other places people are starving or dying because of the flu.
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