Figures from the Federal Labour Agency which administers the Hartz-IV basic unemployment support system, showed that payments were reduced more than 900,000 times last year.
Many people were punished in this way several times, the figures show – of the 4.5 million people in the country living on the basic payments, fewer than five percent were hit in this way.
The highest share was in Berlin with 4.4 percent seeing their money cut, and Rhineland Palatinate with 4.1 percent. The lowest rate was in Bremen where 2.7 percent of those on Hartz-IV saw their money reduced.
“When we compare this against the figures from the previous year, the figure of newly-imposed sanctions has risen by around 10 percent,” a spokesman for the agency told the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily paper. This confirmed an initial report in the Bild paper on Wednesday.
The agency spokesman said the figure did not suggest an increase in fraudulent claims – that more than two-thirds of the payment reductions had been made because a person had not kept a job centre appointment, or not turned up to a job interview.
The number of cases of fraudulent claims sank between 2010 and last year, the Süddeutsche Zeitung said. Last year the Labour Agency filed 177,500 cases for fraud, nearly 22 percent down on the previous year.
“The cases of pure abuse or fraud are not increasing. We have overwhelming registration problems to deal with; this is also connected to positive economic developments,” the spokesman said.
Generally a person's payment is reduced by €115.99 – from a monthly payment of €374 for a single adult, paid on top of rent and heating.
The agency's figures also showed that the average monthly payment was down, probably due to an increase in working poor – whose wages are not enough to live on, but who do not claim the full allowance, the Süddeutsche Zeitung said.