Not everyone on the dole - known in Germany as Hartz IV - is lazy, Heinrich Alt told Die Welt newspaper.
"Most people feel receiving benefits long-term is degrading," Alt, head of the Federal Employment Agency's social security division, said. "They want to make a contribution and to be a role model for their families."
His comments came just a week after the same paper ran an exposé of unemployed people who are unmotivated to find work and stay on benefits as a lifestyle choice.
But many Germans believe long-term unemployed people are not trying to get jobs. One poll by the Allensbach research institute showed over a third of Germans - 37 percent - believe those on Hartz IV benefits do not want to work, wrote the paper.
Yet a recent poll of Hartz IV-receivers by the Federal Employment Agency showed 30 percent already do some form of regular work. Either they are holding down a part-time mini-job, or are in training, completing job centre courses, or are looking after young children or ill family members full-time.
For three quarters of those on the benefits, "having work is the most important thing in life," wrote the paper, and 80 percent said they would like to work even if they did not need the money.
While Alt admitted there were people who did not want to work, they were a minority of individual cases. "We're talking about one-off cases here, a marginal fringe," said Alt, adding that most people needed to work, not only for financial reasons.
"I meet people in job centres who say that sitting around is making them ill and who miss the feeling of being needed and are hoping so much for a bit of success," Alt told the paper.