• Germany's news in English
How Germany's plan to limit welfare could affect you
Photo: DPA

How Germany's plan to limit welfare could affect you

Jörg Luyken · 13 Oct 2016, 16:56

Published: 13 Oct 2016 16:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Oct 2016 16:56 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Why has this law been created?

In late 2015, the Federal Social Court ruled that working-age EU citizens had a right to the most basic form of social welfare - known as Hartz IV - after living in Germany for a period of six months.

This caused consternation among local governments, who have to pay social benefits out of their own budgets. Already under strain due to the pressures of the refugee crisis, they called on the federal government to change the law.

Labour Minister Andrea Nahles of the Social Democrats (SPD) drafted the new bill in response. She insists it will only affect a few people, but says she wants to close a loophole before the problem of 'welfare tourism' from poorer EU states grows.

“We are protecting local governments, who have to shoulder the burden of these payments, from financial overstretch,” she said.

The law must still be approved by the German parliament.

Will I be entitled to welfare payments when I first move to Germany?

No. The law aims to ensure that immigrants from other EU countries don't come to Germany simply to take advantage of the social welfare system. The German government argues that these people’s home countries are obliged to pay their social benefits.

“For those people who have never worked [in Germany] and are dependent on the state for their basic income, a basic principle applies: social provisions are to be provided in their country of origin,” said Nahles.

What happens if I lose my job?

The draft law applies mainly to those who have moved to Germany and have not yet been in employment. If you have worked in Germany, then you will receive social benefits if you become unemployed at a later date.

“Whoever lives and works here and pays into the system also has a right to payments out of the social welfare system,” said Nahles.

But, according to the draft law, if you have been in employment in Germany for less than a year, you will only have a right to Hartz IV for a six-month period, should you become unemployed.

Those who lose their jobs and have been employed for over a year will have the same rights as a German citizen. That means you will be able to receive Hartz IV, plus Unemployment Benefit 1, which is a percentage of your last salary paid over a 12-month period.

Is there any cash available when I first come to Germany?

Yes. The new law provides money for people who cannot afford living costs for a maximum four-week period. According to the government, this money will “cover the immediate need for food, housing, hygiene and medicine.”

At the end of this period, the state will provide a loan to the recipient to cover the costs of travel back to their country of origin.

How long do I have to wait before I have the same entitlements as Germans?

This isn’t likely to apply to too many people, but you will now have to live legally in Germany for five years without working before you have a right to the same basic provisions as German citizens.

In other words, the government has set the barrier so high, that only people with other family members in full-time employment are ever likely to fall under this category.

Is this in compliance with EU law?

The government points to a European Court of Justice decision to back up the new law. The 2015 ruling came to the conclusion that it was compatible with European law for Germany to exclude EU citizens from social welfare payments.

Indeed, despite the EU law on freedom of movement, EU citizens only have a right to stay in another country for a period of up to three months if they are not able to financially support themselves beyond this point.

Story continues below…

Opponents however, complain that it is against the spirit of European integration.

"The government is betraying the European idea," said Sabine Zimmermann, MP for Die Linke (the Left Party).

"The basic right to a subsistence allowance should apply to all people in Germany and should not be restricted."

Isn’t this what the UK wanted to do before it voted to leave the EU?

No. When ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed upon new EU rules with his European counterparts in February, he wrestled an “emergency brake” from them.

Under this system EU immigrants could be denied benefits for up to four years, but crucially this would have applied to in-work benefits and rights to social housing. In-work benefits include social welfare payments to support low-income earners and tax credits.

The German draft law is clearly less controversial, as it applies to people who come to Germany and are not in employment. It can therefore more persuasively be argued as an attempt to prevent welfare tourism.

With AFP

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jörg Luyken (joerg.luyken@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd