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Germany to raise Hartz IV unemployment benefit by just three euros

People who receive Hartz IV benefits in Germany will receive an increase in the monthly benefit - but for most people it will be just €3 more per month.

Germany to raise Hartz IV unemployment benefit by just three euros
Fruit and veg on sale at a supermarket in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The Hartz IV rates will go up slightly from January 22nd, the federal cabinet decided on Wednesday. 

The standard rate for single adults who are Hartz IV welfare recipients will go up by €3 to €449, while the rate for young people aged 14 to 17 will also rise by €3 to €376. Adults under 25 without their own household will receive €360 – also an increase of €3 per month.

The rate for children up to five years-old in a Hartz IV household will be €285 euros per month in the new year instead of the previous €283. For six to 13-year-olds, the rate will also increase by €2 to €311. 

Hartz IV – or Unemployment benefit II – is a controversial type of long-term welfare assistance, which requires recipients to fulfil a specific set of conditions, like active job hunting or attending education classes – in order to receive a monthly payment and housing assistance. 

EXPLAINED: Why are Hartz IV benefits so controversial in Germany?

Why is the increase so low?

The adjustment of the Hartz IV standard rates is based on the wage and price development of the past year.

That means the benefits are based on 2020 – when wages fell overall by 4.7 percent in the second quarter alone due to the Covid crisis. 

Millions of people were on Kurzarbeit (reduced working hours), and many lost their job. At the same time, the German government cut the value-added tax (VAT) to 16 percent for the second half of 2020. This means that prices effectively fell during this period.

READ ALSO: 10 golden rules to know if you lose your job in Germany

From January 1st this year, single adults received a €14 increase in Hartz IV payments, while the rate for young people aged between 14 and 17 went up by €45. For children up to the age of five living in a Hartz IV household, the benefit increased by €33. 

What’s the reaction?

The move by the SPD-led social affairs ministry has been slammed by opposition parties, who say the increases do not reflect the rising cost of living in Germany. 

“Raising the standard rates by a measly €3 a month is little more than a pittance,” said Left Party parliamentary group vice chairwoman Susanne Ferschl.

“Rising consumer prices are causing the money to evaporate faster than it’s in the account.”

Ferschl said the Hartz IV standard rate should be increased to €658 as an “immediate measure”.

Green Party faction leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt criticized the size of the increase as “irresponsible”. Green Party social policy expert Sven Lehmann called for an increase in rates of at least €50 “as a first step.”

The German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) and the social association VdK also criticised the new Hartz IV rates, which will come into force from January next year. 

“The planned increase of only €3 is significantly below the price trend,” said DGB board member Anja Piel to the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe.

VdK President Verena Bentele said the government was once again cutting back on those “who are least able to defend themselves.”

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WORKING IN GERMANY

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck! 

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