German inflation slows in June as government steps in

German inflation slowed slightly in June, official figures published Wednesday showed, as government measures to ease the pressure on consumers from rising prices took force.

The €9 ticket is one of the cost of living measures the German government introduced.
The €9 ticket is one of the cost of living measures the German government introduced. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliwia Nowakowska

Inflation sat at 7.6 percent in June, according to the federal statistics office Destatis, still well above the two-percent target set by central banks but down from 7.9 percent in May.

Consumer prices in Germany have been on an almost constant climb for 18 months, with the last fall in the rate registered in January this year.

Inflation was first stoked by the disruptions arising from the coronavirus pandemic, and then by the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion had caused “prices for energy to climb markedly”, leading to high rates of inflation, Destatis said.

Year-on-year energy costs were up 38 percent in June, according to the statistics body, while prices for food also increased by 12.7 percent in the same timeframe.

The disruption caused to supply chains by the war and the pandemic also added to price pressures, it said.

The upwards momentum was only broken by government moves to ease the pressure on consumers, including a discounted fuel tax and a flat-rate €9 monthly ticket for public transport.

READ ALSO: How is Germany’s €9 ticket really affecting public transport

The full impact of these measures could “not be assessed” in the preliminary data, Destatis said.

“This is not yet the end of surging inflation rates,” said Carsten Brzeski, head of macro at the ING bank.

Rather, it was an example that it is “currently governments, not central banks, that can stop inflation”, he said.

Despite the relief for consumers from the government on the costs of transport and energy, “food price inflation continued to pick up” while prices were also marked up for services, Brzeski said.

Looking ahead, the government’s measures are set to expire at the end of August, while “the potential end to Russian gas for Germany is also likely to increase energy prices going into the winter season”, he said.

Spanish inflation reached double digits in June, coming in at 10.2 percent, according to figures published earlier Wednesday.

The data suggested “eurozone inflation is moving up and not down like German inflation”, adding to the pressure on the European Central Bank, Brzeski said.

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Germany reaches agreement on Bürgergeld – with a couple of catches

Members of Germany’s traffic light coalition government and the opposition Christian Democratic Union party have reached an agreement in the dispute over plans for a new citizens‘ income. There will be tougher sanctions against benefit recipients and fewer discretionary assets.

Germany reaches agreement on Bürgergeld - with a couple of catches

Last week, the German government’s plans to reform unemployment benefits with its new “Bürgergeld”, or citizens’ income, proposals were blocked in the Bundesrat.

The legislation was held up mostly by members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) which had been strongly opposed to the proposals for a six-month Vertrauenszeit (trust period) in which benefits claimants would not incur sanctions, as well as to the amount of assets recipients would be able to hold on to.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Will Germany’s controversial Bürgergeld still come into force?

On Tuesday, politicians from the traffic light coalition parties and the CDU/CSU reached a compromise on the proposed reforms which means that some of the key measures will be scrapped.

No trust period

The CDU/CSU was able to push through its demand for more sanctions for recipients and the six-month trust period will now be scrapped completely.

Instead, it will be possible to enforce benefit sanctions from the first day of an unemployment benefits claim if recipients don’t apply for a job, or fail to turn up for appointments at the job centre, for example.

The CDU and CSU also demanded that unemployment benefits recipients be allowed to keep less of their own assets when they receive state benefits. The original plan had been for assets worth up to €60,000 to be protected for the first two years, but the compromise reached has knocked this down to €40,000 for one year – during which time benefits recipients will not have to use up their savings.

Following the announcement of the agreement, Green Party later Britta Haßelmann said “I regret it very much”. According to Haßelmann, the trust period was the core of the reform designed to stop people from having to take up “just any job”.

READ ALSO: Bürgergeld: What to know about Germany’s unemployment benefits shake-up

Other traffic light colleagues were more optimistic, however. Katja Mast from the SDP spoke of a “workable compromise in the spirit of the matter,” while FDP Parliamentary Secretary Johannes Vogel said that it had succeeded in “making a good law even better”.

CDU/CSU leader Friedrich Merz, meanwhile, sees the compromise as a great success for his party, though he also praised the willingness of the parties in the government to reach an agreement.

“The coalition was very quick and – to my surprise – very largely willing to make compromises here,” Merz said. 

What happens next?

Tomorrow, the Mediation Committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat will meet to discuss the proposals. If the agreement is confirmed, the welfare reform could clear the final hurdle when it is voted on Bundesrat again at the end of the week. According to the federal government’s plans, if it’s approved, Bürgergeld will come into force in January and replace the current Hartz IV system.