Hubertus Heil on the home office debate: “A very clear message”

Hubertus Heil

The Federal Minister of Labor says: “I am serious about proposals.”

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has urgently appealed to employers to allow home offices wherever possible. “This is not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD politician in an interview with the Handelsblatt.

Many companies acted responsibly. But there are also those who arbitrarily refused to work on the move. “That is irresponsible,” said Heil.

The request to work from home if possible is also directed at the employees – even if he understands that many would like to see their colleagues again. But it is a question of responsibility, and the employees are also deceived.

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The Greens: precise and vague (neue-deutschland.de)

Photo: pa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“That was a fairly intensive, but also long work process,” said Anja Hajduk, deputy group leader of the Greens, on Friday at a press conference to present a concept for overcoming Hartz IV. The Greens want to comprehensively reform the basic security, see in their group decision they propose several building blocks that could be implemented and financed step by step. The party is “very serious,” as was emphasized several times at the press conference.

According to Hajduk, the challenges on today’s job market would be different than when the Hartz IV laws were introduced. “You also have to reflect critically that the effects of Hartz IV and the reforms at the time meant that the low-wage sector in particular grew.” Around 15 years ago, the Greens had Agenda 2010, and thus Hartz IV, together with the SPD made possible in the first place. The resulting low-wage sector was not a negative consequence of the reform, but a goal. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in early 2005, shortly after the Hartz laws were introduced, Gerhard Schröder (SPD) made it clear what was important in Agenda 2010: “(…) We have liberalized our labor market. We have built one of the best low-wage sectors there is in Europe. ”

On Friday, Hajduk emphasized that the green reform proposal must be embedded in an overall labor market policy strategy to curb the low-wage sector. This includes “a better and higher minimum wage”. In their concept of guarantee protection, the Greens want a gradual increase in the standard rate for single adults to 603 euros per month. At the current level of 446 euros, according to the labor market spokesman for the Greens, Sven Lehmann, no participation is possible. In addition, they want a reduction in bureaucracy, the asset check should be replaced by a simple declaration by the applicant, the declaration should only be checked if there is a suspicion of false information. In addition, the Hartz IV sanctions are to be abolished. The aim is also to de-stigmatize those entitled to Hartz IV: “If a subsistence level is cut, fear arises,” says Lehmann. Where there is fear, there is no trust in the job centers, which makes placement more difficult.

According to Hajduk, the additional costs of the green guarantee protection amount to a low double-digit billion amount annually if the overall concept is implemented. The specific financing was left open. However, it was emphasized again and again that the individual requirements could be implemented gradually. When asked which demand was most important for the Greens, Hajduk replied that there was “no real prioritization”. The Green parliamentary group wants to introduce its concept to the Bundestag next week. How serious they really are about the abolition of Hartz IV will only become apparent after the general election.

The German trade union federation and social associations welcomed the concept of guarantee protection. “In contrast to many a stand-up and small-scale political action, the Greens’ proposal opens up real reform prospects,” said Ulrich Schneider, Managing Director of the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband.

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Labor Minister Heil Hartz IV wants to reform

BUnemployment Minister Hubertus Heil wants to reform the Hartz IV basic security by the middle of the year. According to a draft law, the SPD politician proposes that recipients of unemployment benefit II waive an examination of whether the housing costs are reasonable in the first two years. Likewise, assets up to 60,000 euros should not be taken into account.

And that’s not all: According to the draft, benefit cuts should be limited to a maximum of 30 percent from July if a job offer is rejected. There is also a monthly training bonus of 75 euros.

For the reform, additional expenditure by the federal government, local authorities and the Federal Employment Agency is estimated at around 550 million euros. According to information from the ministry, the project is still in its infancy and has not yet received the green light from the Chancellery for the departmental coordination in the government.

With the draft law, Heil wants to implement, among other things, a decision by the Federal Constitutional Court, which in November 2019 had declared the Hartz IV benefit cuts to be partially unconstitutional. The SPD politician goes well beyond that with the proposal to spare assets and rental costs in the first two years. This would mean that Heil would continue the simplifications that apply in the corona pandemic and that expire at the end of March 2021.

Heil also wants to put the agreements between job centers and the unemployed on placement in the labor market on a new basis. The previous integration agreement with obligations for jobseekers is to be replaced by a “non-legally binding cooperation plan”. This would strengthen “personal responsibility and the relationship of trust with the integration and placement specialist”.

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Hartz IV recipients report: “14 euros more is a joke”

The federal government wants to increase the Hartz IV rates by a few euros. Those affected report to the taz why the money is still not enough.

14 euros more Hartz IV is not enough for many people affected Photo: Sebastian Wells / Ostkreuz

BERLIN taz | On Thursday, the Bundestag will discuss a draft law on the amount of Hartz IV rates in the second reading. It will mainly be about numbers. Because on January 1, 2021, the rates are to rise: These are numbers that are supposed to set a decent subsistence level in Germany. Numbers that determine poverty and participation in this society. About how well or how badly a person who gets into a social emergency can live. What do those affected think?

“Totally excluded from society”

“I communicate openly that I am receiving Hartz IV. But I feel really bad about it. When I noticed that I was now entitled to go to the blackboard with the Hartz IV rate, I hit a low point. I feel helpless. If it were just a transitional period, it wouldn’t be so bad. But in perspective I don’t know anything. I’m always under extreme pressure to have to do something.

I finished my training in summer 2020. Even then I had to go on short-time work – because of Corona. During my apprenticeship, I topped up because my apprenticeship pay wasn’t high enough to make a living from. After completing my training, I received unemployment benefit I, but had to apply for Hartz IV because of the low salary. Also, I had no idea what bureaucratic hurdles I would face. I didn’t know, for example, that the job center and employment agency are completely different authorities. That was often relatively difficult for me, I didn’t know: who am I sending which information?

Due to Corona, my professional uncertainty is very great. It is unclear when events will take place again. Everything is in the balance. I just want to go back to work, but if that doesn’t improve in the next few years, I’ll have to switch. Otherwise I can’t do it psychologically. I haven’t had anything to do since March, and I can’t stand it for another year. If you are not working you are totally excluded from society. In many industries, people can just work and don’t even notice that there are people who just can’t do that. The stress around because they can no longer go on vacation. If that is the biggest problem, then we really have no more talking point.

14 euros more Hartz IV do not bring much. I would prefer it if there were better communication with the authorities and more information on how what works. “

Lara Tieme (name changed), 30, from Leipzig completed her training as an event technician in 2020

“As if I were undressing in front of the office”

“We were fully booked for almost the whole year until March, but the slump came with Corona: My wife and I can no longer practice our profession as a freelance photographer. All trade fairs and events were canceled, we no longer had any sources of income. We immediately applied for Hartz IV because we had no reserves. This enables us to ensure payments such as health insurance.

It’s weird to reveal so much information about yourself in front of the authorities – it feels like I’m undressing. We get child benefit and the lowest Hartz IV rate. We have to deal with that. But I’m still happy to have insurance.

We had to restrict our buying behavior considerably. It was a relearning to no longer buy the expensive milk from the health food store or the expensive bread from the organic bakery – in short: adjust to Hartz IV. It is only in the past three months that we have started talking to our friends about our situation. That makes you vulnerable, first of all it is a social decline. We treat the children as openly as possible. I don’t want to hide anything from them. You can’t tell your kids, ‘We’re going to eat now, we’re going to swim, we’re going on a trip or a trip.’ That falls flat.

The customers just don’t get in touch any more. And then you think: ‘Have they forgotten me?’ That scratches the soul.

The uncertainty grows every day, I don’t plan anything anymore. That it will stay that way and that at some point we may no longer be able to live in this house or our social environment will collapse. A stable family background helps to endure this. If the Hartz IV rate is increased by 14 euros, that is not essential. If we’re talking about 50 euros, that’s one more shopping basket a week. But under there, that’s not enough. That is more of the wrong signal. “

Max Senneburg (name changed), 47, is a photographer and lives in Berlin with his wife and two children

“The poor have to beg for every penny”

“Two of my children live with me, one with their mother. The children know me as two different dads. When I’m at home unemployed and when I work. That’s why they know it’s easier to get by on money when you have a job. I believe that education is important in order to have a good job and a decent income. That’s why I always encourage the three of them to be hardworking at school.

I worked for a citizens’ association in Leipzig until December 2019. There I advised people about which services they can use at the job center. I have also been active in the Leipzig unemployment initiative for a long time. We look after and advise people, for example when submitting applications to the office. That’s why it was easier for me to understand the processes when I became unemployed myself. You know how to deal with the authorities. It is much more difficult for people who are in such a situation for the first time and have never had to deal with it before.

If you refer to Hartz IV, you shouldn’t be ashamed. I encourage all people to seek government assistance. For example, there are many single parents who do not have the courage to apply for housing benefit. I think the support that is available should be used for yourself and the children.

During the corona pandemic, it is once again noticeable how the funds are distributed: The large companies and workers receive state subsidies. The poor – those who already have little anyway – have to beg for every penny in principle. Therefore, the increase in the Hartz IV rule rate can be summarized very briefly: It’s a joke. It is ridiculous.

Everything is getting more expensive: tickets, clothes, telephone bills. What are 14 euros for? Politicians have to send a clearer signal that they want to support poor people. “

Perry Feth, 55, has three children and worked in a Leipzig citizens’ association

The details of the bill:

The draft law by Federal Social Minister Hubertus Heil provides: Individuals living alone should receive 446 euros per month from next year – that is 14 euros more than before. That must be enough for food, electricity, new winter shoes or even a visit to the cinema – even if cultural participation seems far away in the Corona period.

The rate is rising the most for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17: in future they will receive 373 euros per month, 45 euros more. The rate for children up to 5 years of age increases by 33 euros to 283 euros, 6 to 13-year-olds, however, hardly benefit: They should get 309 euros – exactly 1 euros more than now. The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs stated that this age group had “benefited disproportionately” from the last recalculation for 2017. Nevertheless: The logic of the numbers is not necessarily comprehensible despite the clear calculation methods.

On the one hand, the standard rates are adjusted annually to the development of net wages and to the price development of “regular requirement-relevant” goods. In addition, the legislature is obliged to recalculate the standard rates every five years if the Federal Statistical Office has carried out the sample of income and expenditure. It is a survey of income and expenditure for all income groups.

To determine the Hartz IV rates, the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs only uses the average expenditure of the lowest income, the poorest 15 to 20 percent of society. Items that are not considered to be “relevant to requirements” are also deducted from their expenditure. These include, for example: expenses for alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, food for pets, flights, maintenance costs for a car or the costs for house plants. The sum is therefore consistently reduced.

This is what social associations and the opposition say:

Associations, trade unions and scientists have been criticizing this calculation method of the federal government for years. Because statistical calculations do not have to match people’s reality. It often looks like this: Hartz IV recipients: inside use what the food banks offer to make ends meet.

Anja Piel from the German Trade Union Confederation considers it “dishonest and cynical” to sell the recalculations to the poorest as “an increase”. Even with the new standard rate, the Hartz IV performance level is “below the official poverty line”.

The Paritätische Gesamtverband describes the planned rates as “unrealistic, not needs-based and far too low” and accuses the federal government of “statistical trickery and outrageous small calculations”. According to calculations by the Paritätische Forschungsstelle, a poverty-proof standard rate for an adult living alone would have to be 644 euros. Almost 200 euros more per month than planned.

The opposition is largely in agreement that the rates calculated by the federal government are not enough to live with. By artificially calculating the need, those affected would be condemned to a life of poverty, criticized Left-wing chairwoman Katja Kipping at the first reading in the Bundestag.

The Greens’ social politician Sven Lehmann explained: “An increase in the standard rate by 14 euros for adults essentially compensates for the increased prices and thus fizzles out.” Both parties have therefore recalculated: The Left wants the standard rate for a single adult is increased to 657.55 euros. The Greens are demanding 603 euros per month.

The social policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Pascal Kober, on the other hand, wants a fundamental Hartz IV reform. “In the end, increases in euros do not lead to any further progress,” he says. The FDP calls for higher additional earnings limits so that those affected can keep more of the money they have earned themselves.

According to the Federal Employment Agency, 5.6 million people lived in benefit communities this October. The corona pandemic is likely to result in a significant increase in poverty and unemployment. This will soon also be reflected in numbers – and behind these are people who have to calculate whether they can pay their electricity bills or new breathing masks.

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Friedrich Merz calls basic pension “serious mistake”

Friedrich Merz stays with it: The basic pension is not a good idea. He worries about the consequences for the entire pension system. In addition, he is not convinced of a possible quota for women in his party.

CDU candidate Friedrich Merz has renewed his criticism of the basic pension enforced by the black-red coalition. “It is at least a serious flaw in our contributory pension scheme,” he said. “We can only hope that this will not put the entire system in question.”

There had already been a “necessary and correct security” for those who did not have enough pension through basic security. After the Bundestag, the Federal Council also decided on the basic pension at the beginning of the month. The premium for 1.3 million people who receive little pension despite long contribution periods will start next year.

Merz: Rather strengthen women from the bottom up

Merz also continues to campaign for an alternative to a women’s quota in his party. “It would probably be better if we found a solution that strengthens the participation of women from the bottom up and not from the top down,” said Merz of the “Welt am Sonntag”. “That would mean that we would have to offer the party base, ie the local and regional associations, higher incentives in order to attract more women as party members.” Merz underlined his position that quotas were “at best the second best solution”. But he also said that he did not yet know what the better solution was.

Should the new chairman be elected on the first day of the party congress in December, “then on the second day (…) there must be a broad consensus majority on this central issue of our strategic direction,” said Merz. “There will be no losers and winners,” he said. “The party congress must not end without a decision that leads to more female participation, so we have to agree on a good proposal.”

After long negotiations, the CDU’s structural and constitutional commission had agreed on a compromise for a gradual quota of women by 50 percent by 2025. The party conference must make the final decision. In addition to Merz, North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet and foreign politician Norbert Röttgen are also applying for the CDU chairmanship.

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