“Real opportunity”: How the end of Hartz IV should help those in need

“Real Opportunity”
How the end of Hartz IV should help those in need

Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to get those affected out of long-term unemployment on a large scale. Photo: Carsten Koall/dpa

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Hartz IV before the end: The FDP promises a “sensitive” approach to the long-term unemployed – the Minister of Labor wants permanent jobs for the needy. But thorny questions remain unanswered.

With the planned abolition of Hartz IV, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to get those affected out of long-term unemployment on a large scale.

“Wherever possible, we will use the new citizens’ allowance to get people out of need and put them to work,” Heil told the German Press Agency in Berlin. At the same time, Heil agreed to extensive preparations for the planned major social reform.

According to the Federal Employment Agency (BA), there were 977,000 long-term unemployed in December, up from 929,000 a year earlier. By 2015, there had been more than a million sufferers for years. Then the number dropped to 697,000 by 2019. With the Corona crisis, it rose again. Currently, 42 percent of the unemployed in Germany have been without a job for more than a year.

«Training before temporary jobs»

According to Heil, two thirds of the long-term unemployed have not completed vocational training. “In the future, training will come before temporary jobs,” he said. So “no longer a priority” should be placed in short-term work. “We want to give people the opportunity to catch up on a vocational qualification and thus give them a real chance of long-term employment,” said Heil. The BA should support this financially.

The traffic light wants to change the behavior in the job centers noticeably with the citizen money, which, according to the coalition agreement, is to be introduced “instead of the previous basic security (Hartz IV)”. The FDP social expert Pascal Kober said on Thursday in the Bundestag: “In the last 16 years it has not been possible to permanently reduce the number of long-term unemployed to below 700,000.” That has to do with dealing with the people in the job centers. In the future, the skills of the unemployed should be determined “carefully and sensitively”, according to the FDP expert. Trust in their skills is new.

Heil referred to the planned monthly bonus of 150 euros for all those affected who wanted to continue their education. “Today, the job centers often only place people with basic security in short-term work and see them again after a few months because they cannot be put into permanent work.”

The coalition has great hopes for the planned new participation agreements between job centers and the unemployed. “The previous integration agreements are very formalized and not always tailored to needs,” said Heil. In the future, it should be specifically stated which qualifications are necessary, for example, and what kind of support is needed.

Coalition agreement leaves questions unanswered

It may be a while before the law is passed. “This is a major reform,” said Heil. “Therefore, we will prepare this law very carefully.” In December, Heil told the Funke media group that legislation “will begin next year”.

In fact, according to the coalition agreement, not everything is clear – for example with regard to future sanctions for violations of job center requirements. The SPD, Greens and FDP want the participation agreement to include obligations to cooperate. “They will be reorganized by law by the end of 2022 at the latest,” the coalition agreement only says. Before that, there should be an evaluation, i.e. a situation assessment. Heil assured that in future no one who actually needs help should feel pushed around.

The minister, who is also deputy SPD chairman, also recalled the lead time in his party. “What the SPD decided with the new welfare state concept in 2019 will become reality in this major reform of citizen income,” he said. At that time, the SPD had heralded its farewell to the previous Hartz IV system under the later resigned boss Andrea Nahles. Heil also pointed out the basic child security that is now also planned.


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