Social affairs: CDU and traffic lights looking for a compromise in the dispute over citizen money

CDU and traffic lights looking for a compromise in the dispute over citizen money

CDU leader Friedrich Merz criticizes the planned citizen money of the traffic light. photo

© Kay Nietfeld/dpa

Harsh allegations fly back and forth in the dispute over the planned Hartz IV reform. At the same time, however, possible compromise lines become clear. A judgment from Karlsruhe comes into focus.

In the dispute over citizen money, leaders of the CDU and the traffic light coalition have sent compromise signals. At the same time, both sides attacked each other with allegations. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) accused the Union of aloofness at a party conference of the Baden-Württemberg SPD. The FDP emphasized the planned performance incentives in the social reform, with which the SPD, Greens and Liberals want to overcome Hartz IV in its current form.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz said at the Germany Day of the Junge Union in Fulda: “If we are currently discussing with the Social Democrats in particular whether something can still be done about this messed-up reform, then one message is clear to us: we have to use the incentives to quickly return to the job market.”

SPD leader Saskia Esken told the “Tagesspiegel”: “There will be a good compromise in the mediation committee.” FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai told the German Press Agency in Berlin: “I am confident that a quick agreement on citizen income can be achieved if the Union participates objectively and results-oriented in finding a common solution.”

CDU boss demands concessions

Merz called on the government to take “a big step” towards the Union if a solution was to be found “in the next few days and weeks”. A week ago, Merz classified compromises as “difficult” in an interview.

Scholz attacked the Union at the Southwest SPD convention in Friedrichshafen. It was aloof and snooty that the CDU and CSU did not raise their hands “a little bit” when voting for a higher minimum wage. “That has absolutely nothing to do with ‘performance must be worthwhile’.” The minimum wage increase and citizen income were among the central SPD promises before the recent federal elections.

From the point of view of the Union, those affected should be allowed to keep too many assets through the reform and have to fear too few sanctions if they do not follow the requirements of the job center. Even before the CDU/CSU offspring, Merz reiterated that there should be no grace periods and – “if necessary” – sanctions must be imposed. But he conceded: “The Federal Constitutional Court has given us, as legislators, very narrow leeway.”

The Constitutional Court had restricted cuts

In 2019, the court severely restricted the sanctioning practice of the job center after years of criticism, for example from the SPD and the left. It decided that month-long reductions of 60 percent or more are incompatible with the Basic Law and that monthly benefits can only be reduced by up to 30 percent if Hartz IV recipients do not meet their obligations.

Merz said: “Using this narrow leeway (…) is a requirement of the welfare state, also towards everyone who pays taxes and social security contributions.”

Vogel: Those affected should be able to earn more than they do today

The FDP Vice President Johannes Vogel emphasized planned performance incentives. “The citizen money has a strong liberal core – and that is the stronger work and performance incentive for those affected,” said Vogel of the German Press Agency. Vogel explained: “With the citizen’s allowance we want to enable those affected to earn more than they do today.” That increases their chances of advancement. It makes your effort more worthwhile. It is wrong to “only raise the standard rates and leave everything else as it is today with Hartz IV”. The Union had previously brought this back into play.

This Wednesday, the mediation committee of the Bundesrat and Bundestag is to tie down a compromise on citizen income. The draft by Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) did not get a majority in the state chamber. As was heard from the coalition, informal talks are in full swing. Djir-Sarai said that the FDP was open to Union proposals such as sanctions, protective assets or even more performance-friendly additional income rules. Esken said: “The SPD is ready to talk, and that’s why I’m optimistic.”

In Friedrichshafen, however, Esken also accused the Union of disinformation and “an abysmal image of man”. It is “fake news” when the Union claims that work is no longer worthwhile with higher standard rates. The deputy head of the CDU employee wing, Christian Bäumler, then told the dpa that Esken was torpedoing a compromise with their statements.

The labor market expert from the employer-related Institute of German Economics (IW), Holger Schäfer, criticized the planned “trust period” in the “Rheinische Post”. This sends out a signal that the unemployed can take their time looking for a job. In the “trust period”, the first six months of receiving the benefits, it should no longer be possible to reduce benefits if someone, for example, has not written any applications or attended training courses contrary to the agreement. On the other hand, sanctions for multiple non-appearance at job center appointments should also be possible at the beginning.


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