Ms. Czernohorsky-Grüneberg, the traffic light coalition and the Union have reached an agreement: At the turn of the year, the “Hartz IV” basic security system is to become citizen income. That’s right?
Clearly yes. I think it’s good that the relationship between the job center and the citizens is being put on a new footing 17 years after the Hartz reforms and that the focus is more on people. This also means that there should be more opportunities for the unemployed to catch up on training and qualifications, and that additional financial incentives should be created for this. Getting people permanently out of unemployment is the right goal.
Who comes to your job center anyway?
That’s a broad spectrum. Basically everyone who has been unemployed for more than twelve months and is no longer entitled to unemployment benefit I. Among them are many people who have been unemployed for a long time, many single parents, many foreigners, many low-skilled people who have not completed vocational training. The newcomers are the self-employed, whose income suddenly collapsed during the pandemic. In addition, there are quite a few who work full-time but also receive basic social security because otherwise the money would not be enough for them and their families.
The situation on the labor market is very favorable right now. Workers are wanted everywhere, even for simple jobs in gastronomy or in retail. Why do many long-term unemployed still not find a job?
Several problems often come together: a large proportion of the long-term unemployed have debts or a serious illness, for example an addiction problem or psychosocial needs. A lack of qualifications and a lack of motivation can also play a role. And sometimes it’s all at once. Then people don’t have a clear head to look for a job.
How can the job centers help in such cases?
Of course, we don’t do addiction or debt counseling ourselves, but we bring people together with the counseling centers in Frankfurt. However, we also try new things ourselves. Since last year we have been offering advice in one of our job centers, which is exclusively about giving unemployed people help in their current life situation: we take the time to discuss their situation with them and support them with the first steps. The placement in work does not play a role at all. So you can see: Even without the citizen’s income, we have already put the focus on people. That’s why it annoys me when it is sometimes said that we only shove people into the first job that comes along as quickly as possible.
According to the compromise that has now been agreed, the six-month “period of trust”, during which the federal government wants almost no sanctions to be imposed on people receiving citizenship benefits, is to be omitted. Do you think that’s correct?
I understand the agreement in such a way that with the end of the period of trust, the protection against sanctions is also lifted in this time window. This means that benefit cuts are – as before – possible from day one. I would have dared the trust time experiment in connection with the cooperation plan, in which employment agencies and beneficiaries work together and record how the way back into the labor market should be successful. That would have given the citizens and our employees the opportunity to develop a strong working relationship.
What role do sanctions play in the day-to-day work of the job center? Don’t you need it?
A very small one. Sanctions are only imposed on very few Hartz IV recipients, which affects between 1 and 3 percent. As a rule, these are cases in which someone did not show up at the agreed time. That’s why I personally found the debate about the sanctions excessive. Of course there are people who don’t want to work. This is very demanding in counseling, and they actually need a nudge. But it’s not the crowd. And it was clear from the outset that cuts in benefits should also be possible in principle with the new citizens’ income.