Hartz IV: Seven euros more a month are a joke

The jobseeker's allowance goes up by €7 in 2021. Yet to really fight poverty in Germany would require fundamental reform of the welfare system.

Almost three Pfand bottles.
Almost three Pfand bottles.Stefan Jaitner/dpa

Berlin-The tiny increase in the Hartz IV benefit recently approved by the German cabinet has rightly been criticised by charities, Die Linke and the Greens. Singles can look forward to seven euros more per month come 2021. That’s about 23 cents a day. A joke, and not only in light of rising food prices during the corona crisis.

This miniscule increase of the mimimum welfare payment offers recipients little chance of being able to participate more fully in society. With ticket prices of around €10, it doesn’t even cover a visit to the movies. 

The government’s method for calculating Hartz IV seems unworldly and arbitrary. This impression is only reinforced when you examine the details. Of the current monthly benefit of €432 per month, €1.12 are earmarked for education, €150.60 for food. Eating a balanced diet and acquiring a little knowledge becomes an almost impossible task – even if every penny is carefully budgeted.

The upcoming increase does not change this.

The decision to include mobile phone expenses in the calculation for the first time also seems arbitrary. In any case, you can't get a phone plan for €7 per month in this country. And forget about other expenses like a Christmas tree or an umbrella.

The bottom line is that the new Hartz IV rate, which will apply from 2021, will do an equally poor job combating poverty as the old one.  Any verifiable effect will be microscopic.

Anyone who doesn't want people who receive basic income support – and these days this includes many freelance artists – to be relegated to the sidelines of society must demand a fundamental reform of the system. The minimum wage must also be raised and sanctions for welfare recipients should be abolished. It is simply immoral to cut people's benefits that are already barely enough to live on.