“Main loser of the crisis” – now Hartz IV is the last resort

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© WORLD
Source: WORLD


Many groups have been considered in the context of the € 130 billion economic stimulus package that the grand coalition has agreed on. But there are still some who feel disadvantaged. For the poor people without children, no cent is earmarked, criticized the general association. And the Federal Government for the Environment and Nature Conservation sees “sustainable agriculture” with little money.

Anger and disappointment were particularly great among a large number of the roughly four million self-employed, including 2.2 million solo self-employed. Because they had complained about a lack of support for a long time – and are hardly taken into account in the new decision.

“The solo self-employed go empty-handed and are thus made the main losers of this crisis,” is the conclusion of the Association of Founders and Self-Employed (VGSD). The government abandoned them and treated them as “third-class workers”.

This criticism does not only come from those affected themselves. “One point is (unfortunately) blatant: 57 points in total, the support program for small businesses is being extended – but the known problem for freelancers is NOT being solved explicitly,” writes Johannes Vogel, spokesman for the labor market policy FDP parliamentary group, on Twitter. “What is ignorance or the inability to understand modern independence ?!”


Young businesswoman discussing in meeting room. Female professional sharing ideas with colleagues. Getty ImagesGetty Images


© Getty Images
Young businesswoman discussing in meeting room. Female professional sharing ideas with colleagues. Getty ImagesGetty Images


The economics professor Jan Schnellenbach also criticized the platform: “If you didn’t have a strong advocacy group at the table, you will be left empty-handed. Too bad e.g. for the self-employed who suffered particularly severe income losses in the crisis. “

Fixed costs as a basis for assessment

In fact, a survey by the ZEW – Leibniz Center for European Economic Research had around 16,000 Solo self-employed recently shown that they are struggling with enormous burdens. According to the representative survey, which took place from the beginning of April to the beginning of May, every fourth person is at risk of losing their jobs in the next twelve months.

Almost 60 percent of those surveyed saw monthly sales fall by more than 75 percent. At the time of the survey, one in two could no longer carry out their duties. These include photographers, coaches, graphic designers and music teachers.

In principle, the CDU / CSU and SPD program definitely provides help for the self-employed. Point 13 contains, for example, bridging aids amounting to a maximum of 25 billion euros to ensure the existence of small and medium-sized companies. Like the previous emergency aid from the federal and state governments, it should serve to bridge liquidity bottlenecks.

But there is a catch. The fixed costs serve as the assessment basis. “Especially for solo self-employed or micro-entrepreneurs, especially if they are service-oriented, there are often only very low fixed costs,” criticizes Schnellenbach, who is a professor of economics at the Brandenburg University of Technology.

Access to Hartz IV significantly simplified

“The so-called entrepreneurial wages must not be replaced by bridging assistance. This means that solo self-employed people have formal access to the program, but materially no chance of getting a substantial portion of their previous income replaced. ”

The background is the strategy of politics, which had previously caused misunderstandings: If you can no longer finance your livelihood, you should apply for Hartz IV. The federal aid – that is up to 9,000 euros for companies with five employees and up to 15,000 euros for companies with up to ten employees – are not intended for private use.

The federal states had urged early on that solo self-employed people could also use part of the emergency aid to secure their livelihood. When the federal government did not follow suit, individual states decided on their own solutions. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, 2000 euros can be used to finance living expenses. The federal government, however, continues to refer to basic security. And that will probably remain so after the agreement on the stimulus package.

In fact, access to Hartz IV was also significantly simplified in the wake of the crisis: Housing costs are not checked, which means that the rent can be paid in full. And wealth only matters if it is “significant”. According to a decision by the CDU / CSU and SPD, easier access is now to be extended until September 30th.

For Schnellenbach, however, that is far too little. Although it helps out of the greatest need, it is “of course an extreme material loss for many self-employed,” said the economist. While for employees, a relatively high proportion of the previous income from the Short-time work allowance is secured – namely at least 60 percent of the net wage – the self-employed immediately fell to the basic security level. As a result, they are often severely disadvantaged.

Retirement provision partially excludes help

“It seems that the negotiators had two ideal types in mind when it came to the package: the one Workers and the (small) entrepreneur, who works with a few employees and a small capital stock and therefore has fixed costs, ”says Schnellenbach. “It doesn’t seem to be seen that there are still solo self-employed people who have hardly any fixed costs but need an income replacement above the basic security.”

VGSD chairman Andreas Lutz also criticized that the application is still complex. And not everyone could make use of the basic security. Many are, for example, at an advanced age and “have taken care of their own age in accordance with the legal situation to date,” says Lutz. “These retirement provision In view of the low property exemption limits, it now largely excludes this type of help. ”

The allegation relates to the definition of “substantial assets” that lead to the exclusion of basic security benefits. According to the application form, this includes “assets of the applicant that can be used immediately for livelihood over 60,000 euros and over 30,000 euros for each additional person in the community of needs”, ie in the household. Current accounts, savings accounts, jewelry, stocks and shares are examples of usable assets Life insurance called.

Just expose the border? Here, apparently, fear new questions of justice. The problem would arise that other rules apply to people who were already receiving Hartz IV before the crisis. And there is also a simple argument for basically adhering to Hartz IV: It is intended as a safety net for precisely such crisis situations as the current one.

A fundamental rethink is unlikely

However, resentment is not just about the material losses. But also about the feeling of not being heard and valued. Solo self-employed see themselves reset: They should go to the office and apply for Hartz IV, while entrepreneurs are happy about government grants. And employees even receive an increase in short-time work benefits – just to protect them from Hartz IV. Many consider the argument that they are self-employed to bear their own entrepreneurial risk and that they enjoy freedom in good times is unfair. After all, their business slump was not caused by their own mistakes, but by the state lockdown.

The psychological component is also emphasized by economics professor Irene Bertschek, who was jointly responsible for the ZEW survey of the self-employed: “It should make a difference whether you get bridging help or slip into Hartz IV,” she says. In their survey, around 18 percent of the solo self-employed indicated that they had already applied for Hartz IV or are planning to do so. The rest of the population either have no major losses and therefore have no claim, do not expect to be entitled, do not want to, in principle, or consider the effort too great.

“It would have been better to have quick and above all unbureaucratic support via emergency aid for everyone who needs it,” says Bertschek. The first step is to bridge the gap of just three more months, which should make it possible to maintain independence or resume as soon as possible.

According to the economist Schnellenbach, a different solution than the current one would have been possible. “For example, you could have set up a kind of short-time work allowance for the self-employed based on the taxable profits of the past few years, with which a percentage share e.g. of average earnings over the past three years would be replaced, ”he says.

He attributes the situation, which many perceive as unsatisfactory, to the fact that the self-employed lack an established lobby and the level of organization is low. “I would generally have fewer small points on the list wanted. In the end it was 57 points with many sub-points, which suggests that a lot of concrete individual interests have been incorporated into the negotiation process here, ”he says.

According to Schnellenbach, one could instead have concentrated on securing income replacement and liquidity support on the one hand and tax relief on the other hand – and not only in terms of VAT. Then you might have managed with less than ten points, he says, but wouldn’t have worked through long wish lists.

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