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Germany court rules welfare law unconstitutional

[JURIST] Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] ruled [judgment, in German] Tuesday that the country's five-year-old social welfare benefit law is unconstitutional. The benefit, known as Hartz IV, merges unemployment and social assistance programs and is only granted where individuals do not have sufficient means, income, or property of their own. Under the current structure, the standard benefit for single adults is €345; €311 for spouses, civil partners, and live-in partners; €207 for children under 14 years; and €276 for children 15 years old or older. The court determined [press release, in German] that the provisions of the standard benefit calculations for adults and children do not abide by the constitutional requirements of Articles 1.1 and 20.1 of Germany's Basic Law [text, PDF; in German], which guarantee a minimum benefit that provides the means to live with basic human dignity. The court gave the legislature until the end of 2010 to create new guidelines, including a provision to guarantee a dignified minimum income.

The Hartz IV is the fourth act in a series of reforms developed by the Commission on the Modern Services in the Labor Market (Hartz Commission) [materials, in German], established in 2002 to reform the labor market and develop a more efficient public service employment system. In October, the Constitutional Court conducted oral hearings for three cases [press releases, in German] questioning whether the standard benefits were compatible with the Basic Law. Previously, Germany's Federal Social Court [official website, in German] held in 2009 the Hartz IV provision for children under 14 years is unconstitutional [press release, in German]. Additionally, the Federal Constitutional Court held in 2007 that the formation of job centers established by Hertz IV, in part violated [press release, in German] the constitution.

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