Money and pensions of citizens: how the traffic light wants to avoid a social crash – economy

When Hubertus Heil takes the stage between the Reichstag building and the Spree on Friday morning, he looks rather cheerful. This may be due to the morning sun, which at half past eight is just high enough to brown the east facade of the parliament building. Or because coalition negotiations in his working group are going well. Presumably, however, he is just amused that the presenter has just introduced him as the “Acting Federal President for Labor and Social Affairs”. Something like this can happen when you join IG Metall as a Social Democrat.

It is noisy on this October morning in the government quarter. The union estimates that around 500 steelworkers have gathered. They drummer, bitch and deceive. Boats pass on the river, trade unionists waving flags on the bridge and banners on the railing. With a day of action in several cities, the metallurgists want to make the potential government of traffic lights understand how they imagine this socio-ecological market economy that everyone is talking about. The industrial union for mines, chemicals and energy also called for action.

As interim labor minister Heil listens to IG Metall trade union leader at the Daimler plant in Berlin-Marienfelde, who talks about the fact that “every workplace is put to the test” at the production site founded in 1902 due to the departure of the combustion engine, it becomes clear: There is unrest among the organized workforce in preparation for this traffic light, which is to be negotiated in Berlin.

It is not a miracle. The metalworkers’ banners reveal where they came from. Eisenhüttenstadt steelworks, Porsche Leipzig plant, Hennigsdorfer electric steelworks, Vulkan Energiewirtschaft Oderbrücke, Siemens gas turbines. Anyone who works in these industries has good reason to think of one or the other when red-green-yellow wants to bow to the debt brake and raise hundreds of billions of euros for the investment needed for the conversion. to a neutral climate. industry.

The key words can be found in the exploratory document of the traffic light negotiators

And then there are other issues that are at the heart of unions: social reforms. They should help – against scarce pensions, child poverty and a social crash. For example, when switching to a climate protection country costs your own job. According to their electoral programs, the SPD and the Greens had big plans in terms of social policy – and the FDP also wanted to make a difference. In the exploratory document of the traffic light negotiators, we find the key words of the major projects, namely benefits to citizens, basic family allowances and pension security.

Citizens’ money should replace the much-hated Hartz system, consolidate benefits, cut red tape, and operate with fewer penalties. This is the direction that can be read in the demands of the traffic light parties (even if the Greens do not use the term at all). In particular, Bürgergeld sounds better than Hartz IV, is it really different? “What’s in the scoping paper is largely similar to basic security, it’s not a revolution,” says Enzo Weber, professor of economics at the Nuremberg Employment Research Institute (IAB ).

After all, concrete changes have been registered, so that the traffic light partners want to improve the opportunities for additional income. This would mean that more people will receive government assistance than before, even if they have low incomes. “Generous additional income can be very costly,” Weber explains. “It quickly accumulates billions of dollars.”

The same goes for basic family allowances. Here too, the idea is to group together the scattered social benefits for children and to spare parents the form war. Green leader Annalena Baerbock vehemently announced the model during the election campaign as a tool in the fight against child poverty. On Friday, the economic research institute Ifo presented a study on behalf of the Greens which calculated their models. Result: basic family allowances would cost between 27 and 33 billion euros. The result sounded like an echo of another era. That is to say before the traffic light negotiators decide not to increase taxes and respect the debt brake.

The traffic light explorers had already made concessions. Originally, the Greens wanted to pay 290 euros per month for each child, rich and poor. The scoping document now says basic family allowances should come, but focus on children “who need support the most.” “In principle, this is already done today with benefits such as family allowances”, explains Weber. Focusing on the poorest children cuts costs – and yet it will be interesting to see what remains of the plans, given the size of the household.

The pension remains, where Olaf Scholz attributes success to the SPD: the minimum pension level must remain at 48%, pensions must not fall, the retirement age must not increase further, not beyond 67 years. Around 100 billion euros are already flowing from the federal budget to the pension fund each year, if pension insurance contributions do not continue to increase, then this amount will continue to increase. The president of the economic research institute DIW, Marcel Fratzscher, spoke on Friday on Deutschlandfunk of a “fatal development” according to which the federal government would have to spend tens of billions more. Another important element that needs to be funded.

And Fratzscher said something else, particularly important against poverty the elderly are well-paying jobs without “gaps”, ie without long periods of unemployment. Which brings us back to the Reichstag, where the metallurgist boss Jörg Hofmann demands a “security promise” from Hubertus Heil, that is to say no dismissal for transformation until 2030.

Theo Geßner and Michael König wear fluorescent yellow vests with the inscription “Steel has a future”. Above it is printed in lowercase: “Go Green”. The two men work in the Eisenhüttenstadt steelworks, which is owned by Arcelor-Mittal. Green steel, hydrogen-based, is your industry’s great hope. He’s probably the only one. “We want to fight for our work,” says Geßner, 23, who worked in the steel plant for five years and completed his training there. There is a lot of talk within the workforce about what the next government could do with its industry. König, 32 years old and in the business for 16 years, is worried. With their production in Eisenhüttenstadt they are far away, “and we are just a little light in our big company. If something doesn’t happen there, I tell you, it will be difficult.” What about politics, a promise of salvation that one could count on a possible Chancellor Scholz and the SPD? “Yes, there is still a lot that can be said. But just see if it is actually implemented.”

Heil is already gone. The task force is probably calling.

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