Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My Old Hartz IV (Welfare) German Neighbor

Around twenty years ago, while living in the Kaiserslautern community, I had this next-door German neighbor who'd eventually gotten himself (the wife and three kids) on German welfare.

It was a step-by-step process.  In his early 30s and working as a garbage truck driver.....he developed an attitude problem (smoking marijuana daily probably helped) and eventually got laid off.  For him, the eighteen-odd months of unemployment compensation went well enough and he simply didn't make any effort to find another job.

So at the end of eighteen months....right as Hartz IV as a program took off....he was on the program.  It meant that he had to show up weekly at the unemployment office and make some attempt at getting a job.  About every two or three months....he'd be accepted as a try-out situation for some company, and within two or three days...call in sick and they'd cancel out his try-out.

Hartz IV paid enough for marginal survival, and his wife's parents paid out some extra funds to cover the kid's needs.

The marijuana?  Well, he eventually started to grow his own, to ensure his 'stock'.  He was the type of guy who smoked a minimum of four joints a day.

Looking like he was on welfare?  He was the guy who always carried around a minimum of two cellphones.  I could never understand this necessity except for the idea that he was selling part of his marijuana to some local distributor.  Otherwise, it made no sense.  On one occasion, my wife even pointed out a third cellphone in his possession.  Everytime some new technology came out.....he had a new cellphone.  In plain words, he just didn't look like he was on welfare.

When one of his kids turned 18 and was going onto university.....the kid moved out and the welfare folks said that the family would have to move to a new apartment and downsize (they can mandate this).  Three years later....the second kid left, and they were mandated to move to another smaller apartment.  Two years later, the third kid left, and they moved again.

My wife keeps marginal contact and in the last three or four years....the guy has found a couple of jobs and stayed employed for three or months at a time. Presently, he works for some package delivery service and I think he's up to six months of employment.  Is he still smoking a fair amount of marijuana?  My guess is yes.

I've come to this view that some percentage of the welfare folks are simply people with some attitude and unable to handle real-life stress or demands of work.  A fair number of Germans think along these lines, and they aren't exactly pro-welfare types.  But forcing people into some massive life change or getting them to accept the fact of forty hours of unpleasing work per week?  Well....that's a problem.  I would take a guess that a third of the people are in professional areas or certified areas where their background is worthless, and the German government would be better off to identify them for retraining entirely.  Yeah, there is a cost factor, but avoiding this topic isn't helping much  of anyone.

The bad luck factor?  It would be interesting if some PhD folks would sit down and examine a hundred Germans on Hartz IV for more than three years.  My guess is that maybe one-third of those individuals fit into the simple category of 'bad luck'.  They stumbled and 'fell'....with no one standing there to pick them up and reshuffle the 'cards'.  But then resolving this?  The German PhD folks would turn this into some kind of Einstein-like equation.

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