Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.
Factsheet for measure DE-2020-31/1692 – Updated – measures in Germany
|Germany , applies nationwide
|Temporary, 29 July 2020 – 31 December 2023
|Legislations or other statutory regulations
Income protection beyond short-time work
– Support for parents and carers (financial or in kind)
|Sandra Vogel (IW) and Eurofound
|10 January 2021 (updated 27 February 2023)
Germany's pandemic response, including lock-downs, social distancing measures, occupational bans and business confinements, has disproportionally affected low-income households (Hövermann 2020). With over 10 million employees working under Germany's short-time work scheme ( Kurzarbeit ) already back in May 2020, income top-ups such as child benefits, housing benefits or unemployment benefits have increased in importance (Focus online 2020). To improve the situation of low-income households, the government has eased access to the child benefit top up ( Kinderzuschlag ) in Summer 2020 and increased the top-up from January 2021. This is an additional social benefit on top of the regular child benefit ( Kindergeld ).
Families eligible for child benefits can apply for a top-up. The measure includes easier access to the top-up and an increase of the top-up from January 2021. Eligibility depends on various factors such as household income, housing cost, family size and the age of the children living in the household.
The Government eased access to the top-up in Summer 2020 by increasing the savings threshold ( Zweites Familienentlastungsgetz , July 2020). Low-income families can apply for a monthly top-up to their child benefits of up to €185 per child. In October 2020, the government decided to increase the amount to a maximum of €205 per child from 1 January 2021.
A growing number of households make use of the measure. As of January 2020 the number of children covered by the measure was 299,168 children. By the end of October of the same year, the number had increased to 888,398 children (Jugendhilfeportal, 2020).
The policy impact has to be evaluated in interdependence with other social benefit schemes. The child-benefit top-up is one of over one hundred different grants or tax deductions provided for families in Germany. The benefits bureaucracy has increased in the course of the economic and social crisis that is accompanying the pandemic in Germany (ZDF, 2020). The broad variety of measures means that families face the risk of benefit repayment. Successful application for some measures disables eligibility for others (see Focus online, 2020). The measures decrease financial hardship in low-income household, but potentially increases the risk of household debt.
While the number of recipients for child benefit rose only slightly from 9,507,000 in 2019 to 9,730,000 in 2020, the volume of expenses for the programme rose from approximately €39 billion in 2019 to €46 billion in 2020. The increase is correlated to COVID-19 related measures in this area.
According to the latest statistics by the Federal Statistical Office, there were nearly 9.6 million recipients of the regular child benefit in 2021 with around €47.6 billion spent on the programme. The statistic does not detail how many of the the recipients also applied for the top-up.
|Does not apply to workers
|Does not apply to businesses
People on low incomes
Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:
Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:
Social partners are usually consulted by the Federal Government when drafting national laws or other major regulations concerning the labour market. No formal tripartite social dialogue structure exists to design pandemic control measures. Germany's pandemic response is based on government by decrees, without parliamentary participation.
Public statements by social partners have informally influenced the design of BMFSFJ policy measure related to the government's pandemic response.
Eurofound (2021), Child benefit top-up, measure DE-2020-31/1692 (measures in Germany), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/DE-2020-31_1692.html
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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.