Sanctions against Young Welfare Recipients in Germany - Perspectives of Job Placement Officers. Results of a Qualitative Research Project
Research Department E1 (Education and Employment over the Life Course) Institute for Employment Research (IAB) of the German Federal Employment Agency (BA) Nuremberg, Germany
The study explores the sanctioning practice against young welfare recipients of job placement officers in Germany. With the establishment of the law "Social Code II" in 2005, Germany, following other European countries, has changed from an active to an activating welfare state by strengthening the paradigm of "promoting and demanding". Benefit recipients younger than 25 years are defined as a special target group to counteract the increasing youth unemployment. As a consequence better assistance conditions exist for them, but in return they are subject to tougher financial sanctions. Contrary to older clients, benefits already are reduced by 100 % for three months after the first neglect of duty. In case of repeated failure, the payment for housing and heating is cancelled. Previous investigations showed distinctive varieties of the sanctioning practice by different job placement officers, not only regarding the frequency, but also the duration and type of sanction, even though there are clear legal requirements. Therefore we analyse the sanctioning practice of job placement officers and their estimation of and experiences with sanctions. 24 semi-structured interviews give evidence that, aside from varying regional labour market situations, other variables also influence the sanctioning practice, like expert's pedagogical concepts, education, attitude towards young people and sanctions. Furthermore the experts know scarcely anything about the youth's life during a sanction. Sometimes sanctions are the reason why young persons break all the ties to the placement officers and drop out of the system. Sanctions aim to raise the incentives taking up an employment by financial pressure. But such strict sanctions can increase the risk of social exclusion as the benefit cuts decrease the living standard. Deprived living conditions in turn could hinder youth's education and employment chances. Finally, emphasising the necessity of tough sanctions, especially for unmotivated and reluctant persons, unemployment is ascribed to individual characteristics or rather to attributive characteristics of the youth, running the risk to separate society. The question is how youth's integration into society is possible, although integration into employment didn't succeed.