A simplification of Germany's welfare state is wanted by its Association of Towns and Municipalities (BStGB). Only then, it says, will communities be able to cope with demographic aging and future economic strains.
Germany's 11,054 community authorities are overburdened with complicated welfare delivery and needed "de-bureaucratization" to stay within budget in the future, asserted association chief executive Gerd Landsberg on Tuesday.
"Every problem is met with the promise that there is more money and naturally more personnel," he said, adding that, long-term, Germany's highly legislated welfare state would not function, given finite taxation revenues, populations with more elderly, and regions facing loss of industry and jobs.
Read more: poverty in wealthy Germany
Landsberg told newspapers run by the Funke MedienGruppe (media group) — which is based in Essen in the once coal and steel-dominated Ruhr region — that the reform should start with the reexamination of welfare grants and tax relief for families
"At the moment there are 160 various service offerings that cost the state [Germany as a whole] more than €100 billion ($114 billion)," he said.
"This [family] catalog must be combed through, de-bureaucratized and more accurately concentrated on the real needy," Landsberg insisted, saying he favored the long-discussed idea of a state-recognized general basic income as a starting point for all.
Introducing that must coincide, said Landsberg, with the removal of "certain" tax advantages as well as dropping a complex bonus system intended for children of needy families, inserted into Germany's Social Security Statutes Book (SGB) in 2011 after a rebuke from Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe that children in poor households be offered more help.
Welfare researchers concluded in September that the resulting €10 per child monthly bonuses — applied for at local authorities and intended for music lessons and sports — was only used by one-in-seven children.
Billions in repairs, upgrading needed
Landsberg said, contrary to its wealthy and industrious image abroad, Germany had an investment backlog in community infrastructures — such as dilapidated bridges and school buildings in communal hands — already totaling €159 billion.
Welfare spending by communal authorities exceeded 60 billion euros.
Half of federal budget goes to welfare, labor
The federal government put aside more than half of its national budget for social welfare and labor market spending — €170 billion — although "from all sides it's lamented that poverty is increasing and more must be done."
The Berlin-based Association of Towns and Municipalities brings together 17 community associations within Germany's federal regions or Länder.
ipj/kms (KNA, AFP, dpa)