A record number of foreign child benefit recipients and indications of fraud traps increase the pressure on the federal government to reform.
"In june 2018, 268.336 children living outside germany in the european union or the european economic area receive child benefits," a spokesman for the federal finance ministry said in response to a question from the german press agency. This is an increase of 10.4 percent since the end of 2017. At that time there were 243.234 recipients in the EU abroad. In germany, more than 2.7 million children from other countries receive child benefits.
The topic has been on the minds for a long time, but is now gaining momentum as it involves hundreds of millions of euros a year. Several oberburg masters speak of an alarming increase of migration into the german social system. "The federal government is sleeping through this problem, it must finally do something about the fact that there are poverty refugees in europe," duisburg’s mayor soren link (SPD) told dpa. This poses risks for social cohesion.
At the same time, however, the increase in the number of foreign recipients is also a consequence of, for example, the increased number of caregivers from abroad, whose relatives often remain in their home country.
SPD leader andrea nahles announced a meeting of child benefit leaders with affected cities for the 27th. September in berlin. "It is clear that we have to put a stop to abuse and organized crime," said nahles during a visit to the workers’ welfare association in duisburg.
A spokesman for finance minister olaf scholz (SPD) emphasized that the government is committed to a european solution. The goal is that instead of 194 euros (first child), much lower amounts will be paid for children living in other EU countries, based on the cost of living there. But attempts at reform have failed at EU level.
The EU commission continues to reject a new regulation. "If a worker pays into a national social security system, he should receive the same benefits as anyone else who pays in – regardless of his nationality or where his children live," a spokeswoman told dpa in brussel. An adjustment of the payments to the cost of living at the place of residence of the child is nowhere provided for in EU law because of the prohibition of discrimination.
Bavaria called on the federal government of chancellor angela merkel (CDU) to act. "If child benefit is paid according to german conditions in a country with low prices and costs, this can mean additional income for the parents, depending on the number of children," said social affairs minister kerstin schreyer (CSU). In june, there were a total of 15.29 million children for whom child benefits were paid by the german state. 36 billion euros in child benefits per year.
In the course of the expansion of european free movement to eastern europe, the number of child benefit recipients has increased sharply. On the one hand, there are immigrants who live and work in germany with their families, and on the other hand, there are EU citizens who work here, are covered by social insurance and are thus entitled to receive child benefits for their children living in their home country. This is in accordance with the valid EU-wide regulations.
A total of around three million children from other EU countries currently receive child benefits, with transfers to foreign countries being particularly controversial, as the cost of living there is generally lower. In romania, child benefit is between 18 and 43 euros (up to two years).
Link spoke of criminal traffickers who were deliberately bringing sinti and roma to duisburg and providing them with an often run-down apartment so that they would have a place of residence to receive child benefits. "I have to deal here with people who suspect whole strains and exacerbate the rat problem. This upsets the citizens," he criticized.
The chairman of the central council of the sinti and roma, romani rose, sharply criticized left statements. "Racist stereotypes are deliberately used here to produce scapegoats – even at the risk of violent attacks," said rose.
Duisburg city council chief sees criminal energy and a lot of fraud through falsified documents . Often one does not even know if the reported children exist at all. This contradicts the spirit of european freedom. The family office of the federal labor office, which is responsible for paying out child benefits, confirmed that cases of fraud had recently been identified primarily in north rhine-westphalia, but that this was not a mass phenomenon.
343 million euros in child benefits were transferred to accounts abroad in 2017 – although german recipients can also have accounts abroad. Because in the statistics of the recipients abroad also about 31 000 german citizens are listed. However, while their number has remained constant for years, the number of polish recipients has increased by almost 15 since 2017.000, from the czech republic it is 5000 more and from romania just under 2000.
The city council also demanded that child benefits should be based on what children actually need in their country of residence. At the same time, chief executive helmut dedy warned against mood mongering. "Most people from sudosteurope are well integrated in germany," dedy told dpa.
Calls for new EU rules on child benefit payments abroad have little chance of success, according to EU diplomats. Countries such as germany and austria have recently failed in their attempt to create a so-called indexation option as part of the modernization of the coordination of the social system, it was said in brussels. The majority of EU member states are strongly opposed to creating an EU regulation that would allow child benefits to be adjusted to the cost of living in the child’s place of residence.