Hartz for fun

The medially staged poverty self-test and its unexpected gain of knowledge

Living on Hartz IV for one month, this – not entirely – voluntary poverty self-test was given by two Hamburg local media to one employee each, and the other to the other. the Hamburger Abendblatt (Springer-Verlag) and the regional radio station Oldie 95. This medially prepared self-experience trip seemed at first sight like an openly staged verbalization of the worries and note of hundreds of thousands of people in this country. On closer inspection, the attempt turned out to be a serious approach to the topic of poverty as a future mass phenomenon: a lot of facts and figures were given, a revealing look behind the scenes of the employment office was given and useful tips for the daily struggle for survival were revealed.

Selected by their editorial teams were Abendblatt editor Barbara Hardinghaus and "Pick-me-up" Achim Wiese, host of the early broadcast of Oldie 95. She, a young colleague, single, with a small but not exactly inexpensive apartment in the posh Neustadt district. He, married, one child, with his own house in a posh residential area. While she spontaneously set about the task set for her by her breadwinner, he first had to convince his loved ones – because the test would apply not only to him, but to the entire family, as he admitted to Telepolis. "That was not so easy", as he admitted to Telepolis. "But I have this job." Of course, and in order to keep it, concessions have to be made, otherwise this poverty game will become a bitter reality in the end.

Barbara Hardinghaus stood as a single woman 345.- Euro per month to, Achim Wiese and his family 1154.- Euro. Both had to move in case of emergency. Barbara Hardinghaus lives in a modest 35 square meters, but almost 500.- Euro rent is clearly too much for one person, a family of four has to make do with it. Where to get a new apartment would be the problem of the person concerned. This is often not an easy undertaking in Hamburg – and many other large cities – but it is all the more difficult when the column "professional activity" – "at present, unfortunately, none" and with "current income" – "at present from the office" must be indicated. The move itself is then no problem, at least not a financial one, because "the office" The Hamburger Abendblatt pays the costs for a professional moving company.

Barbara Harding was allowed to keep her eleven-year-old Golf. On inquiries she learned that "the clerks in the hallway" had so decided. The weal and woe of the people affected therefore also depends on the goodwill of the College "the office" from. "To the apartment. My home. Has it also been judged on the floor of the?", thinks the editor logically.

Correcting the daily consumer frenzy

Barbara Hardinghaus and Achim Wiese and his family tried hard to make ends meet with the money they had at their disposal under Hartz IV. Both unanimously stated that they learned to shop more consciously. "The friendship with the ‘thrifts’ and the other cheap brands grows", wrote Barbra Hardinghaus. "I am now much more careful about what I buy", also says Achim Wiese. Barbara Hardinghaus, who took her test in August, had the problem of her milk going bad several times – before the best-before date expired. Earlier she had simply bought new ones, during the time of the self-test she was grateful for the tip of an Abendblatt reader that Penny would take back sour milk in that case even without a receipt.

The correction of the daily consumption frenzy, which probably affects more or less everyone who does not have to turn over every penny twice, seems to be a useful consequence of the test. Another is the discovery of one’s own creativity. Barbara Hardinghaus did not want to completely eliminate epicurean pleasures from her menu and banish hospitality from her life. She managed to prepare a sumptuous menu for four people for less than five euros. Den Wein, den sie zum Verfeinern der Suppe und der Sobe brauchte, lieb sie sich einfach mitbringen – statt Blumen.

"I can understand the people who are going to the streets"

Nevertheless, both independently came to the conclusion: Hartz IV is a way to survive, not to live. Sie scheiterten nicht an ihrem guten Willen, sondern am ganz normalen Wahnsinn. This includes a stain on the sofa (15.- Euro cleaning costs, which are actually not included in Hartz IV), broken shoe soles (at least another 15.- Euro additional expenses), a stolen bicycle or the purchase of schoolbooks. "A Diercke world atlas alone costs 40.- Euro", says Achim Wiese. "And that’s not the only textbook the parents have to buy." Public transportation is part of the normal madness. "Riding the bus really kicks ass", sums up Barbara Hardinghaus. "I feel like I did before I tried to take a cab: I know it’s actually too expensive."

Barbara Hardinghaus was not only looking for a place to live, but also for a job. First of all, she had to learn that as a woman she has no chance as a day laborer. The job board almost exclusively places people in jobs that require heavy physical labor," says Barbara Hardinghaus.B. Lugging furniture. At the "Employment Agency" job offers were printed randomly in her hand: cleaning, filling shelves, whatever. "As long as the public pays for you, you have to take what is needed", she was told by the clerk .She finally ended up in a snack bar, where she had to work for just under 6.- Euro was allowed to turn the hour sausages on the grill. She might even have gotten the job. Maybe – if she wasn’t an Abendblatt editor in real life.

The people who demonstrate against Hartz IV every Monday can be sure of the sympathy of the two media people. "I can understand the people who go out onto the streets", says Achim Wiese. But neither of them could bring themselves to join the protests.

120.000 people in Hamburg already live on unemployment or social welfare benefits. Barbara Hardinghaus identified another poverty group that is completely lost in the public debate: pensioners. Old people in particular – and especially women – often live from hand to mouth.

In addition to interesting, bitterly serious, but sometimes also amusing aspects, the self-test proved one thing very clearly: it works. The sword of Damocles, Hartz IV, hovers not only over the heads of those directly affected, but also as an unmistakable threat over the people who have not yet been affected, the lucky ones who have a permanent job. "I have now once this job", Achim Wiese argued to his family to make this poverty test palatable to them. And Barbara Hardinghaus wrote with relief after 30 days of voluntary financial self-cutting: "I make three times fatter crosses for having a job." And not only Barbara Hardinghaus and Achim Wiese are ready to do something to keep it that way.

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