September 2021: 6 changes affecting expats in Germany
September has arrived in Germany, and with it a whole bunch of new laws - not to mention a federal election. From the German chancellor to the parental allowance, here are six changes expats in Germany should know about.
1. Angela Merkel bows out as German chancellor after elections
This first one is a pretty momentous change: September is the month that will see Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics, after leading Germany for a full 16 years. The federal election on September 26 will finally determine who will take Merkel’s seat, with Armin Laschet (Union), Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Annalena Baerbock (Greens) all vying for the chancellorship and the chance to determine Germany’s political future.
That’s not to say, however, that Angela Merkel will immediately disappear from the scenes, as she will govern in a transitional capacity until the next government is formed. And as Germany has a penchant for coalition governments, that could take a while - the previous one took nearly six months to create!
Only those with German citizenship have the chance to vote in the elections, but the result will be eagerly anticipated by all in the federal republic. If you are eligible to vote but are as yet undecided about who to support, the Wahl-O-Mat online election tool will go live on September 2, helping you to find your political affiliation via a series of questions that compare your answers to the parties’ election manifestos.
State elections will also take place on September 26 in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
2. German parental allowance (Elterngeld) reformed
As of September 1, 2021, a reform will shake up the parental allowance (Elterngeld) in Germany. The new rules will apply for all parents whose children are born after September 1, and entitle them to more flexibility when it comes to working part-time hours and receiving the partnership bonus after the birth of a child.
Under the new rules, parents will be allowed to work up to 32 hours per week each (up from 30 hours) while still receiving the benefit. Other benefits such as Kurzarbeit or sickness benefit will no longer be counted towards the parental allowance.
The partnership bonus will also be made more flexible: in future, couples will be allowed to work between 24 and 32 hours per week and still qualify for the bonus, which can now also be taken in two two-month chunks, rather than as a set four-month block. They can also extend or shorten their use of the bonus at short notice.
Finally, parents of children who are born prematurely will also receive additional financial support from the state for up to four months, depending on how early the child is born, so that they can take more time off work to care for their child.
3. Electronic IDs arrive
From September, the so-called Smart eID will begin to be rolled out across Germany, allowing people to save a digital version of their identity card on their mobile phone and use it to identify themselves online, for instance when applying for social security benefits and student loans, or checking how many points they have on their driving licence.
You can get a hold of an eID by downloading the AusweisApp - although because of security requirements not all smartphones and tablets will be compatible with the app.
4. No longer possible to register for unemployment benefits digitally
In an effort to make life easier during the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government made it possible to apply for unemployment benefits online or by phone, without requiring the recipient to attend a job centre in person. As of September, however, that relaxation will be tightened up once again, so anyone who has lost their job needs to register as unemployed in person at their local job centre.
5. New energy labelling system for lights
Energy labels are designed to give consumers a quick overview of the efficiency of various electronic products. After being revamped in March this year, the new EU energy label will apply to light sources as of September. The new label will now list products from grade A to G and should be applied to all appliances by 2030.
6. DAX swells its ranks
The German share index DAX, which includes the country’s top publicly-listed companies, is set to swell its ranks from 30 to 40 members in September. The 10 new recruits will be announced on September 3.
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