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Many new laws and legislative changes, affecting employees, the unemployed, families and retirees, came into force on 1 January 2019. The African Courier takes us through some of the most important changes that we should know.

Minimum wage rises

The statutory minimum wage (der gesetzliche Mindestlohn) rises from 8.84 euros to 9.19 euros on 1 January 2019. From 2020, employers will have to pay at least 9.35 euros per hour.

Several industry minimum wages have also risen, for example, in the roofing trade, in the electrical trade, in the building cleaning trade, and in the temporary work and care sectors.

Because a job is subject to social insurance if the earnings limit of 450 euros per month is exceeded, those who want to avoid this would have to reduce the working time accordingly.

More time for filing tax return

From 2019, taxpayers will have two months longer to submit their annual tax return (Abgabe der Steuererklärung). Those who submit their tax returns themselves have time to file their returns for 2018 until 31 July 2019. For taxpayers represented by a tax advisor, the deadline will be extended from the end of the year to the 28th of February of the following year. For example, the tax return for 2018 will then be due latest 28 February 2020.

However, whoever does not submit the tax declaration on time must automatically pay a delay fine.

Higher tax allowance

Income tax is now payable only on an income of more than 9,168 euros (steuerlicher Freibetrag) per year – that is, 168 euros more than in 2018. For jointly assessed couples, the threshold rises to 18,336 euros.

Statutory health insurance for self-employed persons cheaper

For full-time self-employed persons with low incomes, the minimum premium in the statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenkasse) has now been reduced from around 360 euros to about 156 euros per month. The reason: Since 1 January 2019, the minimum assessment basis (Mindestbemessungsgrundlage) for membership in the statutory health insurance for the self-employed has been reduced to 1,038.33 euros (it was 2,284 euro in 2018).

Making calls abroad becomes cheaper

Roaming charges have been history since 2017. Now phone calls and the sending of text messages to other EU countries will become cheaper this year. From mid-May 2019, the price of international calls will be capped at 19 cents per minute. SMS will cost a maximum of six cents.

CHANGES AND NEW LAWS FOR FAMILIES

More child benefit

Child benefit (Kindergeld) will be increased from 1 July 2019. Parents will get 204 euros/per child for the first and second child; 210 euros for the third child; and 235 euros a month for each additional child.

Higher tax deduction for children

The tax exemption for dependent children (Kinderfreibetrag) has been increased, starting from January, to 2490 euros or for both parents to 4980 euros when assessed together.

Child maintenance allowance rises

The alimony payments for children of separated parents (Unterhalt für Trennungskinder) have also been increased. From 1 January 2019, the minimum maintenance allowance payable for children under the age of seven will be 354 instead of the previous 348 euros per month. Seven to twelve-year-olds now get 406 instead of 399 euros. Children from 13 to 18 are entitled to a monthly allowance of 476 euros, it was formerly 467 euros. The minimum allowance for children of full age remains unchanged.

CHANGES FOR THE UNEMPLOYED

Increase in Hartz IV benefit

The standard rates for social assistance and unemployment benefit II (Sozialhilfe und Arbeitslosengeld II) have been increased. Single parents and persons living alone will now receive 424 instead of 416 euros. If you live with another needy person in the same household, you will receive 382 euros instead of 374 euros. The standard rate for children up to five years rises to 245 euros a month, and those from six to 13 years receive 322 instead of 316 euros.

Changes in Unemployment Benefit I

Previously, jobseekers must have held a job that made contribution to the unemployment insurance scheme for 12 months within the last 24 months prior to filing their application to be qualified to draw Unemployment Benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I). From 1 January 2019, twelve months within the last 30 months are now sufficient to qualify for the benefit

Support for the long-term unemployed

For the long-term unemployed, state-funded jobs are now possible for re-entry into working life. Employers receive money from the state for five years to pay the employee: In the first two, labour costs are paid in full, and then the subsidy goes down by ten percentage points every year. Condition for qualification for the scheme is that the long-term unemployed is older than 25 years and has received Hartz IV for at least six years within seven years.

CHANGES FOR RETIREES

Increase in disability pension benefit

Disability pensioners will receive significantly more benefit if they retire from 2019. The pension (Erwerbsminderungsrente) will now be calculated as if the person concerned had worked until the standard retirement age – not like until now 62 years.

Pensioners pay more tax

Anyone who retires this year has to pay more tax on their pension income. From January 2019, the taxable portion of pension (Steuerpflichtiger Teil der Rente) increases from 76 to 78 percent. Thus, only 22 percent of the first full gross annual pension remains tax-free. This percentage applies only to persons retiring as from 2019.

© The African Courier/Femi Awoniyi

The more assertive noises coming out of Berlin are likely to dominate Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel's trip to China in the coming days, putting to the test the oft-vaunted "special relationship" between the top export powers.

Germans have watched with unease as Chinese enterprises have swallowed up arecord number of homegrown tech companies this year, sparking fears of German knowhow and intellectual property being sold off to the highest bidder.The wave of acquisitions has also stoked grumbles over China's easy access to the country's open markets, often through state-backed companies, while foreign investors there face tight restrictions.
"Germans seem to be growing more and more sceptical about China, and consequently more willing to pursue a tougher approach to Beijing," said analyst Hans Kundnani from the German Marshall Fund. In the clearest sign yet that Berlin could be squaring up for a battle, the German economy ministry this week said it was taking a closer look at two planned Chinese takeovers -- effectively stalling both deals.
The moves have not gone unnoticed in Beijing and Gabriel will likely face some prickly questions when he leads a 60-strong business delegation on a five-day trip to China and Hong Kong from Tuesday.
'Paranoia'
Germany's first punch came last Monday when the ministry said it had withdrawn its approval for Grand Chip Investment's 670-million-euro ($730-million) purchase of chip equipment maker Aixtron, citing security concerns. German daily Handelsblatt said the surprise reversal came after US intelligence services warned that Aixtron products could be used for military purposes. The deal is now back under review, a process that could last three months.

Days later, the economy ministry said it was also reviewing the mooted sale of German firm Osram's general lighting unit to a Chinese buyer.
So far there has been little official reaction from Beijing. But a bylined commentary carried by the official Xinhua news agency was scathing, accusing Germany of "protectionist moves" that called into question "Berlin's sincerity in securing an open and transparent investment climate".
"It is time for Berlin to let go of its delusional "China threat" paranoia," it added.
Call for EU action
Chinese firms spent over 11 billion euros on German companies between January and October, a new record, according to accountancy firm EY. Included in that is the 4.6-billion-euro purchase of leading robot maker Kuka by Chinese appliance giant Midea, a deal that sparked particular alarm and which Gabriel had sought to thwart. Gabriel, also Germany's vice-chancellor, has since drawn up a list of proposals to give European Union governments greater powers to block takeovers by non-EU firms in strategic industries.

Crucially there has been no word yet on whether Chancellor Angela Merkel --who has championed close economic ties with Beijing -- approves of the idea. But Gabriel is likely to get a sympathetic hearing from at least some European peers.The new British government recently delayed the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear project over concerns about China's involvement, before eventually giving it the go-ahead.
In Brussels, an in-depth EU antitrust probe is holding up state-owned ChemChina's proposed mammoth takeover of Swiss seed maker Syngenta.
Level playing field:
Observers, however, say Germany is not about to close the door on China, one of its most important trade partners.
Rather, the latest manoeuvres should be seen as part of a growing debate about how "to get a level playing field" with China, Kundnani told AFP. Gabriel himself told reporters this week foreign investment with China could not be "a one-way street".
"We would like reciprocity," he said.

Foreign investors have long complained of the obstacles to doing business in China, such as the requirement to team up with local partners, while some sectors are completely off-limits. Friedolin Strack of the BDI federation of German industries said that despite the frustrations, German firms had benefited enormously from doing deals with China -- leaving Gabriel to tread a fine line during his visit.
"There are a lot of restrictions in Chinese markets," Strack told AFP. "Andwe should increase the political pressure and the pressure from businesses on China to remove these barriers.
"But if we say we are open only to those countries who are open with us, that would harm German companies."
THE LOCAL

Falko Droßmann has taken a bold step against notorious landlords in Hamburg. The port city has been facing unprecedented accommodation challenges over the years. Demand far exceeding supply. The prices have become unbearable to the most vulnerable in the city.

Though the SPD government led by Olaf Scholz has been doing a lot to address the situation by making it easier for estate developers to build more houses, a notable few are still refusing to rent their empty apartments thus creating artificial shortages and pushing prices up. 

The district chief executive of Hamburg –Mitte, Falko Droßmann has decided to dispose a landlord and to have his six apartments renovated and forcibly rented. The cost of renovation will be billed to the owner. 

According to the plans the apartments will be handed over back to the owner after they are rented out. In addition, the tenants would have to receive secured contracts.

“Hamburg can no longer tolerate the strategic empty apartment’s policies" says the energetic SPD politician. Hopefully other politicians will have the guts to initiate similar actions in their towns and cities, this is the first case so far in Hamburg.

A good leader always first and foremost think about the interest of his people. 
Weiter so!!!

TopAfric

Horst Wenzel, dubbed ‘Germany’s number one love expert’, has been volunteering his services to teach new migrants how to flirt and approach women.

The 27-year-old, who makes his living teaching wealthy but shy German men, has recently decided to offer his advice to young Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Dortmund, most of them from Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq and Syria.

“Some German women are a bit racist towards us,” said this Syrian refugee. “They don’t know how refugees think or how they are living. Some people are getting the wrong idea.”

“Don’t tell them you love them at least for the first three months of your relationship, or they’ll run away,” he explained patiently. “German women don’t like clinginess.”

“Finding a relationship is the best way to integrate, and that’s why I’m giving these classes,” Wenzel said.

Wenzel usually charges 1,400 euros for a private one-day class, or 4,000 euros for a group. According to him, flirting is a large part of the integration process and hopes that the migrants will “fall in love with Germany”.

While a part of the population is said to be against this project as it is conducted in a country where the migrant influx is already having deep political and social consequences, some German women seem receptive to the idea.

“Human touch, honesty, trust, that’s what matters,” insisted this local resident. “then I don’t care whether he is from Syria or not.”

According to reports, last year alone, around 890,000 people applied for asylum, with hundreds of thousands more applying this year.

Austin Ohaegbu
www.theafricancourier.de

Several years after ruling the continent, Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike yesterday turned the clock back to emerge as the new African champion in the women’s single event of the 2016 ITTF Africa Senior Championships in Agadir, Morocco. As the second seeded player in the competition, Oshonaike has never beaten the young Egyptian in the last two years but the tide turned in favour of the Nigerian as the North African tasted the first defeat in the continent to surrender the title.

From the start of the encounter, Oshonaike took charge taking a 2-0 lead but the Egyptian restored parity at 2-2. Oshonaike then decided to play with a lot of caution and tactics which eventual confused her opponent who finally succumbed to the more experienced Nigeria.
To emerge as the new African Champion, Oshonaike won (7-11, 11-13, 11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 7-11).

An elated Oshonaike told SportingLife after the encounter that she never doubted her ability. “I knew it was going to be tough because being the African champion and she has been unbeaten in the last two years. I just told myself to go out there and have fun and show my experience and when it started working I gained more confidence. But when the match was 2-2 my coach, Segun Toriola told me not to give up and I kept on going and it worked for me at last. This victory means a lot to me that I can still become African champion despite my age.

“It shows that nothing is impossible regardless of age inasmuch as you put your mind at it. I am so happy despite the challenges of making it to Morocco. I feel great and I am so excited that I can still do it and this is also an inspiration for girls that no matter your age, you can achieve whatever you put your mind into in life,” she said.

A court in Germany has ruled that the parents of a 15-year-old girl cannot stop her having a sexual relationship with her 47-year-old uncle.
The girl, who has been named only as Josephine under German privacy laws, made headlines last year when she ran away with her uncle. She was 14 at the time.

When the couple were discovered in the south of France, Josephine told police she had run away voluntarily and was in love with the older man, who was her uncle by marriage. In common with several other European countries, the age of sexual consent in Germany is 14.
Josephine’s parents sought a court order to prevent her being in contact with her uncle, on the grounds that the relationship was endangering her welfare.

But the teenager successfully challenged the order. The court ruled that as she is over 14 her own wishes have to be taken into account.
In their ruling, the judges said that Josephine risked “serious damage in her social-emotional and mental development” if she was prevented from further contact with the uncle. The judges emphasised that the decision in no way amounted to an endorsement or approval of the relationship.

“The court does not offer any opinion on the non-judicial question of whether a 47-year-old married man should return the love of a 14-year-old fired by adolescent affection and enthusiasm,” they wrote. “The relationship may be socially undesirable and unacceptable, but it is not covered by criminal law, and not categorically forbidden.”

The court case was the culmination of months of strife between the girl and her parents. When they forbade her from seeing her uncle on her return from France, she left home, stopped attending school and tried to stay in a government shelter. Her parents later had her admitted to a psychiatric hospital for five months. She refused to tell her parents the whereabouts of her uncle. The 47-year-old has children of his own, and has also been a foster parent.

The age of consent varies in different European countries. While it is 16 in the UK, Spain and the Benelux countries, other countries where it is only 14 include Italy, Portugal and Austria. In France it is 15, while in Ireland it is 17. There are provisions in German law to protect abuse of a minor who is over the age of consent by a much older partner, but only where the child concerned files a complaint with police.
“Basically, the law assumes that a 15-year-old is mature enough to decide about his or her sex life,” Robert Ufer, a criminal lawyer, told Spiegel magazine.

Source: The Spiegel

The 22-year-old police officer was discovered dead on Tuesday afternoon after a six-day search, not far from the train station where she was last seen. The search for Maxime L. has come to an end after the Lübeck Institute for Forensic Medicine identified the corpse as that of the young police officer on Wednesday, Bild reports.

The cause of death was a shot to the head from her service weapon, a spokesperson for the Lübeck prosecutor's office confirmed to Bild.
Investigators are treating the case as a suspected suicide. "As of yet there is nothing to argue against suicide. We have no indications of any other party's involvement," the spokesperson said.

Maxime L. did not turn up for work last Wednesday and was reported missing on Thursday. She was last spotted on CCTV on a regional train at Aumühle train station on the same day. Hundreds of police officers scoured the Sachsenwald woods near the train station over the weekend using a helicopter and sniffer dogs.

On Tuesday a woman's corpse was discovered with a service weapon lying by its side. It was identified the following day as Maxime L.
The prosecutor's office also said that there were no signs of any depressive illness. A friend of Maxime since childhood told Bild that she was "a fun-loving person. Sometimes a little volatile, but when she had problems, she confided in friends."
By The Local

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