A German approach to fight unemployment in Hawaii

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While hundreds of homeless and unemployed people live on Honolulu’s beaches, including the tourist center, Waikiki, it is the Waianae Coast on the semiarid west shore where the problem is most visible. The population of Waianae, home to about 40,000 of Oahu’s 900,000 people, is predominantly native Hawaiian and is historically low income.

Could a German approach help homeless and unemployed citizens in Hawaii?

The demand was huge. A week after the Berlin employment agency began offering one-euro jobs to their clients, they were gone.

“The people come out of their homes, they make new contacts, they can communicate,” said Hsrtle, trying to explain the attraction of part-time work to the unemployed. “They feel needed.”

For the time being, he says, all slots of the part-time work program are filled, but that will change. People can only work the jobs, handed out by employment agencies on a regional basis, for a three- to six-month basis. The program is part of Germany’s grander plans to encourage Germans out of work for more than a year to take the first step back into the work force.
From €1 to full-time.

“They want to make these one-euro jobs as financially unattractive as possible,” said Viktor Steiner, an economist at the German Institute for Economic Research. The idea is to eventually “move people from these one-euro jobs into the regular work force,” he said.

For decades, Germany’s unemployed were often better off receiving government unemployment and welfare checks than entering a low-level job where they would be required to pay health and unemployment insurance out of the meager checks they received each month. But with millions out of work and receiving benefits, the country’s public debt is reaching astronomical figures.

To keep the system from collapsing the government agreed on a set of reforms that would trim down Germany’s generous welfare system and cut payments to those who don’t take on work.

Officials hope the one-euro job is the incentive the jobless need to get back in the work force.

Short-term work, long-term solution
The jobs are intended to top up the welfare checks they already get each month, but not as regular work. Participants are only allowed to work from 15 to 30 hours a week, and for no longer than three months to six months. At a rate of around €1 (US$1.33) to €3 an hour, they earn a maximum of €180 each month to supplement their government aid.

For the time being, they are voluntary. But those out of work will begin facing cuts in their unemployment checks if they don’t take on available jobs. For them, the one-euro jobs might be a good transition, according to officials and organizations like pro futura.

“I think that’s a bit optimistic. As long as people receive their welfare checks and a bit on top from their one-euro job, they earn more than they would in a regular job that requires them to pay unemployment and health insurance,” he added.

“The question is if they succeed in landing a job that will give them enough of an income [to get off welfare],” he said.

Taking the first steps
The path to that job often begins with getting up off the couch and working, even just part time, helping school children read or cleaning up garbage in the park, Härtl said.

“The people who don’t have a chance in the regular labor force can get a foothold there by working a job like this,” he added. “They make contacts through these jobs that can lead to something later.”

Statistically, anyone employed more than 20 hours a week is considered to be employed.

Cleaning up beaches, repairing streets, tutors for children, social workers, the State of Hawaii has thousands of needed jobs that cannot be filled. The State cannot fill these jobs in paying regular salaries. Why not pay US$1 an hour to fill many of these jobs and help unemployed to find a permanent placement? Why not extend these types of job opportunities to start up companies, or companies in need.

The homeless population in the United States increased by approximately 20,000 people – or 3 percent – from 2008 to 2009.

* A majority – 31 of 50 states and the District of Columbia – had increases in their homeless counts. The largest increase was in Louisiana, where the homeless population doubled.

* While most people experiencing homelessness are sheltered, nearly 4 in 10 were living on the street, in a car, or in another place not intended for human habitation.

* From 2008 to 2009, the number of unemployed people in the United States increased by 60 percent from 8.9 million to 14.3 million people.

* Nearly three-quarters of all US households with incomes below the federal poverty line spend over 50 percent of monthly household income on rent.

State of homelessness in the US
According to a report released by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in January 2011 in Washington, DC, homelessness is underreported in the United States.

Key findings of the report on homelessness:

The homeless population in the United States increased by approximately 20,000 people – or 3 percent – from 2008 to 2009.

A majority – 31 of 50 states and the District of Columbia – had increases in their homeless counts. The largest increase was in Louisiana, where the homeless population doubled.

There were also increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness in each of the subpopulations examined in this report: families, individuals, chronic, unsheltered.

Among subpopulations, the largest percentage increase was in the number of family households, which increased by over 3,200 households – or 4 percent.

Also, the number of persons in families increased by more than 6,000 people – or 3 percent. In Mississippi, the number of people in homeless families increased by 260 percent.

While most people experiencing homelessness are sheltered, nearly 4 in 10 were living on the street, in a car, or in another place not intended for human habitation.

In Wisconsin, twice as many people experienced homelessness without shelter in 2009 as did in 2008.

It is widely agreed upon that there is a vast undercount of the number of young people experiencing homelessness. Underscoring this is the fact that 35 percent of all communities reported that there were no homeless youth in their communities in 2009.

Economic indicators
From 2008 to 2009, the number of unemployed people in the United States increased by 60 percent from 8.9 million to 14.3 million people.

Every state and the District of Columbia had an increase in the number of unemployed people. The number of unemployed people in Wyoming doubled.

Nearly three-quarters of all US households with incomes below the federal poverty line spend over 50 percent of the monthly household income on rent.

Forty states saw an increase in the number of poor households experiencing severe housing cost burden from 2008 to 2009.

While real income among all US workers decreased by 1 percent in 2009, poor workers’ income decreased even more – dropping by 2 percent to US$9,151. Poor workers in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Maine, and Rhode Island saw their incomes decrease by more than 10 percent.

Foreclosure affected nearly half a million more households in 2009 than in 2008, a 21 percent increase for a total of 2.8 million foreclosed units in 2009.

The number of foreclosed units more than doubled in Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

Demographic drivers
The doubled-up population – people living with family or friends for economic reasons – increased by 12 percent to more than 6 million people from 2008 to 2009. In Rhode Island, the number increased by 90 percent; in South Dakota the number more than doubled.

Over the course of a year, the estimated odds of experiencing homelessness for a doubled-up person are 1 in 10.

Over the course of a year, the estimated odds of experiencing homelessness for a released prisoner are 1 in 11.

Over the course of a year, the estimated odds of experiencing homelessness for a young adult who ages out of foster care are 1 in 6.

While the national number of uninsured people remained relatively constant, 33 states saw an increase in the number of uninsured people.

States with multiple risk factors
Half of all states have multiple risk factors for increased homelessness; that is, they have rates worse than the national average on at least two of five indicators – unemployment, foreclosure, doubled-up, housing cost burden, lack of health insurance.

California, Florida, and Nevada – states known to have been disproportionately impacted by the recent housing crisis – have both high rates of homelessness and high levels of unemployment, foreclosure, housing cost burden, lack of insurance, and doubling-up.

www.Endhomelessness.org