Welfare Sanctions and the Right to a Subsistence Minimum: a troubled marriage

Gantchev, V., 1-Sep-2020, In : European Journal of Social Security. 22, 3, p. 257-272 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Can welfare sanctions and the right to a subsistence minimum coexist? The present article sheds light on this question by examining recent developments in German social assistance law and placing them in the broader international legal context. In November 2019, the German Constitutional Court declared a large portion of the applicable regime unconstitutional because it violated the basic right to a guaranteed subsistence minimum. The first part of the article examines this German basic right and the way its normative requirements are applied by the Constitutional Court to welfare sanctions. Two important points of reference which are discussed relate to the effectiveness of the measures and the availability of sanction mitigation instruments that safeguard the constitutionally guaranteed subsistence minimum. The second part of the article carries out a similar examination into the international human right to social assistance and the respective case law of the international supervisory bodies. A comparative legal analysis is carried out in the third part, which highlights the similarities between the German and the international legal approach to minimum social protection and welfare sanctions. The article concludes with the observation that welfare sanctions and the right to a subsistence minimum can only coexist under the condition that states respect the absolute nature of minimum social protection and reconcile the adopted measures with the primary objective of social assistance: reintegration and social inclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-272
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Security
Issue number3
Early online date4-Aug-2020
Publication statusPublished - 1-Sep-2020


  • Welfare sanctions, right to social assistance, subsistence minimum, German Constitutional Court, BVerfG, ESC, ICESCR, CONDITIONALITY

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