Germany’s top court has ruled that the country’s benefit system for its poorest citizens is unconstitutional.
The decision could cost the heavily indebted nation billions of euros.
The system, which combines social welfare and long-term unemployment benefits, was said to be incompatible with constitutional rules guaranteeing all citizens the right to a “dignified existence”.
Chief Justice Hans-Juergen Papier said: “The assessment of the standard benefit for grown-ups and for children until the age of 14 does not conform to the requirements under the constitutional law. In regard to the standard benefits for children until the age of 14 there is a complete failure in assessing specific needs.”
Six and a half million people are receiving benefits in Germany, one and half million of those are children under 14 years of age.
The Federal Constitutional Court has given the government until the end of the year to alter the way benefits are calculated.
Analysts say if current monthly benefits of 359 euros were to be raised to 420 euros, state coffers would have to find an extra 10 billion euros a year.
That is a big ask as Germany emerges from its worst economic crisis since the Second World War.