The labour and social administration authorities provide information, process applications and approve benefits for millions of people in Germany. In November 2021, for example, some 716,000 people received unemployment benefit, while a further 3.6 million people received the ALG II basic security benefits for job seekers. The Federal Employment Agency’s 95,000 employees process around 9,600 applications for unemployment benefit and 5,500 applications for child benefit a day. Deutsche Rentenversicherung received almost 1.7 million new pension applications and over 1.7 million applications for rehabilitation benefits in 2020, which were processed by its approximately 61,000 employees. In the same period, 760,000 workplace accidents and 152,000 commuting accidents were reported to the German Social Accident Insurance.
Challenge for the welfare state
All applications have to be read, processed and responded to, each submitted report and supporting document requires auditing. Additionally, objections lodged in relation to administrative decisions have to be clarified. This involves considerable processing work as many of these tasks are extensive and quite time-consuming. Much time therefore often passes before a decision is made, not only because of the high number of applications, but also because there is already a lack of staff in many national and state administrations. This situation will further intensify in the future – when the ‘baby boomers’ leave the working world, resulting in fewer staff for the authorities and an additional ten million people making pension applications, all of which will need processing. This presents the welfare state with some major challenges.
Reducing processing times, creating capacities for individual care
Digital innovations and new technical applications can help manage the requirements better and make processes more efficient. AI systems in particular offer labour and social administration authorities major potential. Huge volumes of data can be evaluated and processed quickly, assisting the employees in the form of recommendations and decision papers. AI applications are already used in isolated instances in many administrations, for example to check that the correct documents are submitted and that applications are completed correctly and in full. This reduces processing times and makes administration more efficient and more effective. Everyone benefits – the citizens get a response more quickly and the employees have more time to process especially demanding cases or to dedicate to individual care. And this ultimately means people have a more positive image of the administration, perceiving it as modern, innovative and future-oriented.