Welfare in Germany

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Social security in Germany is codified on the Sozialgesetzbuch, or the "Social Code", contains 12 main parts, including the following,

  • Unemployment insurance and public employment agencies (SGB II and III)
  • Health insurance (SGB V)
  • Old age pension insurance (SGB VI)
  • Invalidity insurance (SGB VII and IX)
  • Child support (SGB VIII)
  • Social care (SGB XI)


As of June 2016, 5.9 million people received benefits, of which 1.6 million (27%) were foreigners.[1]


Unemployment benefit I[edit]

The unemployment benefit I in Germany is also known as the unemployment insurance. The insurance is administered by the federal employment agency and funded by employee and employer contributions. This in stark contrast to FUTA in the US and other systems; where only employers make contributions. Participation (and thus contributions) are generally mandatory for both employee and employer. All workers with a regular employment contract, except freelancers and certain civil servants, contribute to the system. Since 2006, certain previously excluded workers have been able to opt into the system on a voluntary basis.

The system is financed by contributions from employees and employers. Employees pay 1.5% of their gross salary below the social security threshold and employers pay 1.5% contribution on top of the salary paid to the employee. The contribution level was reduced from 3.25% for employees and employers as part of labour market reforms known as Hartz. Contributions are paid only on earnings up to the social security ceiling (2012: 5,600 EUR). The system is largely self-financed but also receives a subsidy from the state to run the Job centers.

Unemployed workers are entitled to:

  • Living allowance known as unemployment benefit
  • Help in finding work
  • Training

Unemployed benefit is paid to workers who have contributed at least during 12 months preceding their loss of a job. The allowance is paid for half of the period that the worker has contributed. Claimants get 60% of their previous net salary (capped at the social security ceiling), or 67% for claimants with children. The maximum benefit is therefore 2,964 euros (in 2012).

Unemployment benefit II[edit]

If a worker is not eligible for the full unemployment benefits or after receiving the full unemployment benefit for the maximum of 12 months, he is able to apply for benefits from the so-called Hartz IV programme, an open-ended welfare programme. A person receiving Hartz IV benefits is paid 399 EUR (2015) a month for living expenses plus the cost of adequate housing (including heating) and health care. Couples can receive benefits for each partner including their children. Additionally, children can get "benefits for education and participation". Germany does not have an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card system in place and, instead, disburses welfare in cash or via direct deposit onto the recipient's bank account.

Health insurance[edit]

Main article: Healthcare in Germany

Germany has a universal[2] multi-payer health care system with two main types of health insurance: "Statutory Health Insurance" (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) known as sickness funds (Krankenkasse) and "Private Health Insurance" (Private Krankenversicherung).[3][4][5]

Health insurance is compulsory for the whole population in Germany. Salaried workers and employees below the relatively high income threshold of almost 50,000 euros per year are automatically enrolled into one of currently around 130 public non-profit "sickness funds" at common rates for all members, and is paid for with joint employer-employee contributions. Provider payment is negotiated in complex corporatist social bargaining among specified self-governed bodies (e.g. physicians' associations) at the level of federal states (Länder). The sickness funds are mandated to provide a unique and broad benefit package and cannot refuse membership or otherwise discriminate on an actuarial basis. Social welfare beneficiaries are also enrolled in statutory health insurance, and municipalities pay contributions on behalf of them.

Besides the "Statutory Health Insurance" (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) covering the vast majority of residents, the better off with a yearly income above almost €50,000 (US$56,497), students and civil servants for complementary coverage can opt for private health insurance (about 11% of the population). Most civil servants benefit from a tax-funded government employee benefit scheme covering a percentage of the costs, and cover the rest of the costs with a private insurance contract. Recently, private insurers provide various types of supplementary coverage as an add upon of the SHI benefit package (e.g. for glasses, coverage abroad and additional dental care or more sophisticated dentures).

The health economics of Germany sector was about US$368.78 billion (€287.3 billion) in 2010, equivalent to 11.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and about US$4,505 (€3,510) per capita.[6] According to the World Health Organization, Germany's health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2004.[7] In 2004 Germany ranked thirtieth in the world in life expectancy (78 years for men). It had a very low infant mortality rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births), and it was tied for eighth place in the number of practicing physicians, at 3.3 per 1,000 persons. In 2001 total spending on health amounted to 10.8 percent of gross domestic product.[8]


Main article: Pensions in Germany


Main article: Invalidity in Germany

Child support[edit]

Main article: Child care in Germany

Social care[edit]


The social security system in Germany is funded through contributions paid by employees and employers. The contributions are paid on all direct wages as well as indirect wages up to a ceiling.

Type Last change Employer contribution rate Employee contribution rate Notes
State Pension January 2013 9,45 % 9,45 % Ceiling: West Germany €69,600, East Germany €58,800
Health insurance January 2011 7,3 % 8,2 % Ceiling: €48,600
Unemployment in Germany January 2011 1,5 % 1,5 % Ceiling: West Germany €69,600, East Germany €58,800
Invalidity Insurance January 2013 1,025 % 1,025 % 0,25 % supplement for childless employees
In Saxony 0,525 % for employer and 1,525 % for employee
Accident Insurance 1,6 % -- varies by sector depending on risk
Sick pay insurance between 1,5% & 3,6% depends on the proportion of employees on short hour contracts. Applies to companies with fewer than 30 employees
Maternity leave -- Rate set by the health insurance company depending on the wage bill
Wage guarantee fund January 2013 0,15 % -- The contribution rate is adjusted according to the reserves managed by the Federal employment agency. In 2013 they totaled 247 Million euros[9]
Holiday pay -- Financed by companies


  1. ^ FRIEDRICH GEIGER. "Germany Sees Surge in Number of Refugees Receiving Benefits". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2 October 2016. In total, 5.9 million people received social security benefits in June, of which 1.6 million were foreigners, according to the Federal Employment Agency. 
  2. ^ Bump, Jesse B. (October 19, 2010). "The long road to universal health coverage. A century of lessons for development strategy" (PDF). Seattle: PATH. Retrieved March 10, 2013. Carrin and James have identified 1988—105 years after Bismarck’s first sickness fund laws—as the date Germany achieved universal health coverage through this series of extensions to growing benefit packages and expansions of the enrolled population. Bärnighausen and Sauerborn have quantified this long-term progressive increase in the proportion of the German population covered mainly by public and to a smaller extent by private insurance. Their graph is reproduced below as Figure 1: German Population Enrolled in Health Insurance (%) 1885–1995. 
    Carrin, Guy; James, Chris (January 2005). "Social health insurance: Key factors affecting the transition towards universal coverage" (PDF). International Social Security Review. 58 (1): 45–64. doi:10.1111/j.1468-246X.2005.00209.x. Retrieved March 10, 2013. Initially the health insurance law of 1883 covered blue-collar workers in selected industries, craftspeople and other selected professionals.6 It is estimated that this law brought health insurance coverage up from 5 to 10 per cent of the total population. 
    Bärnighausen, Till; Sauerborn, Rainer (May 2002). "One hundred and eighteen years of the German health insurance system: are there any lessons for middle- and low income countries?" (PDF). Social Science & Medicine. 54 (10): 1559–1587. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(01)00137-X. PMID 12061488. Retrieved March 10, 2013. As Germany has the world’s oldest SHI [social health insurance] system, it naturally lends itself to historical analyses.  |first3= missing |last3= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ "The Case for Universal Health Care in the United States". Cthealth.server101.com. Retrieved 2011-08-06. 
  4. ^ Health Insurance in Germany – Information in the English & German Language
  5. ^ DiPiero, Albert (2004). "Universal Problems & Universal Healthcare: 6 COUNTRIES — 6 SYSTEMS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 February 2006. 
  6. ^ A. J. W. Goldschmidt: Der 'Markt' Gesundheitswesen. In: M. Beck, A. J. W. Goldschmidt, A. Greulich, M. Kalbitzer, R. Schmidt, G. Thiele (Hrsg.): Management Handbuch DRGs, Hüthig / Economica, Heidelberg, 1. Auflage 2003 (ISBN 3-87081-300-8): S. C3720/1-24, with 3 revisions / additional deliveries until 2012
  7. ^ World Health Organization Statistical Information System: Core Health Indicators
  8. ^ Germany country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (December 2005). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ Financial results of the Employment Agency