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Social Security in Germany

Social Security in Germany


Social Security and Insurance / Social Security Number

Germany has a robust social security system. If your monthly income exceeds 538 euros and you are not self-employed, then your income is subject to social security and insurance payments. Most people who live in Germany and earn this kind of income have statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung), long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung), pension insurance (Rentenversicherung), and unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung).

Employees at Freie Universität Berlin with an employment contract are covered by the university as their employer. That means that the statutory contributions for the various social security insurance plans are automatically deducted from your gross salary. Generally, that comes to about 20% of an employee’s gross income.

Normally, you should automatically receive your social security card by mail from the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung). Usually, the card arrives during your first month of employment, once your first month’s income has been calculated and Freie Universität Berlin has reported you as an employee to the various insurance providers. If you do not receive your card within this time, be sure to contact your insurance provider.

You will want to file your social security card carefully with other important personal documents as you will need to present it on occasion throughout your professional life (usually when changing employers).


Health Insurance

In Germany, all residents are required to have health insurance. Coverage must include medical treatment for acute medical conditions and for accidents in Germany.  


Statutory Health Insurance
Unlike the other types of insurance for pensions, long-term care, accidents, and unemployment, where you do not get to choose your provider as a non-self-employed employee, with statutory health insurance it is different. You can pick your health insurance provider. Statutory health insurance coverage is basically standardized. There might be some minor differences when it comes to customer service, additional coverage, and optional costs. Health insurance costs must adhere to federal rates based on your income. The standard rate for statutory health insurance is currently 14.6%. In addition, health care providers can charge supplementary individual rates. Please check with your individual health care provider.

Family members traveling with you can also be covered by your family insurance plan at no extra cost. Your family members are eligible if you are married or have entered a civil partnership according to the German Act on Registered Life Partnerships, they live in Germany and do not earn more than 538 euros a month.

Statutory health insurance providers must provide coverage for the insured even if they have pre-existing medical conditions. Starting from the very first day of coverage, the health insurance provider is fully responsible for costs associated with any pre-existing conditions.

If you are insured through statutory health insurance, you will receive a chip card which you need to present once per quarter when you visit a doctor.

You can find an overview of statutory health insurance providers here (in German).


*** Compulsory Insurance Limit:
If you earn more than a certain income level, you can choose between a statutory health insurance or a private health insurance.


Private Health Insurance
Compulsory insurance is only required up to a certain income level.  If you earn more than that, your health insurance provider will let you know by sending you a notification stating that you are now insured voluntarily. At that point, you can choose whether you want to remain insured by your statutory health insurance provider or if you would prefer to switch to a private health insurance plan.


You can find an overview of private health insurance here (in German).


Long-term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) is directly linked to health insurance. When you have health insurance coverage, you are automatically covered by long-term care insurance as well as part of the statutory social insurance scheme. Currently, the long-term care insurance contribution for people with one child is 3.4% of the gross income, and 4% for those without children (contribution rate plus surcharge for those without children). The contribution rate decreases further if you have more than one child. For employees, half of the contribution is paid by the employer, but not the childless surcharge.


Pension Insurance

Pension insurance is also a part of the statutory social insurance schemes. It protects the insured person and their family if they have to reduce the amount they work or can no longer work due to old age or death. It includes medical rehabilitation care, occupational rehabilitation, pensions due to an overall reduction in earning capacity, pensions for the elderly, and survivors` pensions. Your statutory pension insurance is deducted directly from your gross income. The statutory pension insurance rate is currently 18.6%.

Employer and employee usually split the cost of the pension insurance equally. The employer registers their new employee with the appropriate healthcare provider. In turn, the healthcare provider then registers the new employee with all of the other social insurance schemes.

If you are leaving Germany after the end of your employment at Freie Universität Berlin, you can reclaim money paid into the German Pension Fund under certain circumstances. Only the German Pension Insurance Office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung, DRV) can definitively tell you whether or not you are entitled to a refund of your pension insurance payments – and if so, how much you will be reimbursed.

You can find more information and advice on the DRV website.


*** Please note:
Certain professionals, such as veterinarians and architects, can be exempted from pension insurance if they are members of a pension fund for their profession. The employer, however, still contributes to the employee’s pension. If this applies to you, the German Pension Insurance Office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung, DRV) must issue an exemption notice for each of your employers. You will also need to present a membership certificate from your professional pension fund

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance is withdrawn directly from your gross income and is currently at 2.6%. The employer and the employee usually split the cost of unemployment insurance equally.
You are generally eligible for German unemployment benefits if you were working in Germany before you became unemployed, have been employed subject to compulsory insurance for 360 calendar days over the last three years, and are willing to make yourself available to the employment agency. Prior periods of employment in other European Union countries or within the European Economic Area or Switzerland also count toward your eligibility.


Occupational Accident Insurance

Occupational accident insurance (Berufsunfallversicherung) is another one of the basic elements in Germany’s social security system in Germany. All employees are covered by statutory accident insurance. That means that you are insured in the case of an accident that occurs while performing your work duties or, for example, while on your way to your place of work. Please note that statutory accident insurance only provides coverage for you in work-related accidents and does not include protection for private matters not related to work. You may therefore wish to purchase private accident insurance.


Do you have questions about social security in Germany? If so, please contact us.