Social security: A help in many situations

Germany has a well-developed Social security system. As a jobholder paying statutory social security payments, you are sure of being protected against the biggest risks – for example illness, occupational accidents, unemployment, or when you grow old. Here, we explain about the different types of statutory social security that exist and what the situation is regarding your entitlements if you want to move back to your home country.

Social security: A help in many situations

German social security

What the social security funds do

Germany has a well-developed Social security system. If you work in Germany and are subject to social security contributions, you will usually be a member of the following five statutory social security organisations:

  • The statutory health insurance fund pays the costs of visits to the doctor, and for medication and therapy.

  • The statutory long-term care insurance fund offers basic insurance for the eventuality of your being dependent on long-term care owing to illness. This usually applies to people in old age.

  • The statutory pension insurance fund pays employees a pension once they have retired. Basically, the amount of pension you receive depends first and foremost on your income and the number of years you have worked in Germany.

  • Statutory accident insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and occupational rehabilitation after an accident at work or in the case of an occupational illness.

  • The statutory unemployment insurance fund provides the unemployed with income for a certain period of time if, as a general rule, they have been insured for at least one year during the last two years and are in search of a new job. In addition, the BA (Federal Employment Agency) supports job-seekers by providing advice and acting as an intermediary for offers of employment.

What social security costs 

A fixed percentage of your work income goes to pay your membership of these social security funds. Your employer also pays a fixed proportion. By way of example: membership of the statutory health insurance fund currently costs 14.6 percent of your work income – you pay 7.3 percent of this and your employer 7.3 percent. You do not have to do anything to transfer the money. Your employer pays the contributions for all five types of social security directly to the insurance funds.

A special case: health insurance 

As an employee, you are automatically a member of the pension, long-term care, accident and unemployment insurance funds. There are not several providers of these types of insurance. Health insurance represents a special case. A large number of insurance companies exist and as a statutory insurance payer, you can choose the health insurance fund which you feel offers the best services. The general rate of contributions is the same whichever health fund you choose. However, some funds demand an additional contribution, which is basically alone to bear by the workers. The average additional contribution is 1.1 percent in 2017. When you have chosen your health insurance fund, notify your employer. The employer will then register you with that fund. 

Health insurance represents a special case in another way too: if your annual income exceeds a certain amount, you are not bound to be a member of a statutory insurance fund. You are obliged to be insured, but you can join a private health insurance fund. In 2018, this is the case if your gross annual income exceeds 59,400 euros. As it is not very simple to change back from a private health fund to a statutory fund, you should think carefully before taking this step.

The social security card

As an employee, you will receive a Social security card with a social security number on it. Give this number to your employer. Keep your Social security card safe as you will often need the number. If you lose your Social security card, you can ask the German state pension fund (Rentensversicherung) for a replacement.

Pension entitlements

Taking your pension entitlements back home with you

Have you worked for a while in Germany and want to return to your home country? Then there are essentially two options for how you can take your pension entitlements with you:

If your home country is part of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you will not lose the social security entitlements you earned while in Germany, such as those from the statutory pension insurance fund. When you reach the age of retirement, you can be paid a pension from any EU or EEA country in which you have worked, in accordance with the particular country’s provisions. In principle, if you worked in two countries, for example, you will receive pension payments from two countries.

The same applies if you live in one of the following countries with which Germany has signed an agreement on social security: Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, South Korea, Turkey, Tunisia, USA. In this case, you can simply submit an application to the pension fund in your home country referring to the periods during which you were insured in Germany. The pension fund in your home country then forwards this request to the German state pension fund.

But even if your home country is a third country, you will not lose the entitlements you earned through the payment of contributions. After the waiting period has elapsed and any other requirements have been met, you may be entitled to a pension. If this is the case, you should submit your request to the German embassy or a consulate, where the information can be authenticated directly. From there, your request will be forwarded to Germany. Please note, however, that in the case of a German pension, the German regulations concerning retirement age shall always apply – not those of your home country. Further details are available from the German state pension fund.

In certain cases, after returning to your home country, you can submit to the German state pension fund an application to have your contributions refunded to you. At least 24 calendar months must have elapsed since you left the German state pension fund – that is, since you terminated your employment with your German employer. However, please bear in mind that the German pension fund will only refund half of the contributions paid for you (namely, without the employer’s contribution). On the basis of the refunded contributions, the entire insurance relationship will end. This means that you also will have no entitlements at any later point in time. Apart from that, this refund of contributions is only possible if you are no longer eligible for optional insurance. Further details are available from the German state pension fund.

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German Social Insurance

Brief explanations about the German social security (German, English, French)

National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds

List of all the statutory health insurance funds (German)

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