An overview of unemployment benefits and the conditions you must meet in order to receive them.
Under what circumstances am I entitled to benefits?
If, as an employee or trainee or as a person subject to compulsory insurance under employment promotion law, you become unemployed, you receive unemployment benefit if you have satisfied the qualifying period.
If, as an employee or trainee or as a person subject to compulsory insurance under employment promotion law, you become unemployed, you receive unemployment benefit if you have satisfied the qualifying period and you:
- have registered at the labour office and have applied for unemployment benefit
- have no job or you work less than 15 hours per week
- are available for work (i.e. you must be fit to work and prepared to accept any reasonable employment) and
- are actively seeking to end your unemployment, such as by writing applications and going to job interviews when invited by an employer, and
- have completed the qualifying period to claim unemployment benefits, i.e. you must have been paying contributions for at least twelve months of the two years before becoming unemployed.
If you are unemployed, you must take all opportunities to re-join the workforce. You will sign a written work integration agreement with the labour office on this subject.
The contribution rate for unemployment insurance is 2.5% of your earned income. As with pensions, there is a contribution assessment ceiling. The contribution is usually paid half-and-half by the employee and the employer.
Basic jobseekers' allowance (unemployment benefit II / income support):
If you are not eligible for unemployment benefits, you may receive unemployment benefit II on top of unemployment benefit or in addition to low unemployment benefits or remuneration, provided that you are:
- fit to work;
- in need of support;
- over 15 and under 65 (or have not reached the staggered age threshold, under section 7a of the second book of the Social Code) and
- normally resident in the Federal Republic of Germany (so are live predominantly in Germany).
People who are not fit for work and live in the same household as someone who is fit for work and qualifies for benefits (usually in a shared apartment), receive income support to ensure their subsistence, provided that they do not belong to the category of persons defined more closely in the twelfth book of the Social Code (SBG XII).
What am I entitled to and where can I apply for the benefits?
Unemployment insurance is a compulsory insurance with the Federal Labour Office. The Federal Labour Office is divided into the central office in Nuremberg, the regional offices and the labour offices in all major cities. All employees, trainees, young persons with disabilities and other persons subject to compulsory insurance are covered by unemployment insurance.
To receive unemployment benefits, you must personally inform the labour office that you are unemployed and apply for the benefit.
You are required to report voluntarily any change in your personal situation to the labour office, in case the change may impact your entitlement to benefits (e.g. if you start to receive a pension or have found a job).
- with children receive 67%,
- without children, 60%
of the net wage they received on average per day during the 12 months before becoming unemployed. Usually, the gross unemployment benefits are reduced by the legal salary deductions employees normally incur (generalised net salary). For 2021, the gross wage will be a maximum of EUR 7,100 per month in West Germany and EUR 6,700 in East Germany.
Labour offices pay unemployment benefit for 12 months at most (up to 24 months for older people). It depends in particular on how long you have paid contributions and how old you are.
To receive unemployment benefits, you have to have insured at least 12 months in the unemployment insurance in the last 30 months before registering as unemployed.
The labour office can withdraw your unemployment benefits for up to 12 weeks (blocked period), if you for example without cause:
- terminated your employment relations yourself or gave your employer reasonable grounds due to your behaviour, or
- refused a job offered to you by the labour office, or
- did not attend a reasonable professional reintegration event or
- do not turn up for an appointment or fail to declare yourself as looking for work immediately after being given notice of termination.
During your period of receiving unemployment benefits, the unemployment insurance pays for your:
- health insurance contributions so that you are also covered for health insurance.
- your contributions to nursing care insurance.
- Contributions to your pension insurance.
While on unemployment benefit, you are also insured against some kinds of accidents.
There are no special provisions in Germany for people who take early retirement. Nevertheless, in many sectors there are provisions under collective agreements for early retirement.
Basic jobseekers' allowance (unemployment benefit II / income support):
If you cannot ensure your subsistence adequately or at all from your income or assets, you may apply for basic subsistence benefits for jobseekers.
Whoever is in need for help has a constitutional right to receive support from the state. The basic jobseekers' support provides the necessary subsistence for a decent existence. These include nutrition, clothing, household goods, decent accommodation, heating, health and hygiene, as well as the possibility of maintaining interpersonal relationships and at least a minimum involvement in social, cultural and political life.
Unemployment benefit II is paid out by the local competent job centres. The benefits are usually approved for twelve months at a time. You must then apply again for the benefits and demonstrate again that you still meet the requirements for it. You must also report any changes which could have an impact on the amount of benefits (e.g. accepting work) immediately to the job centre. Benefits to secure subsistence are not paid for the past or for emergencies that have already been overcome. Therefore, it is recommendable to submit the application in good time. When applying, you must inform the job centre about your financial assets, e.g. indicate how much you have in savings and whether you own a house, an apartment or a car. If you provide them with false or incomplete information, you can be punished for fraud. In urgent cases, you may apply for an advance payment for the time while the job centre processes your application.
The unemployment benefit II or the income support is paid out by the local competent job centre as a monthly flat rate cash benefit. The benefits to secure the subsistence level of single people or single parents – the so-called standard requirement – are EUR 446 per month as of 1 January 2021. If several people live in a community of needs the standard needs are granted as follows:
- EUR 401 per month for spouses, life partners and other partnerships living together
- EUR 357 per month for other persons fit for work living in a community of needs if they are above 18 years or for adults eligible for benefits below 25 years who move without approval of the job centre.
- EUR 373 per month for adolescents above 14 years until they reach 19 years
- EUR 309 per month for children between 7 and 14 years, and
- EUR 283 per month for children under 6.
Additionally, the expenses for accommodation and heating are recognised as a need, if this is appropriate. Apart from this additional needs have to be taken into account among others for pregnant women or single parents, as well as one-time benefits, for example for initial provisions in case of birth or moving into a new home.
While receiving unemployment benefits II the Jobcenter pays your:
- health insurance contributions to ensure you still have health insurance,
- contributions to nursing care insurance.
For children, adolescents and young adults, the standard need is supplemented by benefits from the education and participation package if the personal requirements are met. There are allowances for school outings, field trips, personal school supplies at the beginning of the school year, school transport, for lunch at school, after-school care and similar facilities, for joint activities in sports, culture and children's and young people's leisure activities as well as remedial teaching or private tuition (learning support).
On this basis all people in need are helped to guarantee the socio-cultural bare minimum for a humane life.
Irrespective of that, the main purpose is to avoid that the need for help arises and, where it cannot be avoided, to keep it as short as possible and do everything to overcome it as quickly as possible. Therefore, the integration into the labour market is paramount for people who are capable of working.
True to the principle of ”promoting and expecting”, the Jobcenter provides all benefits required in each individual case to promote integration into the labour market, taking the principles of viability and economy into account. If employment within the general labour market is not possible in the foreseeable future, you have to accept any reasonable work opportunity offered.
Therefore, invitations to the job centre have to be accepted. If you do not attend and have no valid reason, your unemployment benefits II can be reduced.
You receive unemployment insurance, as well as jobseeker’s allowance only by applying for it. Applications are made at labour offices and job centres, where you can obtain the relevant forms.
Trade unions, among others, offer their members free advice on social rights issues. Jobcenters are by law obliged to advise on the benefits of unemployment insurances. Charitable associations such as unemployment centres help those in need with the forms and will also accompany you, if required, to the public authorities.
European Commission publications:
Federal Labour Office
Regensburger Strasse 104
Tel.: +49 911 179 0
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Central Employment Agency
The website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is http://bmas.de