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The German Social Security System

As a rule, employees are compulsorily insured and receive protection and support in case of illness, incapacity for work/disability or unemployment, after an accident, in the need of long-term-care and in old age.

The german social security system consists of five elements:

  • Health insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Pension insurance
  • Nursing care insurance

Health insurance

In Germany, the costs of health care and medical treatment are covered by health insurance. When you visit a doctor, you must either present a health insurance card or pay the costs of treatment yourself.

Employees with a certain income (currently over 450 Euro per month) are compulsorily insured with statutory health insurance which means, your employer registers you with a health insurance provider. A portion of your wages will be deducted and paid to your social security insurance providers. Over a certain income you can be “voluntarily insured” in these statutory health insurance funds. In the statutory health insurance your spouse and your children are also insured, if they have no or minor income (family insurance). You can choose between different health insurance companies. The insurances differ slightly concerning contributions and benefits, but the basic scope of benefits is stipulated by law. For civil servants and persons with high income as well as for self-employed persons, there is the possibility of being insured in private health insurance.

It is very important to have sufficient health insurance coverage!

Accident insurance

The accident insurance reduces the financial consequences of accidents at work or occupational diseases and offers preventive services (prevention of accidents) and rehabilitation services.

Every employed person is insured for accidents which occur on the way to or from work or at work through the “Berufsgenossenschaft” (employers‘ liability insurance association). Your employer is required to register you with the “Berufsgenossenschaft” when you start working.

Important: If you are injured in an industrial accident, you must inform the doctor that the accident occurred at your workplace.

Unemployment insurance

Unemployment insurance provides material assistance in the case of unemployment and pursues active labor market policy. You are entitled to unemployment benefits, if you are out of work, have registered as being unemployed and have been paying contributions to unemployment insurance over a certain period of time. The “Bundesagentur für Arbeit” (Federal Employment Agency) provides various  advancement and mediation services for both employees and employers and has the aim to place as many jobseekers as possible on the labor market.

Pension insurance

Pension insurance is the key pillar for security in old age.

Your employer is required by law to register you with the German “Rentenversicherung” (national pension insurance fund). You will be issued a social security number, which you must keep in your records. This number remains unchanged, even when you change employers.

The main tasks of pension insurance are:

  • Payment of pensions to insured persons and to surviving dependants (widow/ers and orphans)
  • Implementation of medical and occupational rehabilitation measures

To be entitled for a pension, there are certain conditions that must be met. The insured must have reached a certain age (“age limit”), must have been insured for a minimum period (waiting period) and must have applied for a pension. (Due to the German-Turkish social insurance agreement, insurance times in Turkish pension institutions are counted in to the waiting period.)

As a rule, pensions are being received from the age of 65 (at the latest from the age of 67, according to a new regulation for younger people); an earlier pension start date is sometimes possible. The pension level depends on the contributions paid over the years. The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Security informs about the regulations for partial pensions, pensions due to reduced earning capacity and pensions due to the death of a family member (widow/ers’ and orphans’ pension).

Additional pension

The state pension, which is based on the principle of solidarity, should be supplemented by additional voluntary pension insurance, in order to secure the standard of living in old age. Consumer advice centers for instance, provide information about state subsidies for additional private or company pension insurance.

Nursing care insurance

Nursing care insurance provides social protection in the need of long-term care. Because of your contributions, you have a legal claim on financial aid for outpatient and inpatient care.