Social Security Germany: Understanding Benefits and Insurance Systems

The social security system in Germany is designed to provide comprehensive protection and support to individuals in various aspects of their lives. This article will delve into the structure of the German social security system, the benefits it offers, the different types of insurances required, and the process of obtaining social security in Germany.

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What is the Social Security System in Germany?

The social security system in Germany offers comprehensive protection and support to residents in various aspects of their lives. From health insurance to long-term care insurance, pension insurance, unemployment insurance, and accident insurance, the German social security system ensures individuals are covered throughout their lives. Understanding the requirements, contributions, and benefits associated with each insurance system is essential for individuals residing or planning to reside in Germany, ensuring their well-being and financial security in different stages of life. By navigating the social security system effectively, individuals can access the benefits and support they need, ensuring a stable and secure future in Germany.

The Structure of the German Social Security System: How to obtain social security

The social security system in Germany consists of several branches, each catering to specific areas of individuals' needs. These branches include health insurance, long-term care insurance, pension insurance, unemployment insurance, and accident insurance.

To access social security benefits in Germany, individuals must fulfill certain requirements:

Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Germany. There are two main types of health insurance: private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung, short PKV) and statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, short GKV). While GKV is the standard insurance for the majority of individuals, employees that earn above a certain income level, self-employed, civil servants and students are eligible for private health insurance.

Health insurance, wether private or public, is provided by various health insurance companies, offering comprehensive coverage for medical treatments, medications, and preventive care. It ensures that individuals have access to quality healthcare without incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Residents in Germany must have health insurance, either through statutory health insurance or private health insurance. Employees generally contribute to health insurance only half of the contribution because they are entitled to employer contributions. So their employer pays the other half.

To obtain health insurance in Germany, individuals need to choose a health insurance company and submit the necessary documentation to enroll.

Private insurance is an option for higher-income employees, self-employed, civil servants and students. It offers more extensive coverage than statutory health insurance.

Is private health insurance an option for you? Check out our article about the differences between statutory and private health insurance or inform yourself about our various private health insurance tariffs (you might be able to save up to 3,000 € per year).

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) is aimed at providing financial support to individuals who require long-term care due to old age, illness, or disability. It covers services such as assistance with daily activities, nursing care, and support for caregivers. The long-term care insurance system in Germany ensures that individuals receive the necessary support and services to maintain their quality of life and independence.

Long-term care insurance is mandatory for all individuals who have statutory health insurance. The contributions are shared equally between the insured person and their employer. When registering for statutory health insurance, individuals are automatically enrolled in long-term care insurance. Self-employed individuals also need to contribute to long-term care insurance based on their income.

Pension Insurance

Pension insurance (Rentenversicherung) aims to secure individuals' income in old age. Contributions made throughout one's working life contribute to their pension entitlements, ensuring a stable source of income after retirement. The amount of pension received depends on the number of years worked and the average income during that period. The German pension system provides financial security for retirees, allowing them to maintain their standard of living during their retirement years.

Pension insurance is automatically deducted from an individual's gross salary. Both employees and employers make contributions to the pension insurance system. To obtain pension insurance, individuals need to be registered for social security and be actively working or earning income. The contributions made over the course of an individual's working life contribute to their pension entitlements, which determine the amount of pension received during retirement.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung) provides financial assistance to individuals who become unemployed involuntarily. The benefits received help individuals cover their basic needs while actively seeking employment. The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) administers the unemployment insurance program. It offers temporary financial support to unemployed individuals, helping them navigate the job market and ensuring they have a safety net during periods of unemployment.

Employees in Germany are covered by unemployment insurance through mandatory contributions deducted from their gross income. The Federal Employment Agency administers this program. To access unemployment benefits, individuals must have worked and contributed to the unemployment insurance system for a certain period. In case of involuntary unemployment, individuals need to register with the Federal Employment Agency and meet the eligibility criteria to receive benefits.

Accident Insurance

The public accident insurance (gesetzliche Unfallversicherung) covers accidents that occur in the workplace or during work-related activities. It provides financial support, medical treatment, and rehabilitation services to individuals affected by workplace accidents. The accident insurance system in Germany ensures that employees are protected in case of accidents or injuries that occur while performing their job duties. It aims to minimize the financial burden on individuals and support their recovery and reintegration into the workforce.

Accident insurance is typically covered by the employer, ensuring that employees are protected in case of work-related accidents. Employers are required to provide accident insurance coverage for their employees, regardless of the employee's nationality or residence status. In case of an accident or injury in the workplace, employees need to report the incident to their employer, who will then initiate the necessary steps for the employee to receive compensation and support through the accident insurance system.

Additionally, you can take out private accident insurance to cover for accident risks in everyday life away from the workplace.

Social Security Number and Social Security ID: How do I get it?

In Germany, individuals do not have a specific social security number. Instead, they are assigned a social security identification number (Sozialversicherungsnummer) when they register for social security. This number is used to identify individuals within the social security system. It is essential for individuals to keep their social security identification number secure and provide it when necessary for administrative and legal purposes.

Social Security Contributions in Germany: How much do I pay?

The amount of social security contributions paid in Germany depends on the type of insurance and the individual's employment status:


Employees in Germany contribute to various social security programs. The contributions are based on a percentage of their gross salary, with the employer also making additional employer contributions. The social security contributions include payments for health insurance, long-term care insurance, pension insurance, and unemployment insurance. These contributions are automatically deducted from the employee's salary and shared between the employee and the employer.

Self-Employed Persons

Self-employed individuals are responsible for paying their own social security contributions. The contributions are based on their income and are typically higher than those for employees. Self-employed individuals need to register with the appropriate authorities and declare their income to calculate their social security contributions accurately. The contributions cover health insurance, long-term care insurance, pension insurance, and other applicable insurances.

Benefits and Allowances in the German Social Security System

In addition to the core social security programs, the German system provides various benefits and allowances to support individuals and families in specific circumstances. These benefits are designed to address specific needs and promote social welfare. Let's explore some of the key benefits and allowances available:

Child Benefits (Kindergeld)

Child benefits, known as Kindergeld, are financial support provided to parents or legal guardians to help cover the costs of raising children. It is a tax-free monthly payment per child, and the amount varies depending on the number of children. Kindergeld is available for all children under the age of 18, and in some cases, it can be extended until the child reaches the age of 25 if they are in education or training. The purpose of Kindergeld is to ensure that families have the means to provide for their children's basic needs and support their upbringing.

Maternity Benefit (Mutterschaftsgeld)

Maternity benefit, or Mutterschaftsgeld, is a financial benefit provided to pregnant women during the period before and after childbirth. It aims to provide financial support and ensure that expectant mothers can take time off work without suffering a significant loss of income. Mutterschaftsgeld is a combination of payments from the employer and health insurance funds. It covers a specific period before and after childbirth, allowing women to rest and recover while receiving financial support.

Parental Allowance (Elterngeld)

Parental allowance, or Elterngeld, is a financial benefit provided to parents after the birth of a child. It is intended to partially replace lost income during the period when parents take time off work to care for their newborn. Elterngeld is available for both mothers and fathers and can be shared between them. The amount of Elterngeld is based on the average income of the parent(s) and the number of months they decide to take parental leave. It aims to support parents financially and enable them to focus on their child's early development.

Sickness Benefit (Krankengeld)

Sickness benefit, or Krankengeld, is a form of financial support provided by the public health insurance to individuals who are unable to work due to illness or injury. It ensures that individuals receive a portion of their income while they are on sick leave and unable to perform their job duties. 

Sickness benefit or sick pay

Krankengeld is paid by public health insurance funds and is typically available after a certain waiting period (usually six weeks) of continued illness. The amount of Krankengeld is a percentage of the individual's regular income, and it helps alleviate the financial burden during periods of illness. However, the public sickness benefit has an upper limit in the amount and time. 

The statutory health insurance pays the daily sickness allowance for 78 weeks and 80% of your net income during this time.

Daily sickness allowance

In private health insurance you can also take out a daily sickness benefit (Krankentagegeld) insurance to compensate for lost ages due to an ongoing illness. It is paid after a certain period, which is usually 42 days. 

There's no limit to how long you can get this allowance when you're sick. You also can choose how much money you want to get each day. The upper limit with ottonva stands at 300€ per day.

These benefits and allowances are an essential part of the German social security system, providing support for individuals facing health-related challenges. They contribute to a more inclusive and supportive society, promoting the well-being of individuals.

Pension Entitlements in Germany: How much pension will I get?

The amount of pension an individual receives in Germany is determined by various factors, including the number of years worked, the average income during those years, and the individual's contributions to the pension insurance system.

The German pension system aims to provide a secure and stable income during retirement. The exact calculation of pension entitlements is complex and takes into account factors such as the pension points accumulated, the average income, and the age of the individual. To estimate their pension entitlements, individuals can consult with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung or use online pension calculators provided by the pension insurance authorities.

Marie-Theres Rüttiger
HIER SCHREIBT Marie-Theres Rüttiger

Marie-Theres is online editor for health and insurance topics at ottonova. She researches and writes mainly about private health insurance, (e-)health and digital innovation that make life better.

ottonova sales experts
HIER SCHREIBT ottonova sales experts

Our ottonova team of experts has over 40 years of experience in private health insurance and answers questions about it every day. What are old-age provisions and for whom does private health insurance make sense? What is the actuarial interest rate and which tariff is right for you? They know!

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