Unemployment Benefits

Lost a job, retrenched? Find out where to go in order to register for unemployment benefits...

New arrivals to Germany do not normally qualify for any unemployment benefit, simply because they will not have made the necessary contributions or have worked the required number of hours within the defined period.

However, some EU nationals may be able to claim benefit. They must have been in work in their previous country of residence for a minimum of 360 days over the past three years (and paid contributions into the relevant schemes) and to have worked in Germany for at least one day.

Claiming unemployment benefit

Basic security benefits for jobseekers (Grundsicherung für Arbeitssuchende) provide a single set of benefits for those who can work but are unemployed or do not earn enough to cover basic living expenses. Benefits are handled by the Federal Employment Agency and local authorities.

Anyone who has been in employment in Germany and subsequently finds themselves out of work should go to their local employment office (Arbeitsamt) as soon as possible to register and make the necessary applications for benefit.

Qualification is usually dependent upon a contract of employment having been in force and payments having been made into the necessary fund. The minimum qualifying period is 12 months. The self-employed do not qualify and those who resign must wait three months before receiving benefits. Benefits are paid to those aged between 15 and 64 and are paid monthly in advance for periods of six months at a time.

There are two types of unemployment benefit:

  • Unemployment Benefit 1 (Arbeitslosengeld I), full employment benefit paid as a percentage of previous earnings
  • Unemployment Benefit 2 (Arbeitslosengeld II) a subsistence allowance

Full employment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld I)

If the claimant has no children, they receive 60 percent of their previous net earnings. If caring for children under 18, this rises to 67 percent. This benefit is payable for 90 to 360 days, depending on the length of previously insured employment and age. A full year's unemployment benefit is received if the person has worked for two calendar years or more (18 months for those aged over 55).

Subsistence allowance (Arbeitslosengeld II)

This allowance is lower than ordinary unemployment benefit and is payable when the claimant cannot receive full benefit or their period of benefit has come to an end, but they are still fit to work and registered as unemployed. Whether or not a person can claim for Arbeitslosengeld II will depend on savings, spouse's earnings and life insurance. A set amount is paid for those requiring social assistance (about €350 per month). Claimants must attend training courses, and be ready to step into any job offered them by the Arbeitsamt, even a very low paid one. Exceptions to this rule are sometimes allowed on mental, physical or psychological grounds or in cases where pay rates are deemed immorally low.

Exactly how much social assistance an individual receives depends on several factors, such as number and age of children as well as marital status.

While receiving benefits, reports must be made regularly to the job centre. The centre may make contact at any time requesting proof of job searching activities (applications and responses from different companies). Anyone claiming unemployment benefit must not be absent from their usual place of residence for longer than three weeks in each year. These holidays must be agreed in advance with the unemployment office agent.

Note: As soon as redundancy or resignation is confirmed,  the unemployment office at least three months in advance so that they can process the unemployment benefit application in time for the period of unemployment. Where the time between the announcement of redundancy or resignation is less than three months, the unemployment office should be notified within three days of knowing the end date of employment.