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Benefits in Germany as of 2021, 2020: the amount and types of unemployment benefits, child benefits, family allowance, benefits for the elderly and the disabled, migrants and refugees

This page contains information on the basic financial benefits in Germany. Here you will find out about the amount of unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld I, II), benefits for children and for parents (Kindergeld, Kinderzuschlag, Elterngeld, Mutterschaftsgeld), as well as benefits for refugees, asylum seekers. On the page you will find links to official application forms for benefits, as well as to the laws and useful websites. At the bottom of this page, you can share your experience on receiving benefits in Germany. Select the topics you are interested in from the content:


§ Types of benefits in Germany, Sozialgesetzbuch(SGB)

Germany is a country with a very well developed social system, the purpose of which is to protect citizens in the event of unemployment or disability, to provide support to children and youth, as well as to refugees sheltered in Germany and other groups of people in need of financial assistance. The main document regulating the right to benefits is the German Social Code (German: Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB). This document consists of 12 sections, each of which is a separate law regulating a certain type of social security. Therefore, in Germany, a certain type of allowance can be called either by the section number in the Code, or by the name of another law governing the receipt of the allowance, or by the name of the allowance itself, for example: SGB-XII or social assistance, social welfare. There are also a number of other laws governing the provision of financial support in situations not covered by the Code. Table 1 below contains the Social Code or other documents section numbers, as well as the names of the benefits that they regulate. Also in the table you will find the names of the institutions that are responsible for some allowance and where you can usually apply for it.

Table 1: Types of social benefits, allowances in Germany, pursuant to Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB and other laws

SGB section or title of law Main types of benefits, assistance Additional information Institution in charge
SGB-II,
SGB-III,
Hartz IV
Arbeitslosengeld II,
Sozialgeld,
Leistungen für Bildung und Teilhabe
Unemployment benefit, more precisely for job seekers(from 16 to 67 years old) and their families Labour exchange (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)
SGB-VIII Familienförderung,
Kindertagesbetreuung,
Hilfen zur Erziehung
Assistance to children and youth Youth Office (Jugendämter)
SGB-XII Hilfe zum Lebensunterhalt,
Grundsicherung im Alter und bei Erwerbsminderung,
Hilfen zur Gesundheit,
Eingliederungshilfe für Menschen mit Behinderung,
Hilfe zur Pflege
Social assistance, basic assistance for the elderly and other types of subsidies Social Security Administration in urban institutions (Sozialamt, also the departments "Amt für Jugend und Familie" or "Fachbereich Soziales")
SGB-I, BAföG BAföG Financial assistance to students (scholarships and loans) Amt für Ausbildungsförderung, Studentenwerk, Bundesverwaltungsamt
WoGG Wohngeld Allowance, supplement for rental housing Wohngeldbehörde
AsylbLG Hilfe nach dem AsylbLG Aid for refugees, asylum Refugee reception centers, the police (Ankunftszentrum, Polizei)
BKGG, EStG Kindergeld Parenting allowances Familienkasse der Bundesagentur für Arbeit

§ The right to receive government support. Application for benefits

The right to receive benefits from the state is regulated by the legislative acts mentioned earlier on this page. First of all, a person needs to have a status giving him/ her the right to receive benefits, namely, to be a citizen of the country or have the right to reside in Germany (Aufenthaltsrecht) and reside permanently in the country. This is a general rule, to which additional restrictions or conditions may be imposed by law.

An application for benefits is usually filled out on the basis of a form developed by the institution, with copies of all the documents required for verification.

To be able to receive benefits, a person has to submit an application to the institution that is responsible for this type of benefit. Without an application, no benefits are paid to the person. This can be a problem for migrants who do not understand the social system and do not know what benefits they are entitled to in Germany. For example, depending on age or social status, a person may be entitled to different types of benefits.
The application for benefits is usually filled out on the basis of a form developed by the institution, being submitted along with copies of all the documents required for verification. Given the bureaucratic system of Germany, it is best to file an application as early as possible so that the necessary benefits are paid on time. The time for receiving benefits is usually limited to a certain time span, after which it is necessary to apply again submitting the copies of the relevant documents. Therefore, you should not expect that by submitting an application you can receive unlimited support from the state. Be sure to remember about the validity of the decision on the provision of benefits and timely submit another application. Upon considering the application and its verification, the applicant will be given a decision on the provision of benefits, which will also indicate how long the applicant will receive benefits and in what amount.

When considering the application, depending on the type of benefit, the institution in charge determines whether the applicant is able to cover their necessary expenses from their own income or property. When calculating the income, taxes and social insurance payments are taken into account, as well as some other expenses.

Further on the page you will find links to the application forms for all government benefits discussed here.

§ Amount of social benefits, expenses covered by benefits

The main types of social benefits in Germany are as follows: 1) social assistance, 2) unemployment benefit ALG-II and 3) basic benefit in old age and in connection with disability. These benefits provide for the basic minimum human needs. In addition, the peculiar character of the person’s circumstances, for example, their need for treatment, special care, etc., is taken into account. Coverage of housing and heating costs is paid at certain rates and no more than the actual cost.

According to SGB-II act, the means of subsistence that shall be supported by state benefits include: food, clothing, body care, household items, electricity, participation in the social and cultural life of the community, and other necessities.

The amount of social assistance in Germany per adult living separately is 432.00 euros per month as of 2020. A separate amount of money is paid for rental housing along with some other subsidies.

In determining the amount of monthly benefits, the state takes into account the need to cover these basic human necessities. As a rule, a person receives a total lump sum stipulated by law. This amount depends on the age and life situation of the person. The table below shows the principal amounts of benefits paid in Germany.

Table 2: Regelsätze. The amount of social benefits in Germany as of 2020 (social assistance and unemployment benefit)

Life situation Benefit amount, in euros Benefit amount, in US dollars * Benefit amount, in pounds sterling * Category (Stufe)
Single, single parents 432.00 523.63 376.07 1
Adults living together, per 1 person 389.00 471.51 338.64 2
Adults incapacitated, disabled 345.00 418.17 300.33 3
Non-working adults under 25 living with parents 345.00 418.17 300.33 3
Young people from 14 to 18 years old 328.00 397.57 285.53 4
Children from 6 to 13 years old 308.00 373.33 268.12 5
Children under 5 250.00 303.03 217.63 6

In addition to these benefits amounts, they pay:

The chart below shows the change in the amount of basic social benefit of the first category (I Stufe see table 2 above on the page) per 1 person in recent years. As can be seen from this chart, over the past 15 years this amount has increased by 87 euros from 345 euros in 2005 to 432 euros in 2020.

Chart 1. Change in the social benefits amount in Germany
by year

The following table shows what basic needs are taken into account in social benefits and what percentage ratio to the total benefits they make. We should bear in mind that this allowance does not include the money for rental housing, medical insurance and other expenses that are paid separately to the recipient of the basic benefit.

Table 3: Regelbedarf. Social assistance: list of needs, per month

Needs Amount as % Amount in Euro Amount in US dollars *
Full benefit amount, Stufe 1 100.00% 432.00 523.63
Food, soft drinks 34.86% 150.60 182.54
Leisure, recreation, culture 9.59% 41.43 50.22
Telecommunications 8.94% 38.62 46.81
Clothes, shoes 8.76% 37.84 45.87
Accommodation, energy, repairs 8.87% 38.32 46.45
Household goods, household appliances 6.16% 26.61 46.45
Other goods and services 7.93% 34.26 41.52
Transport 8.33% 35.99 43.62
Hygiene 3.800% 16.42 19.90
Catering, accommodation outside the home 2.49% 10.76 13.04
Development, education 0.26% 1.12 1.36

Further on the page we provide more detailed information on different types of benefits:

§ Basic(prime) benefit for old age and disability, Grundsicherung

Upon retirement or inability to work due to a disability or other reason related to health, a person is entitled to receive the Grundsicherung im Alter und bei Erwerbsminderung allowance to provide for the relevant needs if his or her own earned pension is not enough to cover these costs. Basic information about this type of benefit is presented in the table below.

Таблица 4: Grundsicherung im Alter und bei Erwerbsminderung. Benefits in old age and for disabled citizens.

Benefit recipients
  • Persons over the age of 18 who are completely disabled due to illness or injury
  • Persons who have reached retirement age

In case they are unable to provide for their own necessities from their income or property.

Benefit amount In accordance with the established categories as of 2020 varies from 389.00 to 432.00 euros.
For details, see Minimum pensions, benefits in old age in Germany
Responsible institution Social Security Administration (Sozialamt)
Governing laws XII Section of Sozialgesetzbuch
Frequency of application 12 months
Link to the application form Antrag auf Leistungen der Grundsicherung im Alter und bei Erwerbsminderung
Details Detailed information and printed application forms can be obtained from the Social Security Administration, Sozialamt. When determining the amount of the allowance, the income, property and accrued money (the money balance) of the applicant are taken into account.

§ Refugee allowance, financial support for asylum seekers in Germany

On a dedicated page of our website you can find out what benefits and support refugees in Germany can obtain from the state: Benefits for refugees in Germany

§ Housing allowance, Wohngeld

Compared to other countries, renting a house in Germany is very expensive; therefore, families who don’t earn enough money to meet their needs can receive the Wohngeld allowance as a supplement for renting a house or to the owner for the maintenance of housing. Recipients of ALG-II unemployment benefits, old-age benefits, and some other benefits are not eligible for the Wohngeld because they receive housing money as part of another social benefit.

Table 5: Wohngeld. Allowance, subsidy for rent, housing maintenance.

Benefit recipients Citizens as well as foreigners living in Germany who receive low wages.
Benefit amount Depending on the family income, the number of people living and the cost of housing. Not above the rent amount. When calculating benefits amount, the following formula applies: 1,15 · (M – (a + b · M + c · Y) ·Y) Euro. The appendix to Wohngeldgesetz (Anlage 1 and 2) shows the values of the parameters used in the formula depending on the number of family members.
Responsible institution Housing Subsidies Institution (Wohngeldbehörde)
Governing laws Wohngeldgesetz (WoGG)
Frequency of application 12 months
Link to the application form Each land (federated state) in Germany has its own application form. For example: Antrag auf Wohngeld (for Hamburg)
Details The filled out application has to be submitted to the Wohngeldbehörde with the following documents attached:
  • Identity document;
  • Rental housing agreement;
  • Latest change in the cost of rental housing;
  • Confirmation of the latest residential rental payment, Kontoauszug;
  • Payroll sheets for all family members;
  • Upon request, copies of other documents may also be required.

§ Education assistance, educational maintenance allowance, Bundesausbildungs förderungsgesetz (BAföG)

State support for students in schools and higher education institutions is provided under the Federal Education and Training Assistance Act, abbreviated BAföG. Pursuant to this law, students are entitled to a loan or scholarship during their studies.

Table 6: BAföG. Loans, scholarships during education, training.

Benefit recipients
  • Students of all universities, academies;
  • students of secondary and vocational schools, starting from grade 10, who have not completed vocational education if they do not live with their parents;
  • extension school students;
  • students of vocational and specialized schools.

This benefit can be received by citizens of Germany as well as other EU countries after staying in Germany for 5 years, persons with a refugee status, and people with a permanent residence permit in Germany (Niederlassungserlaubnis). The beneficiaries have to begin education before the age of 30 (or 35 for Master-Studiengang), for those with children there are exceptions as to the age.

Benefit amount The amount of the allowance depends on the type of education, the cost of the student’s housing and other conditions. The maximum benefit amount since 1.08.2019 has made 853 euros for those who do not live with their parents. Students can earn extra money on their own and receive up to 450 euros per month, which will not affect the receipt of BAföG.
Refund of benefit Students receive this benefit on a non-refundable basis. University students will usually be required to return to the state 50% of the amount paid to them. The payments begin 5 years after graduation in the amounts slightly more than 130 euros per month.
Responsible institution To get help for school students, you need to contact the city administration, the department promoting education (Stadt- oder Kreisverwaltung). University students, to receive BAföG, have to contact the respective agency, which is available at each university (BAföG-Amt, Studierendenwerk).
Governing laws Federal Education and Training Assistance Act, BAföG
Link to the application form All application forms on the official website of the German Ministry of Education

§ Links to the laws and official sites on the topic: benefits, allowances in Germany

Information on child benefits, maternity benefits, as well as unemployment and refugee benefits in Germany, can be found on dedicated pages of our website:


Footnotes:

* The EUR exchange rate in the tables is taken as of 26 february 2021 and amounts to 1.21 USD or 0.87 GBP at the European Central Bank exchange rate. The EUR, USD and GBR exchange rates in Germany


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