Public social insurance is among the fundamentals of a social welfare state, and includes the following classes of insurance:

  • Unemployment insurance
  • Pension insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Long-term care insurance

Employer and employee pay each pay half of the premiums - with few exceptions. For example, the employer covers all premiums for public accident insurance.

Unemployment insurance

Employees and apprentices in gainful employment generally have to participate in public unemployment insurance. There are exceptions for certain types of employment and for negligible jobs.

With the premiums from unemployment insurance, the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit - website in German) protects the subsistence of unemployed persons by means of unemployment benefits. Furthermore, it provides assistance with occupational rehabilitation.

Pension insurance

Public pension insurance provides support with funding for rehabilitation and pension benefits during retirement or partial retirement, as well as after a spouse's death.

With few exceptions, insurance is compulsory for employed persons as well as, in some cases, for the self-employed. Those who are not obligated to participate in public insurance can usually also voluntarily join public pension insurance.

Health insurance

Public health insurance covers the healthcare of their insurants. It covers, for example, physician and hospital costs and pays sick benefits in the event of incapacity to work.

One distinctive feature of public health insurance in Germany is family coverage: It covers spouses and registered partners, as well as children with no additional premiums under certain conditions.

Public health insurance is usually obligatory for employed persons up to a certain annual salary. The salary threshold is redefined annually.

It 2012, it was 50,850 euros. However, even those not in public health insurance must have health insurance coverage: This may be voluntary insurance coverage with a public provider, which is subject to special conditions, or you can conclude a private health insurance policy with an insurance company. Switching from private health insurance back into the public system at a later time is generally not possible.

You can receive advice on legal questions regarding health insurance in international and transnational situations from the German Liaison Office for Health Insurance Abroad  (Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankenversicherung Ausland).

Accident insurance

Employed persons, as well as, for example, pupils and apprentices, are insured by public accident insurance, independent of their income level.

It covers the consequences of work accidents and occupational illness, providing benefits such as

  • Curative treatment
  • Rehabilitation
  • Pension payments
  • Measures for preventing work accidents and occupational illnesses
  • Avoiding work-related health hazards.

In contrast, accidents occurring on private time fundamentally are not covered by public accident insurance.


Long-term care insurance

When a person requires long-term care due to an illness or a disability, social long-term care insurance comes into effect and covers a portion of the long-term care costs. It covers benefits like funding for care and training for family members. Individuals required to participate in public health insurance are also automatically in social long-term care insurance.

Voluntary members of public health insurance are also required to be in social long-term care insurance, but can be released from this obligation under certain conditions if they have private long-term care insurance. Those with private health insurance must also conclude a policy for private long-term care insurance.

Useful links

You will find an overview of all classes of social insurance at

Information on social assistance, benefits and rights is also offered by the website Social Reader (Sozial-Fibel - website in German).

You will find information and links on health insurance, long-term care insurance, accident insurance, pension insurance and unemployment insurance on the Internet pages of the respective federal ministries:
Health insurance (website in German)
Long-term care insurance (website in German)
Pension insurance
Accident insurance (website in German)
Labour market

You can direct any questions you may have to your respective insurance provider.

Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit) and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales) have set up public telephone lines you can also turn to.