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Types of Employment in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-15
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Thanks to a strong and stable economy, the German employment market is extremely attractive to international applicants. As well as a diverse range of roles, there is a broad workforce definition which includes internships and freelance opportunities. German workers enjoy some of the most progressive employment rights in the world. 

Read on to find out about the types of working contracts in Germany as well as more information about the German hiring process.

Types of Working Contracts

What types of jobs are available in Germany?

There is a diverse range of roles in the German job market. International applicants are especially welcomed for roles in which there is a huge demand for workers. This includes nurses, doctors, engineers, mechanical technicians and IT professionals. Along with the range of roles, there are also a range of contracts. 

Permanent Labor Contract 

A permanent employment contract (unbefristeter Arbeitsvertrag) means the role has no fixed end, but is offered on a long-term basis. A permanent job role is ideal for those who are looking for job security and want to live in Germany for the long term. 

Fixed-term Labor Contract 

A fixed term contract (befristeter Arbeitsvertrag) in Germany is usually offered for a role in which an individual is only required for a certain time frame. This may be due to the nature of the role or to cover someone who is on leave. 

Minijob Contract

Minijob contracts are low-paid, low-skilled, part-time roles that have a salary of up to €450 per month. In a minijob contract, the employer pays just some or none of the health insurance contribution, which is subsidized by the government. These are also common roles for those students looking for a working contract in Germany

Contract with a recruitment agency

Some employers work with third-party recruitment agencies to find staff. In many short-term, temporary roles, individuals are actually contracted by the recruitment company

Freelancer Contracts

Freelancing is commonplace and means you can offer your professional services to a range of businesses. Freelance work is less secure, but more flexible. Freelancing involves being responsible for your own tax and health insurance contributions. 

What are the best jobs in Germany?

Employees rights in Germany are taken seriously. Rights are protected by the German employment law and the dedicated work of German employment lawyers, so wherever you work you can expect good pay, fair hours and the chance to progress


Hiring Procedure

Essencial information about the process

Like most bureaucratic processes in Germany, the hiring procedure is efficient, fair and transparent. Most jobs are advertised externally and can be found on company websites, social media, job listing pages or at a job center. 

When you apply for a role you will need to provide a cover letter, your CV and a copy of your relevant qualifications. It's important to check if your qualifications are recognized in Germany. Use the German government's own website, Recognition in Germany, to check your qualifications. 

How can I get a job in Germany?

First you need to find out whether you need a visa to work in Germany. It is possible to be offered a role before arriving in Germany, or you can look for work after you have moved. 

Large companies may outsource hiring to recruitment agencies. Some companies use Assessment Centers, where groups of candidates undertake a number of activities, allowing employers to assess suitability to the role. 

Generally speaking, employers will make a shortlist of applicants and invite those to attend an interview, before choosing who to offer the job to. For the interview you may need other documents, including proof of previous or current employment. This will be in the form of a Certificate of Employment or possibly an employment reference, if your previous role was outside of Germany. Upon being offered a job, you will be given a contract. 


Familiarize yourself with the German employment contract sample beforehand, so you know what to look out for when you receive your own contract.


Can I get a job in Germany without speaking German?

It's rare that you will find a role in which you are not expected to speak German, although a fair amount of English-speaking roles with basic German skills are available in major German cities, such as Berlin and Munich.


Working Visa & Health Insurance

What will you need for a German working visa?

A Working Visa is necessary for many internationals who want to live and work in Germany. Nationals from some countries are exempt, including EU/EEA nationals, although they will require a Residence Permit. 

Those who are moving to Germany to look for work will need to apply for a six-month Job Seeker Visa. Those who have been offered an internship will need an Internship/Trainee Visa and those looking to freelance will need a Freelance Visa. 

All visas in Germany require applicants to have a proof of health insurance. Those who have been offered a role should have evidence from their new employer that they have been enrolled onto a healthcare scheme. Those who are looking for work or planning on working freelance will need to set up health insurance in advance. 

Those who are looking for work will also need to prove they have the necessary funds to live in Germany for up to six months, ideally deposited in a blocked account

You can find out more about healthcare in Germany on our Health Insurance page and more about proof of financial resources on our Blocked Account page


Employees in Germany

Working Hours & Days

The defined working week is Monday to Saturday, whilst the standard working week in Germany for most industries is from Monday to Friday. 

How many hours is full time in Germany?

A standard full-time employment contract will mean working for 36 to 40 hours a week on average

What are the working hours in Germany?

Typical office hours are 9-5 Monday-Thursday and 9-4 Monday-Friday. According to the German labor law, working hours cannot exceed eight hours in one day or 48 hours in one week. 

Flexible working hours and working from home are becoming increasingly popular, especially for those with young children. Under the German law, employers are not required to offer this, but many will be prepared to come to an agreement. 

Also on the increase in Germany is the concept of Trusted Working Time, a flexible model of employment in which working hours are not monitored by managers. Instead, employees are trusted to work their hours as flexibly as the office allows. 

Are lunch breaks paid in Germany?

A lunch break of at least 30 minutes is both mandatory and unpaid in Germany. 

Salary & Taxes

The average German salary is €3,770 per month (around €45,000 per year) for a full-time, permanent role. The salary for a job paid at minimum wage, on a full-time basis is €1,500 per month. Doctors, lawyers, CEOs and engineers are amongst the country's highest earners. 

Since salaries can differ from job positions and even among different cities, at you can check current salary data for your desired position.

German employees are taxed at source and pay income tax on all earnings over €9,169 per year. Income tax starts at 14%, rising to 45% for the very highest earners. 

Those who are employed and those who are self-employed need to submit a yearly tax report called a Steuererklärung

Find out more about the German Tax System on our page

Holidays and Vacation Time

In Germany, full employment also comes with an annual leave entitlement, some of the highest in the world in fact. On average workers are granted 30 days of annual leave per year, with a legal minimum of 24. This is a paid vacation leave, which does not affect monthly salaries. 

Germany also has ten public holidays each year which workers enjoy in addition to their annual leave entitlement. This includes national holidays and religious celebrations. 

You can find out more about festivities and public holidays on our German Holidays and Celebrations page

How much vacation do German workers get?

German workers have an entitlement of annual leave of at least 24 days a year, with an average of 30. 

How productive is Germany?

Despite the large amount of annual leave entitlement as well as the shorter working week and trusted work time, Germany continues to be one of the most productive countries in the world. The overall German employment rate is high. The unemployment trend in Germany continues to go downwards and is currently just over 3%, one of the lowest in the world.  

Sickness & Work

If you are too sick, either physically or mentally, to attend work, you should let your employer know at the earliest convenience. Workers are protected under the German law to be paid in full for up to six weeks, usually only once within a one-year period. 

In Germany, those that suffer from long-term sickness that lasts over six weeks can apply for statutory sickness payment, which is paid at 70% of your normal salary, up to a maximum of 78 weeks. This sickness benefit is covered by the health insurance, and should apply whether you have a private or public health insurance provider. 

How many sick days do you get in Germany?

German workers receive full pay for up to six weeks. Workers are paid a statutory sickness payment for a further 78 weeks of 70% of their salary. 

Other Benefits for Employees

Women must take the Maternity Leave from six weeks before their baby is due until eight weeks after it is born. During this time, the employer needs to pay the employee in full. Both mothers and fathers are able to take the Parental Leave of up to three years. Employers do not need to pay workers during this time.

Parents are entitled to parental work benefits from the state that usually account to 67% of their normal salary. Employees' rights in Germany such as the Parental Leave are protected by law. 

What are the benefits German workers get?

German workers are entitled to Maternity Leave and Parental Leave. German workers are also free to work without discrimination, a right which is protected by law. 


Internships in Germany

Paid & Unpaid Internships

Internships can help young people gain work-based experience and knowledge. Internships can be undertaken during studies, sometimes by choice and sometimes as a requirement of the degree program.

An internship may also take the form of a traineeship which occurs at the start of a career. In Germany, an internship is mutually beneficial. An internship may result in a full-time, paid role at the end of the contract. There are both paid and unpaid internships available in Germany. 

Do interns get paid in Germany?

There is no minimum internship wage in Germany and many opportunities are unpaid. Some interns do get paid, however the salary of an internship in Germany is generally low and it might be not enough to live on. 

Can I do an internship after I graduate?

Yes, internships are a common choice for graduates to help get them started in their careers. 

What is an internship program?

There are numerous internship programs in Germany which connect intern candidates with businesses. Some programs are industry-specific, such as those offering engineering internships in Germany. 

How many hours do you work as an intern?

An intern role is intended to mimic a real employed role at a business, which means most internships will be offered on a full-time basis. Some student internships will be part-time, allowing students time to study alongside it. 

Financing Your Internship

Those on low-paid or unpaid internships will need to find other ways to finance their living costs. This may include being financed by parents or undertaking part-time work alongside the internship. To keep living costs down, look out for cheaper accommodation options or consider lodging with a family. 

Take a look at our Cost of Living page for more information about the average cost of living in Germany and how to live for less. 

Visa for your Internship in Germany

Usually non-EU/EEA nationals need to apply for an Internship/Trainee Visa when coming to Germany. 

You will need the following documents in order to apply for an Internship Visa: 

  • Internship offer 
  • Proof of qualification 
  • Copy of passport 
  • 2 x passport photos 
  • Proof of health insurance 
  • Proof of financial resources, such as a Blocked Account with sufficient living funds for the duration of your internship. 
  • Proof of accommodation 
  • Proof of sufficient German language 
  • Letter of consent from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit to prove you are permitted to work in Germany. 
  • No objection letter from university/current employer 
  • Receipt for visa fee of €75 

You will also need to attend a visa interview at the German consulate in your home country and bring the above documents with you. 

Do I need a visa to intern in Germany?

Most non-EU/EEA Nationals will need an Internship/Trainee Visa in order to undertake an internship in Germany. The nationals of some countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US do not require a visa in order to do an internship in Germany, but they will need to get a Residence Permit as soon as they arrive. 


Freelancer in Germany

Becoming a Freelancer in Germany

In Germany, there is an important distinction between being self-employed (Gewerbetreibender) and being a freelancer (Freiberufler). Freelancing generally applies to intellectual roles e.g. writing, law, teaching, consultancy, IT or arts. You would be self-employed if you were a tradesperson or own your own business such as a café or hairdressers. 

Is freelancing allowed in Germany?

Yes, freelancing is a perfectly legal way to work in Germany. It is increasingly common, especially amongst young people in urban areas. You can also freelance while employed in Germany and do some freelancing as a student in Germany. 

How many freelancers are there in Germany?

There's an estimated 1.5 million freelancers, making up a significant portion of the German workforce demographics. 

Benefits of being a Freelancer

Freelancing is increasingly common in Germany, especially in the major cities of Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg. It allows the freelancer the freedom to work at their own pace, set their own fees and carry out work for a wide range of companies. 


Use professional bodies to find freelance communities and do plenty of networking, this is where many businesses go when they are hiring a freelancer in Germany. 


Is it better to be a freelancer or an employee in Germany?

This depends entirely on your personality and the way you want to work. For young people, it suits a more flexible lifestyle and allows the freelancer to find their own work-life balance. 

How to apply for your Freelance Visa

In order to work as a freelancer in Germany you may need a Freelance Visa. This applies to nationals of most non-EU countries although there are some exceptions. You will need to make an appointment at the German consulate in your home country and collect all the necessary documents. 

As well as proof of personal identity, qualifications and accommodation, you will also need proof that you have enough living costs to cover you in case you do not start earning straight away, ideally via a blocked account. You will also need proof of health insurance. 


At Expatrio we can help you set up both a Blocked Account and Health Insurance online, partnering with some of the best providers in Germany. 


How can I get a Freelance Visa in Germany?

Once you have put together the necessary documents, you will need to attend your visa interview. Only after this may you be granted a Freelance Visa for Germany. 

Registering as a Freelancer

You will first need to register your address, ideally as soon as you arrive. You will be granted a Residence Permit and will be given a Tax Identification Number (Identifikationsnummer), which is provided to all German workers, whether they are employed, freelance or self-employed. As a freelancer, you must also apply for Tax Number (Steuernummer), you will need this number when you do your tax return. 

Where to register as a freelancer in Germany?

Registering as a freelancer is done as part of your Residence Permit application, which you will do at the local foreigner's office (Ausländerbehörde). You need to register for your tax number at a local tax office (Finanzamt). 

Taxes for Freelancers in Germany

Freelancers in Germany pay tax like everybody else. All earnings above €9,169 are taxable at 14%, rising to 45% for the highest earners. A solitary surcharge of 5.5% is included in the income tax amount and freelancers are able to pay this part of the contributions quarterly. 

Freelancers need to fill out an annual tax return after which they will receive a bill for the year's tax. The tax year is the same as the calendar year, and freelancers have until the 31st May to fill a return for the previous year. Freelancers should keep excellent records and use a freelance invoice Germany template when invoicing. 

Freelancers also need to pay VAT, which varies according to the service they provide. This is usually between 7-19% of total revenue. 
A freelancer will also need to pay for their health insurance. Freelancers can choose between a statutory public health provider, which covers dependants or a private healthcare policy, which is usually cheaper for a young individual. 

You can find out more about the taxes for freelancers in Germany on the German Tax System page

How much tax do freelancers pay in Germany?

From 0% to 42%, depending on how much they earn. Most freelancers pay 14% for earnings over €9,169. 

What is German VAT?

VAT, or Value Added Tax, is added to professional services and then paid to the Government by the freelancer. It ranges from 7% to 19%. 

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