Unemployment insurance for the self-employed: What is the unemployment benefit?

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If you are applying for a self-employed unemployment allowance I, the Arbeitsagentur uses the income for the calculation of your unemployment benefit I, which is obtained on average in the qualification level in which you wish to transfer the Arbeitsagentur. Kling complicated? But is actually quite simple:

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The problem of self-employed

The self-employed can voluntarily insure themselves in the statutory unemployment insurance. The conditions have changed significantly for 2011. Here is an overview of the new and old regulations. Only: Some may - others continue to remain unemployed only unemployment benefits II.

Self-employed people who realize that the job is not going well usually have a problem: they are not automatically insured against unemployment. Therefore, even if you have previously paid well into the statutory unemployment insurance as an employee for many years, you are usually not entitled to unemployment benefit after long years of self-employment. Some may feel like they have been knocked off the cliff and landed in Hartz IV!

Voluntary insurance

That this is not so great is also noticed by the federal government. Since 2007, the self-employed therefore have the possibility to voluntarily insure themselves. Until now, entrepreneurs were allowed to enter the statutory unemployment insurance only in the first month of their independence.

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This has changed now. However, you need to meet some conditions if you want to continue to insure yourself! For example, you must have been previously compulsorily insured. So no insurance for those who were never workers. And also not for those who have been independent for some time. Pity!

Conditions for long-term self-employment

  • In the two years prior to your start-up, you must have paid at least 360 days of compulsory contributions as an employee to the statutory unemployment insurance scheme or have previously received unemployment benefits or a different remuneration rate (transition, maintenance or insolvency allowance). How long you've got this money is no matter!
  • You must take a self-employed activity for which you work at least 15 hours a week. You have to prove this at the employment agency, for example through a commercial application or by your tax office at the tax office.
  • You must submit the “Application for voluntary continued insurance” at the latest three months after starting self-employment with the employment agency. The month is usually 30 days.

Unemployment insurance so far

The statutory unemployment insurance was for self-employed with about 20 Euro monthly contribution so far incredibly cheap - at full power! Because self-employed pay a fixed amount, which is calculated independently of the real income. However: From 2011 and even more so from 2012 it will be much more expensive!

Previous solution

Until now, self-employed persons pay only a fixed contribution of about 20 Euro for the unemployment insurance scheme and were fully entitled to all benefits of statutory unemployment insurance.

However, it has to save money because there is not enough income to meet high spending. Who knows, perhaps the much higher contributions for the self-employed are now pulling the cart out of the mud.

The contributions double!

From 2011 the contributions are simply doubled: In West Germany self-employed pay for 2011 38,33 Euro, in East Germany 32,60 Euro.

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But the “best” is yet to come: From 2012, the contributions will be doubled again: in 2012, the contributions will increase to 76,65 euros (West) and 65,20 (East) euros per month.


There is an exception: If you are only self-employed, you only pay 2012 Euro or 38,33 Euro in the first year of foundation.

You must pay this contribution alone as all other insurance contributions (apart from the artist's social insurance). You can also make it as an annual one-time payment.

Voluntary insurance becomes mandatory!

The problem with voluntary employment insurance: If your application is successful, an “insurance obligation on application” is created. You can only cancel this if you end your independence again or if the insurance has existed for five years - in this case you can cancel with three months' notice to the end of the month.

Whoever wants to terminate the insurance obligation beforehand, a trick helps: The insurance ends automatically if you have not paid the contributions for three months. However, you are no longer entitled to unemployment benefit.

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The conditions at a glance

If your work is suspended due to lack of order and you want to apply for unemployment benefits, there are four different qualification groups, where the employment agency is based on a lumped net salary. The unemployment allowance is then calculated according to this net salary. And this is how it looks:

  • for a university or polytechnic degree 3.066,00 Euro (West) or 2.688,00 Euro (East)
  • (2.240,00 Euro (West) or 2.240,00 Euro (East) in the case of a technical qualification, a master craftsman or a comparable degree.
  • with an 1.055,00 Euro (West) or 1.792,00 Euro (East)
  • if no training is required 1.533,00 Euro (West) or 1.344,00 Euro (East)

Payroll tax class

From these income you first deduct a lump sum of 21 percent for the social insurance contributions as well as the wage tax of the respective tax class and the solidarity surcharge. Even if the tax class does not matter to you as a self-employed person - it is used for the calculation of the unemployment allowance I.

Therefore check your payroll tax card, which is usually sent to you, and make a correction. Whoever does not have a payroll tax card / class is sorted into a notional wage tax class according to his personal circumstances at the beginning of the year.

If you are under 55

From this lump-sum net salary you get 60 percent if you have children 67 percent. For two months you have paid contributions, you receive two months of unemployment benefit I.

If you are under 55, you will receive unemployment benefit I but for a maximum of one year, if you are older, for a maximum of 18 months (deadline is the age on the day of application).

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For example, if you have a university degree but no children, you will receive unemployment benefit a month in West Germany in tax code I 1.124,00 Euro.

Conversely, you will be taxed in East Germany in tax class III 720,00 Euro if you have a child.

The Crux with the qualification groups

If the employment agency feels it is reasonable to put you in a step below your previous qualification (which gives you less unemployment benefit I), you can appeal.

The price-performance ratio makes unemployment insurance quite worthwhile for the self-employed, however, the changed conditions from 2011 must be taken into account. Because, to put it bluntly, unemployment insurance is not suitable for registering unemployed every few months with every order downturn. There are several reasons for this: You can only register as unemployed for a limited period of time. And it is simply too bureaucratic.

Apply only twice ALG

Unemployment insurance sounds great: Every time, if one is for a long time without orders, one goes to the Arbeitsagentur, is surely unemployed, gets money .. hurra! But stop, it's not that easy! As a self-employed person, you can apply for unemployment benefits only twice.

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After that, you only have a new claim to unemployment benefit I if you paid at least 360 days in the two years before the unemployment report - whether as a self-employed person or an employee does not matter!

Business etc. completely

Finally, in order to apply the unemployment allowance I, you must give up your self-employment, for example, by signing out your trade.

That would be more than awkward, especially because of health insurance.

It is worth only for highly qualified people

While the statutory unemployment insurance has been extremely favorable in recent years with monthly contributions to 20 Euro, this has changed with the increase in 2011 and the increase planned for 2010.

Although statutory unemployment insurance is probably still more useful than private insurance offers. However, compulsory compulsory insurance is worthwhile, which will continue for five years, especially for those who are classified by the employment agency into a higher qualification level.

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Residual claim on unemployment benefit

Even if you have only planned a temporary self-employment and have already claimed, but have not yet exhausted, an existing entitlement to unemployment benefits, voluntary unemployment insurance does not make sense. You keep your residual claim for unemployment benefit from the old job for four years - from the first application for unemployment benefit. In this case, you can save money.

There is no reason to postpone the application if you are entitled to a significantly higher unemployment benefit from a recently terminated employment contract than you would get as a self-employed person: in such a case, there is factual protection against the higher claim.

Problem qualification groups

The unemployment insurance can also be problematic, especially for the higher qualification groups. The decisive factor is not which qualification group belongs to the career path, but to which qualification group one appoints the employment agency to mediate. It may well be that the employment agency places a university graduate in the group without training, if it can not provide otherwise.

And worse: career coach Svenja Hofert reports in her career blog by Ms. Müller, Executivewho, unemployed after parental leave, was apparently randomly placed in the lowest qualification group and therefore only received a correspondingly low unemployment benefit. Apparently the employment agency had neither examined Ms. Müller's certificates nor queried the qualifications in any other way. For Hofert, this suggests “that it is often simply classified as blue and blue”, because she has researched even more cases, the “victims” of which are mostly women.

Conclusion: first calculate

Self-employed people who want to conclude voluntary unemployment insurance, because the conditions appear to be quite good at first glance, should once again calculate whether this really makes sense.

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And keep in mind: Unemployment benefits are only available if you have terminated your self-employment or have deregistered the business - and not with every small and large order backlog.

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  1. Simone Janson

    Hello Mr. Potter,

    since I have no legal basis under the Legal Services Act
    Legal advice, I can only provide the general information
    Quote that must exist to get from the employment agency
    To get unemployment benefit I:

    You must be unemployed, you must have the qualifying period
    and you must have reported yourself personally unemployed.

    In complicated cases, only one attorney can help.

    The question whether you just as a self-employed the probationary period
    , you can look at this page by yourself
    answer: [http://www.arbeitsagentur.de] ...

    What I do not mind on your post really interesting,
    is that the employment agency is pushing for an end to self-employment.
    Is not the opposite policy generally propagated?

  2. Wolfgang

    Hello, I, Master craftsman, was a few years of ALG II recipients and still self-employed at this time.

    Now I have logged off, at the instigation of the AG my GbR.
    I now also the ALG I too, since I still still, if only with 15 week working hours was professional?

    Best regards


  3. Lars Diel

    RT @AlmaMeise: Unemployment insurance for the self-employed: What is the unemployment benefit? (via @SimoneJanson)

  4. Alma Mater

    Unemployment insurance for the self-employed: What is the unemployment benefit? (via @SimoneJanson)

  5. Simone Janson

    Freshly blogged: Unemployment insurance for the self-employed: How high is the ...

  6. Competencepartner

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