How is unemployment insurance paid?

unemployment insurance

1. The most important things in a nutshell

In addition to wage replacement during unemployment (unemployment benefit), the benefits of the statutory unemployment insurance also include benefits for vocational rehabilitation and support in taking up employment and training. For most workers and employees it is compulsory insurance (exception e.g. civil servants). However, there is also an insurance option on request, e.g. for the self-employed or caring relatives. The contribution for employees is 1.2% of the salary.

2. Compulsory insurance

The legal basis of unemployment insurance is SGB III "Employment Promotion". Compulsorily insured are above all people who are employed more than marginally (mini jobs, marginal employment) or are in vocational training (Section 25 SGB III) for wages.

In Section 26 of the Third Book of the Social Code, a whole series of other persons subject to insurance are listed in detail, e.g .:

This does not apply, for example, to civil servants, soldiers or people who have reached the age limit for the regular old-age pension (Sections 27, 28 SGB III).

No application is required for compulsory insurance.

3. Insurance upon request

On application, people who work in one of the following types of employment can take out insurance (Section 28a SGB III):

  • Taking up self-employment (at least 15 hours / week).
  • Employment outside the EU.
  • Parents on parental leave.
  • Continuing Professional Education.

3.1. requirements

Within the last 30 months prior to this employment (e.g. caring for a relative) there was a compulsory insurance relationship of at least 12 months


compensation payments (according to SGB III) were received from the employment agency, e.g. unemployment benefit or transition allowance.

3.2. Request

The request for volunteer Unemployment insurance must generally be submitted to the local employment agency within 3 months of taking up this job.

4th contribution

(Sections 341 ff. SGB III)

The contribution to unemployment insurance is 2.4% of wages, but wages are only set up to the income threshold. In 2021 this will be € 7,100 / € 6,700 (west / east) per month. Employees and employers each pay half of this contribution.

In the case of insured persons without the usual wage, different calculation bases apply for the contribution, e.g .:

  • For people who receive benefits in vocational rehabilitation facilities that are intended to enable them to work: Calculation basis € 658/623 (West / East, 1/5 of the monthly reference value), contribution: € 15.79 / 14.95 (West / East).
  • when receiving sickness benefit, pension sickness benefit, injury benefit or transition benefit: 80% of the wage on which the benefit is based.
  • During the care period and receipt of care support allowance: 80% of the lost wages.
  • Caregivers (caring relatives): Calculation basis 1,645 / 1,557.50 € (west / east, 50% of the monthly reference value), contribution: 39.48 / 37.38 € (west / east).


The contribution in 2021 for voluntarily insured persons (people with a compulsory insurance relationship upon request) is set as follows:

  • For self-employed: Calculation basis € 3,290 / € 3,115 (west / east, corresponds to the monthly reference figure), contribution 2.4% of which: € 78.96 / 74.76 (west / east)
  • for self-employed in the year of establishment and in the following year: half of these amounts
  • For employees outside the EU: Calculation basis € 3,290 (corresponds to the monthly western reference figure), contribution 2.4% of which: € 78.96 uniform
  • In the case of parental leave or professional training: Calculation basis 1,645 € / 1,557.50 (west / east, corresponds to 50% of the monthly reference value), contribution 2.4% of which: 39.48 / 37.38 € (west / east)

Voluntarily insured persons bear the contribution alone.

5. The main unemployment insurance benefits

Unemployment benefit

Unemployment benefit in the event of incapacity for work

Disability> training allowance

Vocational rehabilitation> services (participation in working life)

Participation costs

Start-up grant

Transition allowance

6. Who can help?

The employment agency is responsible for unemployment insurance.


Source of law: SGB III