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Arbeitslosengeld - Unemployment benefits in Germany

Updated: Mar 9

In Germany, there are two types of unemployment benefits: Unemployment Benefit I for those who have contributed to the social security system and Unemployment Benefit II for those in need of financial support. Understanding the eligibility criteria and application process for each benefit is crucial for those experiencing job loss. Both benefits play a vital role in providing temporary financial assistance to individuals during their job search.

how to get Arbeitslosengeld in Germany

Anybody could become jobless at any point in time due to any reason. However in Germany, you are covered if you become unemployed.

Germany offers two types of unemployment benefits; unemployment benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I / ALG 1) and unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II / ALG 2). Depending on your individual situation, you can decide which one to apply to.

In This Guide

Arbeitslosengeld I (Unemployment benefit I)

Unemployment benefit I is financed by unemployment insurance. Id at all or how long you receive the unemployment benefit usually depends on how long you have contributed to the unemployment insurance; compulsorily or voluntarily.

In general, you are insured for unemployment insurance as an employee. However, people who do mini jobs (up to 450€ PM ) and self-employed can voluntarily insure themselves.

In Germany, there have always been more people receiving unemployment benefits than income support. As per Statista, in July 2023, there were about 3.93 million people receiving unemployment benefits, while only 1.57 million people received income support. Moreover, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has been increasing steadily. Between May and June 2022, the number of recipients grew by around 200,000 people.

Number of recipients of unemployment benefits and income support in Germany

When you are entitled to unemployment benefit

Entitlement to unemployment benefit is essentially subject to the following conditions:

  • You meet the qualifying period. This usually means that you were employed for at least 12 months within the last 30 months before registering as unemployed (several occupations can be added together).

  • You are registered as unemployed at your local employment agency (Arbeitsamt).

  • You are not employed, but you can take up employment which is subject to compulsory insurance (at least 15 hours per week).

  • You are looking for employment which is subject to compulsory insurance and work together and registered at the Employment Agency (Arbeitsamt).

To avail the unemployment benefits, you must have a valid settlement permit or temporary residence permit in Germany.

Entitlement in special cases

In addition to the employment which is subject to compulsory insurance, there are other points that can be included for the entitlement to the unemployment benefit. For instance:

  • You are voluntarily on unemployment insurance, for example during self-employment.

  • You have raised a child (up to the age of 3).

  • You have received Krankengeld (Sickness benefit).

In these cases, too, you must have contributed to the unemployment insurance for a duration of at least 12 months within the last 30 months before registering as unemployed.

If you have often been employed on a fixed-term basis, a shorter qualifying period applies under certain conditions: then at least 6 months of employment subject to compulsory insurance contribution in the 30 months prior to the registration as unemployed would be sufficient.

How much unemployment benefit do I get?

Here’s a simplified explanation of how the unemployment benefit is calculated.

The calculation is based on your gross salary of the past 12 months. This amount is divided by the number of days of a year, i.e. 365. The result is your gross salary per day.

From this, the wage tax, the solidarity surcharge and a lump sum for social security of 20 percent are deducted. (These deductions are for calculation purposes only and are not actually paid.) The result is your net salary per day.

60 percent of this net salary is the amount you receive as unemployment benefit per day. It increases to 67 percent if you or your spouse/partner have one or more children.

Unemployment benefit calculator

Calculate the amount of unemployment benefit individually with the unemployment benefit calculator of the Federal Employment Agency (ArbeitsAmt). To do this, you first select the year in which the claim arises or has arisen, for example 2020.

How long you will receive unemployment benefits

The duration for which you receive unemployment benefit depends on 2 factors:

  • How long have you contributed to compulsory insurance, for example in the form of employment with contribution to the compulsory unemployment insurance.

  • How old are you..

As a rule, the periods subject to compulsory insurance must be within the past 5 years. Different jobs can be added together.

Duration of receipt for unemployed persons up to 50 years

If you are under the age of 50, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum period of 12 months – provided you have previously contributed to compulsory insurance for 24 months or more.

If you have contributed to compulsory insurance for the minimum period of 12 months, you can receive unemployment benefit for up to 6 months.

Duration of receipt for unemployed persons aged 50 and over

From the age of 50, the duration of the subscription increases in several steps to up to 24 months. This maximum duration applies to unemployed persons who are 58 years of age or older.

As a prerequisite, you have contributed to compulsory insurance for 48 months or more.

Duration of receipt for fixed-term employment

If you meet the requirements for the shorter qualifying period, the following applies: For example, if you have 8 months contributions to the compulsory insurance, you can receive up to 4 months of unemployment benefit.

How to apply for unemployment benefit I

If you wish to apply for unemployment benefits, follow the below procedure as soon as possible to get the unemployment benefits without delay.

Register at ArbeitsAmt

Register in as soon as you resign. You need to register at least three months before the end of your employment contract.

If you become unemployed unexpectedly, you need to register within three days of receiving the official confirmation from your employer.

You can also reach out to their toll free number 0800 4 5555 00 or walk into the office and register in person. Please note that the officials may not always speak English. Therefore, it's better to bring a translator with you when you go there.

Documents required to register

You may bring the following documents with you:

Fill out and submit the application

You get the application form at ArbeitsAmt during your appointment. You already download and fill out the form from before you go.

Alternatively, you can do this online at the

In two to three weeks, you will get a letter by post on the decision on your application. You may be invited for a meeting with a counsellor at arbeitsamt. The counselor will inform you further about the processes, aspects and expectations about the program.

Hartz IV (Unemployment benefit II)

Hartz IV / is the colloquial term for unemployment benefit II. This benefit of the Federal Employment Agency serves to secure your livelihood. Unemployment benefit II is intended to guarantee a dignified life.

You can receive unemployment benefit II if

  • You are able to work at least 3 hours a day,

  • You are at least 15 years old and have not yet reached the statutory retirement age,

  • You have your habitual residence in Germany

  • You cannot or not sufficiently secure your livelihood (and that of your family) yourself


  • You live with an employable person entitled to benefits in a community of need.

Unemployment benefit II is only paid to persons in need of assistance. Therefore, they must first use their own funds before receiving financial aid. If you have income or assets, you must first secure your livelihood if allowances are exceeded.

You may receive the Sozialgeld (social benefits) if you are not capable of earning due to any health or other reasons, but if you live in a joint household with someone who is entitled to the unemployment benefit II.

Unemployment benefit II: payment and duration

Unemployment benefit II is usually granted for 12 months. However, unemployment benefit II is only granted for 6 months under certain conditions.

  • If your income fluctuates,

  • If you are self-employed


  • If the cost of your accommodation and its heating is unreasonable.

The normal requirement globally covers the costs of food, clothing, household energy (without heating and warm water generation), personal hygiene, household effects, needs of everyday life, as well as to a reasonable extent also relates to the environment and participation in cultural life.

Singles, single parents, as well as adults with a minor partner are entitled to the full amount of normal requirement. Since 1 January 2016, this is EUR 404 for all of Germany. The normal requirement for adult partners is EUR 364. Children younger than 6 years receive EUR 237. Between 6 and including 13 years of age this is EUR 270. Children and young persons between 14 and 17 years receive EUR 306. For young adults from 15 years on and below 25 years who live with their parents or who moved without the positive assertion of the municipal authority, this is EUR 324.

Young adults who are 25 years and older must file their own application for (ALG II), regardless of the fact whether they live in their own flat or with their parents. Persons living in their own household form a separate benefit community (BG) if they are at least 15 years old.

The official portal of arbeitsagentur has documented the concept well in detail.

How to apply for unemployment benefit II

Unemployment benefit II is only granted when you use up all other benefits such as Child benefits, Housing benefits, Parental allowance etc.

If you cannot meet your basic living needs even after using all the other benefits, you may apply for the unemployment benefit II

Register at your local Jobcentre

You have to visit your local Jobcenter in person and register.

Documents required to register at the local Jobcenter

  • Valid passport

  • Social security ID (Sozialversicherungsnummer / ID)

  • Your residence permit (if required)

During your appointment, the counselor who’s attending you will discuss your individual situation and detail the processes and features about the program.

Fill out and submit your application for Unemployment Benefit II

Your counselor will provide you with the relevant forms and documentation at your initial appointment. You may also apply online on the official arbeitsagentur portal. Please note that you may have to provide additional documents such as bank statements or salary slips, etc.

Once the application is submitted, the agency will consider it at the earliest chance. You will receive a notification by post if you are eligible to receive the benefit. The notification will include the schedule of payments as well as the immediate next steps you need to do; such as applying for jobs, taking training, etc.

how to find a job in Germany

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