Labor Law

The minimum wage and average salaries in Germany

Learn all about the minimum wage and average salaries in Germany, as well as the gender pay gap and what to do if your salary is too low.

Germany minimum wage

By Valentine Marie

Updated 12-2-2024

As an expat, your job is often what takes you abroad. Therefore, it is crucial that you understand your rights within the labor law of your new home country, including how much you should earn. Fortunately, if you happen to be moving to Germany, the labor laws are fairly straightforward and the country has clear legislation surrounding the nation’s minimum wage.

To help you gain a better understanding, this article includes the following information:


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The minimum wage in Germany

Surprisingly, Germany was one of the last European countries to adopt a minimum wage in 2015, under the Minimum Wage Act (Mindestlohngesetz). This was set at €8.50 per hour, which, at the time, was higher than the equivalent in the US and UK.

a male supermarket employee performing a stock check using a bar code reader and a digital tablet
Photo: Tom Werner/Getty Images

Prior to this, minimum salaries in Germany were determined by trade unions and business groups. However, around 9.3% of workers in Western Germany and 20.7% in Eastern Germany were earning less than €8.50 per hour. This, coupled with the increasing pay gap between low and high-income jobs across the country, eventually led the government to implement a national minimum wage.

Since 2015, the minimum wage in Germany has risen multiple times, and as of October 2022, stands at €12 per hour, which is the second-highest in Europe; after Luxembourg. That said, it is important to be aware that not everyone is entitled to earn the minimum wage, and below is an overview of the different groups that do and do not qualify for it.

Who is eligible for the minimum wage?

Because Germany’s minimum wage is determined on an hourly basis, those working part-time in the country must also receive it. Therefore, if you work part-time in a coffee shop or a restaurant, you would qualify for it.

The minimum wage in Germany also applies to temporary and seasonal workers such as those within the agriculture or construction industries.

Who is exempt from the minimum wage?

Many young people begin their careers as interns. However, the minimum wage law does not apply to certain internships in Germany. This includes mandatory internships that students must complete as part of their course at an educational institution.

However, as of 2020, there is now a minimum wage specifically designated for those taking part in vocational training, or Ausbildung. The salary during Ausbildung depends on the profession and the location but generally ranges from €650 to €1,300, and increases after the first year of training.

three trainees watching a male carpenter cutting wood with an electric saw in a workshop
Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

Other groups that are exempt from earning minimum wage in Germany include the self-employed and those who have re-entered the job market after a long period of unemployment. In this case, the minimum wage does not apply for the first six months.

Notably, although children in Germany can start working at the age of 13, they are exempt from earning the minimum wage until they turn 18. There are also various conditions that employers must comply with when hiring teenage workers.  

What to do if you are not being paid the minimum wage

If your employer refuses to pay you – or isn’t paying you – a wage that is in accordance with the minimum wage in Germany, you have several options.

In the first instance, you should contact your employer in writing to request your proper wage after verbally requesting it. However, if this yields no result, you can go to a local Advice Center which will be able to advise you on your legal rights.

Average salaries in Germany

In April 2022, the average salary of full-time employees in Germany amounted to €24.77 per hour, €4,105 monthly, or €49,260 per year. This is much higher than in much of the rest of Europe. In fact, Germany had the seventh-highest salary in the European Union in 2021. Moreover, this figure has been steadily increasing each year. For instance, in 2011, the average salary was €3,311 per month.

German employee benefits generally include health insurance (where the cost is shared between the employee and the employer), long-term care insurance (a shared cost), unemployment insurance, and occupational accident insurance. Employees are also entitled to 20 to 24 days of paid leave, 14 weeks of maternity/paternity leave, and six weeks of sick leave.

Average salaries by sector

Naturally, your salary will depend on the sector you work in as well as your level of skills and experience. Below is a breakdown of some average annual salaries in 2021 by sector.

  • Accommodation and food service: €26,820
  • Business economy: €54,304
  • Construction: €46,410
  • Education: €58,597
  • Finance and insurance: €81,929
  • Public administration: €53,720
  • Transportation and storage: €41,730

Average salaries by region

Like in most countries, salaries in Germany also vary depending on the area you live in. To give you an idea, here are some average salaries for 2021 across a few regions:

  • Berlin: €42,224
  • Hamburg: €46,800
  • Hessen: €47,840
  • Nordrhein-Westfalen: €43,940
  • Sachsen-Anhalt: €35,360
  • Thüringen: €36,400

Notably, you can use the Paylab salary calculator to check how much you might earn within your field of work in Germany.

The gender pay gap in Germany

Despite being very economically advanced, there is still a significant gender pay gap in Germany. For instance, in 2021, women earned 18% less per hour than their male counterparts. Moreover, this has only decreased by 5% since 2006, showing slow progress in the area of equality.

a woman and two male colleagues working on a project at a table in a modern studio
Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the gender pay gap exists across multiple industries in the country, as well as different types of employment contracts, and skill levels. The gap ranges from 3% for a fixed-term employment contract to a whopping 23% for highly complex, expert-level work.

Germany has the fourth-highest pay gap in Europe; after Estonia, Austria, and Switzerland. By contrast, Luxembourg and Romania have the lowest; with 0.2% and 3.6%, respectively.

Salaries and wages for international workers

Similar to local salaries, the amount that expats can expect to make in Germany also depends on the field they work in, as well as their level of skills and expertise. As a result, the average salary for international workers varies significantly.

As of December 2022, Germany has a foreign population of almost 13,4 million. However, it is unclear which sectors they are drawn to. That said, salaries tend to range from around €53,903 to €79,386, depending on the industry.

What to do if your salary is too low in Germany

German labor law is explicit about the national minimum wage. Therefore, if you are being paid less than €8.50 per hour, and you are eligible for it, your employer is in violation of the law.

If your employer refuses to pay you the minimum wage, even after you have verbally requested it and expressed it in writing, you can take legal action against them through the Labor Court.

This is a fairly straightforward process and can be done with or without a lawyer. However, just keep in mind that the official language in the court is German. Therefore, you may need to ask a local friend to accompany you and help you communicate.

two women sitting next to each other at a desk and looking down at a laptop
Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

You will also need to complete and submit a claim form in German and send it to the Labour Court by post or fax, along with supporting documents such as your employment contract, list of hours, and identity card. Alternatively, you may want to consider hiring the services of a translation company such as lingoking.

If the employer still refuses to pay you the minimum wage in Germany, they are in violation of the country’s labor law and are liable to receive a fine or even imprisonment through the local Financial Control of Illegal Employment (FKS).

You can find more information about this entire process here.

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