What should you expect to earn in Germany? Learn about German minimum wage in 2019 and average salaries for expats moving to Germany.
While minimum wage regulations have existed in other European countries for some time, the first federal minimum wage in Germany was only approved in 2014 under the Minimum Wage Act (Mindestlohngesetz). Before this, the country primarily relied on trade unions and business groups to set minimum wages.
Around four million people in Germany earn the German minimum wage. It applies to almost all workers 18 or older, with the exception of freelancers and some trainees and internships.
Minimum wage in Germany 2019
The minimum wage in Germany in 2019 is €9.19 per hour. This increase marks a €0.35 (4%) increase on the level seen in 2018. That means pre-tax wages of €1,593 for people working the standard 40 hours a week.
The minimum wage will increase again from 1 January 2020, when it will be set at €9.35. Despite these increases, some groups continue to campaign for a minimum wage of €12.
The federal minimum wage applies to almost all employees, including foreign workers, part-time workers, interns (under certain conditions) and people working through a probationary period. Overtime must also be paid at the same level, unless it is instead used as time in lieu that can be taken off at a later date.
Contract and temporary workers in Germany have different minimum wage levels. In April 2018, the wage increased to €9.47 an hour in western Germany, and €9.27 an hour in eastern Germany.
Exclusions from minimum wage in Germany
While the German minimum wage applies to most workers, freelancers don’t receive protection under the regulations.
Minimum wage in Germany also doesn’t apply to internships that last fewer than three months or are part of university courses, volunteer work or apprenticeships. Finally, people who are classified as long-term unemployed (Langzeitarbeitslose) can be paid below the German minimum wage for a six-month period when they first return to work.
You can find more information about exclusions from the German government (in German).
What to do if you earn less than the German minimum wage
Employers face heavy penalties if they fail to pay the minimum wage in Germany to their staff. When the wage originally came in to law, the Tax Enforcement Unit for Undeclared Work (Finanzkontrolle Schwarzarbeit) expanded its staff considerably to deal with companies breaking the rules.
Works councils and employee unions also monitor underpayment at an industry level, and in theory companies can be fined as much as €500,000 if they fail to comply with the regulations. Workers who believe they are earning less than the German minimum wage should first speak to their employer to try and resolve the issue before escalating it to a third party.
Employees can approach their union (if applicable) and if the employer still fails to remedy the underpayment, legal action may be necessary. Employees have three years to make a claim for underpayment of less than the minimum wage in Germany.
Average salary in Germany
Working conditions and the average salary in Germany are better than in many other European countries. According to OECD data based on 2017, three quarters of people aged 15 to 64 in Germany had a paid job, well above the OECD employment average, and the unemployment rate was just 3.4%.
According to research by De Statis (the Federal Statistical Office of Germany), workers in 2017 had average monthly earnings of €3,771, with a significant pay gap between men (€3,964) and women (€3,330).
Separate data from TradingEconomics showed a higher average salary (€3,899) in 2018.
Rises in salary in Germany
According to the TradingEconomics data, wages in Germany increased by around 1.5% year-on-year in 2018.
Average wages by industry in Germany
A 2018 report by the career networking site XING showed the top salaries paid in different industries in Germany. The top 10 paying industries were as follows:
- Banking and finance: €83,371
- Insurance: €82,554
- Consulting: €75,956
- Telecommunications: €72,626
- IT: €72,582
- Transport: 72,020
- Medicine: €71,696
- Utilities: €71,747
- Engineering: €71,134
- Legal: €65,907
Effect of the minimum wage in Germany
Data from the Institute of Social and Economic Research showed that in the first year the German minimum wage was applied, unskilled and low-skilled workers in particular enjoyed above-average increases in their German salary, as did employees in part-time employment (or mini-jobs, as these positions are sometimes known).
The biggest increases in salary in Germany were seen in the meat, security, gardening and landscaping, construction and catering industries. The fears that Germany’s minimum wage would affect unemployment levels were also unfounded, with unemployment actually dropping.