Social Security in Germany

with Sebastian Hoffmann



    This webinar deals with the basics of the German health insurance system. You will learn the difference between private and statutory insurance, how health insurance for employees works and the basics of the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK). As in the webinar on taxes, special attention will be paid to „hybrid workers" who work both as employees and as self-employed. You will also get a general overview of the German pension insurance system, the Versorgungskammer der deutschen Bühnen, unemployment insurance and other insurances. At the end, there will be a short overview of the coordination of social security in Europe, which is important if you work outside Germany.

    The webinar was produced in 2023 and provides basic knowledge. Please note that there may be changes to specific dates or details. We will always endeavour to keep you as up to date as possible with any updates.



    • When you move to Germany from another country, do you need to get health insurance in Germany?
    • You are insured through the “Künstlersozialkasse”. Do you need to inform them when you start an employment contract (on payroll)?
    • You have a client who wants you to work as an assistant on a freelance basis. The client decides on what you should do. Is this possible?
    • You have a client who hires you for freelance artistic work. The client says that they must deduct the “Künstlersozialabgabe” from your fee. Is this correct?
    • When you work as a freelance artist, you are covered in the case of work accidents. Is this true?
    • During your studies, you are already working as a freelance artist. Can you get insurance through the “Künstlersozialkasse”?


    • In general, yes. If you move to Germany to work for an indefinite period, the responsible social security country is Germany. If you just come to Germany for a temporary work assignment and live in another European country, you must apply for the A1 certificate before coming to Germany. That way, you can remain insured by the country you live in during your temporary stay in Germany.
    • Yes, you must inform the KSK anytime you start or end an employment contract. Depending on your gross salary and on your profit estimate from your artistic self- employment you submitted to the KSK, the responsibility for health insurance could (temporarily) switch to the employment contract, or the insurance through the KSK can end, or nothing changes.
    • Probably not. Working in a hierarchical way is generally not considered a freelance activity. Instead, your client must give you an employment contract. It doesn’t matter how long the project is or if it’s part-time or full-time. Instead, the main criteria to distinguish between freelancing/self-employment and employment are the degree of hierarchy between contract partners and the degree of integration into the client’s business structure.
    • No, that’s illegal. The “Künstlersozialabgabe” (Social Insurance Contribution) must always be paid by the client on top of the fee, directly to the KSK. The contribution co-finances the KSK’s subsidy for health and pension insurance payments. The “Künstlersozialabgabe” must always be paid by clients who hire freelance artists to use their work in Germany, no matter if the artists are insured through the KSK or if they live in Germany or not.
    • As a freelance artist, you don’t automatically have accident insurance. That means that while your health insurance covers hospital stays and doctor’s appointments, you don’t have access to additional insurance benefits after work accidents (such as compensation payments or access to rehabilitation treatments). It can make a lot of sense to buy private work accident insurance, especially if your work is potentially dangerous (dance, circus).
    • Yes! If you already work as a freelance artist, you can check if you’re eligible. If your studies are your main activity, you’ll likely still pay health insurance through your student health insurance plan. That means that you only pay pension insurance through the KSK. As soon as you finish your degree, you just need to notify the KSK and you also receive subsidized health insurance through the KSK.






  • FAQ


    As an employed student, I am responsible for paying for my own health insurance, while my employer covers the pension insurance. What would happen if I joined the KSK?

    This scenario applies to full-time students with employment contracts with a salary exceeding the Mini-Job limit of €538 (as of 2024). If you’re self-employed and join the KSK, you will continue contributing to the pension insurance through your employment contract and additionally through the KSK. There are two advantages to joining the KSK as a full-time student: 1) Additional pension insurances are paid through the KSK; 2) When the full-time studies are over and artistic self-employment will be the main work status and income source, the KSK will also subsidize health insurance contributions right from the start because the student was already affiliated to the KSK.

    Does the KSK take into consideration that many dancers have multiple jobs?

    It is important to determine the employment status in which one works. When it comes to salaried employment (Anstellung, Beschäftigung), it doesn’t matter whether the job is artistic or non-artistic. If an individual is employed elsewhere while working as a self-employed artist on the side and estimates a profit of more than €3900 per year from artistic self-employment, they can join the KSK. However, in this scenario, they would only pay pension insurance to the KSK because health insurance is paid through the main work status (the employment contract). Insurance through the KSK isn’t possible if the salary from the employment contract exceeds certain monthly limits (2024: 3,775 Euros gross in former West Germany, 3,725 Euros gross in former East Germany). As of January 1, 2023, there has been a change in the law regarding non-artistic self-employment. The fixed limit no longer applies, and it is now assessed in the same way as employment. This means that even if someone earns €1000 profit a month as a yoga teacher (non-artistic self-employment) and their estimated profit from artistic self-employment is higher, they would still be covered by the KSK in the fields of health and pension insurance.

    Is teaching dance considered an artistic activity according to the KSK?

    It depends – the KSK always decides on a case-by-case basis. For example, projects related to socio-culture/community arts where teaching arts itself is not the focus are often not considered artistic by the KSK. This means that they cannot be included in your application and should be declared as non-artistic self-employment. The emphasis should always be on teaching artistic skill itself. In terms of teaching, the KSK classifies further training and qualification for professional dancers as ‘artistic’. This also applies to teaching children and young people who are being prepared for a potential future dance career. For example, ballet lessons are always considered artistic because the children may pursue this profession in the future. On the other hand, activities related to amateur dance, where people learn to dance for recreational purposes, are not considered artistic. The same applies to teaching activities more related to sports and fitness.

    If I enter a contract with a dance school, is it necessary for me to ensure that they include specific terms in the agreement?

    Certainly, it is advisable to do so. Self-employment in the context of dance schools can be complicated. If you are fully integrated into the school, there is a chance that you might be listed as an employee on their website. In such cases, the KSK may scrutinize your situation to determine if you are truly working as a self-employed or if it is a case of ‘bogus self-employment’.

    I am currently employed at a municipal theatre and contributing to the Bavarian Pension Fund. However, I am considering transitioning into self-employment next year. Would it be advisable for me to continue making contributions to the Bavarian Pension Fund?         

    I suggest reaching out to the Bavarian Pension Fund directly to discuss the best course of action. It is worth considering the advantages of continuing voluntary contributions, especially if there is a chance of future employment with another municipal theatre. To address any potential gaps in insurance coverage, making voluntary contributions is relatively affordable at around €12.50 per month. Additionally, if you are transitioning from permanent employment to self-employment, it may be beneficial to explore making voluntary unemployment insurance contributions. However, it is important to act promptly, as there is typically a limited timeframe of 3 months after starting your own business to make this decision.

    Is it possible to request a start-up subsidy through the employment agency?

    I would strongly advise considering this option if you are initiating your own business due to unemployment. Ask your caseworker at the employment agency about the Gründungszuschuss. In general, you can also access further advice through the regional associations for the performing arts. Here you will find an overview of counselling centres and networks.