Self-employed and still obligated to contribute to the pension fund?

Not only employees but also self-employed individuals can, in certain cases, be subject to mandatory insurance and are then legally obligated to contribute to the pension […]

Zuletzt aktualisiert: 10.11.2023

Not only employees but also self-employed individuals can, in certain cases, be subject to mandatory insurance and are then legally obligated to contribute to the pension fund. This includes the following occupational groups (when the monthly income exceeds 450 €):

  • Craftsmen and Cottage Industry Operators: Self-employed craftsmen (regulated trades) and cottage industry operators are subject to mandatory insurance in the statutory pension insurance if their monthly income exceeds 450 €.
  • Self-employed in Education and Care Professions: Self-employed individuals in education or care professions are subject to mandatory insurance in the statutory pension insurance under certain conditions.
  • Artists and Publicists: The activity must be carried out in a professional and non-temporary manner. A maximum of one employee is allowed unless the employment is for vocational training or is marginal. However, insurance obligation only starts when the expected annual income exceeds 3,900 euros. There are special considerations for beginners, and insurance obligation typically begins with the registration with the Artists' Social Security Fund.
  • Pilots, Coastal Sailors, and Fishermen: Pilots, coastal sailors, and fishermen may be subject to mandatory insurance with the German Pension Insurance depending on the situation.
  • Self-employed with a Client due to the Characteristics of their Activity: (Detailed list of all mandatory insurance: § 2 Social Code VI)

False Self-Employment

Self-employed individuals whose status has been revoked, for example, through status decisions by health insurance or pension insurance during audits, must pay social security contributions retroactively for three months! If uncertain about whether one is genuinely "self-employed" or more dependent on employment (e.g., only one client, specific requirements regarding working hours and location, other dependencies), individuals can contact the clearinghouse of the German Pension Insurance, which determines the status free of charge.

Comprehensive information on the topic can be found, for example, in our GründerNews from April 25, 2022.

Compulsory Insurance on Request

Within a period of up to five years, founders can choose to apply for mandatory insurance in the statutory pension insurance. They then benefit from the option of an occupational disability pension in case of serious events. They also have entitlement to rehabilitation services. Founders pay only half of the regular contribution within the first three years of their self-employment, but they can also choose higher values.

Note: Once the mandatory insurance application is chosen, there is no option to cancel it!

Voluntary Insurance

For those who do not fall under the above-mentioned groups and consequently are not subject to compulsory insurance or do not wish to apply for it, paying voluntary contributions to the statutory pension fund may be worthwhile. Through voluntarily paid pension contributions, individuals acquire, among other things, pension entitlements and can ensure that existing entitlements are not lost. Voluntarily insured individuals determine the number and amount of their contributions independently. The minimum contribution at the German Pension Insurance is currently 83.70 euros per month, and the maximum contribution is 1,311.30 euros per month.

It is advisable to inquire with the statutory pension insurance about the possibilities of voluntary insurance.


  • If self-employed individuals with one client become subject to mandatory insurance for the first time, they can apply for exemption from mandatory insurance in the statutory pension insurance for a maximum of three years during the start-up phase. This limited exemption is also possible for another three years with a second start-up. The exemption starts from the beginning of business activity if the application is submitted within 3 months; otherwise, it begins with the receipt of the application by the pension insurance.
  • As a start-up, one can opt for the so-called half regular contribution during the first three calendar years after the year of taking up self-employment. In 2021, it amounts to 305.97 euros per month in the old states and 292.95 euros in the new states. Self-employed individuals can also pay lower or higher contributions than the regular contribution if they prove a correspondingly deviating income based on the last income tax assessment.

Additional Information:

  • If self-employed individuals receive a start-up grant, they are no longer automatically covered by retirement insurance, unlike the former start-up grant.