Why the number of self-employed people in Germany is rising

Companies are increasingly outsourcing services, and as a result the number of self-employed workers in Germany has risen sharply. Many are learning that working one job is just not enough.

Why the number of self-employed people in Germany is rising
Many Germans are finding that one job is not always enough. Photo credit: DPA

Hundreds of thousands of people in Germany are pursuing a day job while simultaneously being self-employed. Adding up the numbers, around 764,000 people were employed as well as being self-employed in 2018. 

The number has almost tripled since 1994, a year where there were only 262,000, according to figures provided to DPA by the federal government through a request by the Left party.

By 2017, the number of people employed 'twice' was even higher, at 794,000 with some fluctuations. Youngsters are most likely to be “hybrid self-employed.” Around 30 percent of self-employed workers between the ages of 15 and 34 were also holding down a day job. 

These “hybrid self-employed” individuals make up 16.4 percent of all working people; In 1994 it was only 7.4 percent.

Many of these “doubly-employed” employees work in sectors that don't cover pension plans. Meanwhile, freelancing is already well-established as a gig lacking benefits. 

However new regulations planned by the government might change this, both for those “hybrid self-employed” and anyone simply self-employed.  

READ ALSO: Why are more and more people in Germany working multiple jobs?

Solo workers on the rise

The numbers of solo workers, or workers who don’t have any other coworkers, has also risen sharply. The numbers of solo workers spiked at 2.45 million in 2012, in stark contrast to the 1.45 million in 1994.

Since 2012, the number has decreased again with fluctuations, and as of 2018 the number stands at 2.23 million. 

According to the German Institute for Economic Research, one reason for the greater number of solo self-employed persons is the fact that the Federal Employment Agency has been promoting “Ich-AGs” (or single-person companies) since 2003. The push for these companies came because many self-employed people were unable break out of the low-wage sector.

The total number of self-employed workers rose from 3.5 million in 1994 to around 4.7 million in 2018. In 2012, the number of self-employed workers peaked at 4.9 million. The numbers have been falling again since.

According to the Federal Ministry of Labor, the fact that the number of self-employed workers rose so high in 2012 is because of “the increased tendency to outsource certain services to freelancers.” They say the decline following 2012 was likely due to the strong economy.

Advertising materials for a “Founder's Week” in Erfurt, Thuringia, read “It's better to be your own boss. Found something, but do it together.” Photo credit: DPA

Working without security

An expert from a Linke-group called “Change in the World of Work,” Jessica Tatti, who originally requested the data, called for more social protection for the self-employed. “The nasty trick companies use to outsource work to save money has been observed for years,” she said.

“Solo self-employed people then often do the same work as previously dependent employees, with the serious difference that they have no pension and health insurance covered by an employer, no paid sick days, no required vacation days and no minimum wage.”

REVEALED: These are the best and worst paid jobs in Germany

Self-employment is often involuntary and precarious, especially through online platforms, Tatti said. She referred to internet platforms offering deliveries, transport or cleaning. “For most people, these work phases often come without retirement security,” she said.  

A large proportion of the self-employed earn less than the minimum wage, and few are covered by a pension. For this reason, the self-employed would need coverage from a pension insurance. 

Germany’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has already announced plans to tackle these issues. His plans would guarantee pension insurance for all self-employed workers. Up until now, pension insurance only covers special groups like psychotherapists and midwives. All others have to provide for themselves. 


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How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck!