Who belongs to the top 10 percent of earners in Germany?

The Local Germany
The Local Germany - [email protected]
Who belongs to the top 10 percent of earners in Germany?
Woman withdrawing money from an atm in Berlin. Photo: DPA

A new study shows who belongs to Germany's top earning group - and how much income they need to earn per month to qualify.


Any single person who has an income of €3,529 net per month or higher belongs to the top ten percent of earners in Germany.

That's up a couple hundred euros from 2016, when an individual had to earn at least €3,342 to qualify for the upper tenth.

READ ALSO: This is how much employees earn in Germany

The figures come from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), a regular survey of 16,000 households throughout Germany conducted by the German Economic Institute (IW) in Cologne

Couples without children are part of the top ten percent starting at a net household income of €5,294, whereas a family with two children under 14 years of age qualifies with a new income of €7,412. 


The researchers found that 55 percent of the top earners in Germany were men. Couples without children comprised 48 percent of top earners, followed by singles at 31 percent.

Most of the top earners were “highly qualified employees” such as engineers or doctors (24 percent) with an advanced degree, followed by employees in “qualified jobs” (16 percent) such as skilled workers, foremen or craftsmen.

The IW published the following interactive calculator (How wealthy am I in comparison?) so that employees can see how they measure up to other income earners in Germany. 

It begins by asking: "How high is your monthly household net income in euros?" "How many people from the age of 14 live in your household?" and "How many people under 14 live in your household?"

More than eight million people

"Subjectively, very few people feel that they belong to the upper tenth, although the group comprises a little over eight million people," said IW economist Judith Niehues. 

At the same time, most people believed that the proportion of rich people in Germany was above 20 percent."

Very few people therefore feel rich themselves, but at the same time think that there are quite a lot of rich people."

READ ALSO: This is how much German professionals earn in different industries

The average net salary of employees in Germany was around €1,900 as of 2018, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The difference in salary between men and women stands at €600 per month. 

An expert from the Hans Böckler Foundation, which works closely with trade unions, pointed out that existing inequalities are likely to be further aggravated by the coronavirus crisis. 

"After a decade of strong economic growth and record employment, inequality in Germany is still so high that one cannot be satisfied with it," the foundation director, Bettina Kohlrausch, told DPA


skilled worker - der Facharbeiter/die Facharbeiterin 

affluent/wealthy - wohlhabend

definitions of wealth - (die) Reichtumsdefinition

aggravate/exacerbate - verschärfen

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also