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REVEALED: Which jobs in Germany have the best salaries and pay rises?

Thinking of switching jobs in Germany? Here are the sectors it pays to be part of.

REVEALED: Which jobs in Germany have the best salaries and pay rises?
The IT industry in Germany is booming. Photo: DPA

A recent study by German daily Welt sheds light on the sectors paying well and giving out hefty pay rises, and those that aren't. Here's what you should know.

Which sector pays the most?

It might not be known for it but Germany has an oil and gas industry, albeit a small one. According to recent labour market data, around 2,900 people in Germany recently earned their money in this field. The jobs in this industry are often not without risk and require a high level of technical know-how.

And they are also characterised by something else: in no other industry can employees in this country earn such a high salary as in the oil and gas industry. On average, full-time employees in this industry earn a monthly gross pay of €6,238. This is more than 50 percent above the average salary of a full-time employee in Germany which is €4,021.

Well-paid jobs in Germany's oil and gas industry are rare; not even 0.01 percent of all employees subject to social security contributions in the country earn their bread and butter here. But the golden years of rapidly growing wages seem to be over in this sector for the time being.

Over the past 10 years, employees have only been able to increase their earnings by around 12 percent. That is less than half the average increase that employees have been able to achieve across all 99 sectors of manufacturing and industry, which is 27 percent.

READ ALSO: Explained: The best and worst paid jobs in Germany

Move to service and knowledge economy

Large salary hikes in recent years have not been going to employees in more traditional industries, but instead to people who earn their money through data and information, such as the IT sector.

The analysis shows that from 2009 to 2019 the German economy was already in a state of upheaval (so well before the coronavirus crisis): some sectors have been falling, others are rising, and at a rapid pace.

The averages do not allow for individual financial location (which depends on qualifications and specialisation), but they clearly show the transformation of Europe's number one economy: away from industrial manufacturing and toward a service and knowledge economy.

If wages and salaries have a signal function, the signals make it unmistakably clear where the journey is headed.

Which jobs offer the best pay rises?

A standout feature of the knowledge age is the strong salary dynamic in the information services sector. In companies, jobs in this area are often described as business intelligence, solution design or data analysis.

The job market is more competitive than it has been for a long time – but with the right tricks you can still make your mark.

Employees in this branch of the economy that deals with the processing and presentation of data have been able to increase their income by an impressive 52 percent in the past 10 years. This represents an annual increase of 4.3 percent.

READ ALSO: 10 things to know about Germany's law to attract foreign skilled workers


Photo: DPA

Which jobs have not been performing well when it comes to pay rises?

Employees who earn their money in postal, express and courier services have experienced the exact opposite: what information service providers get in one year, people in postal and courier services did not even manage in 10 years.

In no other of the 99 economic sectors reported by the Federal Statistical Office was the salary development between 2009 and 2019 so weak.

Employees in the publishing industry also experienced little more than stagnation, having only managed an 11 percent increase in salary since the end of the financial crisis (and before the outbreak of the pandemic).

This means that professionals in these sectors have not even been able to compensate for price increases, which amounted to 14.2 percent across Germany between 2009 and 2019.

Warehouse workers landed with a 14.5 percent increase in income, just above inflation, as did truck drivers with 20 percent growth.

According to economists, the weak performance of delivery staff and warehouse workers, and employees of the publishing industry, shows the impact of the technological revolution. Automation and artificial intelligence are causing changes, which is putting pressure on wages in these sectors of the economy.

“The consequences of digitalization are clearly making themselves felt,” said Carsten Brzeski, Chief Economist at ING Deutschland. He has observed a polarization of the labour market for years. Traditionally low-paid jobs in logistics and warehousing show low wage increases, while well-paid knowledge jobs are continuing to grow.

“The development of wages in information services on the one hand, and in postal and courier services on the other could not illustrate this point better,” he said.

Big changes in financial sector

Meanwhile, in the banking industry which has traditionally paid well, there have been technology advances too. However, this has contributed to almost 50,000 jobs being cut in the financial services sector in the past six years alone.

Nevertheless, salaries in the financial services sector have climbed by an above-average 34.3 percent.

Although the store demise has led to fewer cashiers and other employees being needed “on site”, the financial services sector has also seen a decline in the number of employees. At the same time, however, highly qualified consultants and specialists with IT skills are in greater demand than ever before.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever legally too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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