FAQs for artists 

FAQs Unemployment benefit II (ALG II)

Self-employed artists whose income is not sufficient to cover the minimum subsistence level can apply for benefit payments to secure their livelihood and accommodation. In Germany, this social benefit (according to the SGB II) is called unemployment benefit II (Alg II), also known colloquially as "Hartz IV".

The benefits are made up of regular needs, additional needs, and needs for accommodation and heating. Your entitlement can be calculated here: https://www.hartz4.org/hartz-4-rechner/

If you are an artist wishing to receive Unemployment Benefit II, you must submit an application to the relevant job centre. Application forms and information sheets are available for download on the website of the employment agency: https://www.arbeitsagentur.de

Yes, but if any income is earned from gainful employment, this will generally be credited against ALG II benefits. However, there are exemption amounts.

Gross income (income before taxes and duties) is decisive for the exemption amount.

  • The first 100 Euros from earned income are not taken into account (basic deduction amount).
  • In addition, 20 % of the part of gross income above 100 euros, up to and including 1,000 euros, remains exempt from crediting.
  • In addition to the other two amounts, 10% of your gross salary above 1,000 euros and up to the upper earnings limit will not be taken into account. For those entitled to benefits without a child, the upper earnings limit is 1,200 euros gross income, and for those entitled to benefits who live with at least one under-age child in a needs-based community, 1,500 euros.


Yes, but not permanently.

The basic requirement for membership of the KSK is a minimum annual income of more than 3,900 euros net, i.e. after deduction of all costs, coming from self-employed artistic activity. When drawing ALG II, this minimum income is no longer reached on a regular basis.

The KSK is automatically informed about the respective health insurance if an artist is granted ALG II.

Artists may, however, fall below the minimum income twice within six years (an additional three years are added for those starting out in the profession) without the KSK being able to terminate membership.

It is possible that the KSK may require proof in advance that the artist's profession is still being practised. Appropriate evidence (participation in sales exhibitions, fairs, contacts with galleries, museums, etc.) should therefore be collected so that you can present it if necessary.

If the minimum income is undercut in more than the above-mentioned years, the KSK will usually decide very quickly and stringently that the conditions for membership no longer exist and therefore terminate your membership.

At the latest, when you are threatened with exclusion from the KSK, application for legal advice is strongly recommended. If relevant, the prospective success of an objection and subsequent action before the Social Court should be examined.


Yes, voluntary unemployment insurance for self-employed persons should be applied for at the employment agency within three months of starting self-employment.

In order to be able to take out voluntary unemployment insurance ("compulsory insurance upon application"), among other things, you must meet one of the following two conditions:

  • Self-employed persons must have been in a compulsory insurance relationship for at least 12 months (e.g. as an employee, receiving sickness benefit subject to compulsory insurance, periods of child-raising) within the last 24 months before taking up their employment. It does not matter whether the relationship is a continuous compulsory insurance relationship or whether individual insurance periods are added together. Periods of voluntary continued insurance can also be taken into account. This makes it possible, for example, for employees abroad who become self-employed after their return to Germany to take out voluntary, continued unemployment insurance.
  • The applicant must have received a benefit payment from the Social Code III (e.g. unemployment benefit) immediately before the start of their self-employment. The duration of the payment is irrelevant.