Pension scheme

Living in Europe, Working in Europe | Entry conditions/visas, Pension rights | Germany

Did you know that pension provision - in most countries - does not only cover your life standard at old-age? It also deals with benefits in the event of disability and offers coverage to your spouse / civil partner and children in case of death.

The state pension insurance is part of the social security system in Germany, as it is in most other Member States of the EU and EEA States. Additional coverage might be provided through other types of pension savings or insurances you will be affiliated with or contribute to during your entire career. To keep track of who will pay your pension later on, it's vital to distinguish between the different sources and the respective pension schemes.

The statutory pension insurance scheme (DRV) is part of the social security system in Germany. The scheme protects those insured and their families if their employment capacity is endangered or reduced, and when it ends due to age or death. It covers medical rehabilitation measures, professional rehabilitation, pensions due to diminished employment capacity, old-age pensions, surviving dependents' pensions. It does not just pay retirement pensions, but its aim is also to maintain employability. 

Fellowships are usually exempt from compulsory social security payments. However, an option exists to continue paying into the public pension scheme on a voluntary basis during the fellowship (§ 7 SGB VI) to avoid any gaps in your pension history.

Occupational pension schemes in Germany are widespread in big enterprises and multi-nationals. Once you work in the German public service, the collective labour agreement states that you are required to have an occupational retirement pension. If you are covered by social insurance, you most probably will be affiliated to an occupational pension scheme.

General information on the German Pension Landscape is provided by the European Tracking Service (ETS) Project supported by the European Commission.

Contributions to the statutory and occupational pension schemes are deducted directly from the gross salary of those insured. The employee does not have to worry about them.

Many European pension systems require a certain insurance or contribution period in order to qualify later for a pension. For instance, the German state pension system requires a minimum insurance period of 5 years in order to be able to receive a pension once retired. These 5 years include periods of paying contributions as well as times spent raising a child.

Regarding the qualifying period of pension systems in other European countries.

As a researcher who changes jobs frequently, it is important to know that social insurance in the EU and EEA is coordinated according to the EU Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems.

According to this, Member States of the EU, EEA States and Switzerland or partners to a Bilateral Social Security Agreement have to acknowledge periods during which pension rights have been accrued in those countries and have to count them together with respect to a certain qualifying period required.

Periods during which pension rights have been accrued in countries that do not have a Social Security Agreement ("Sozialversicherungsabkommen") with Germany may not be added to the German periods in order to fulfil the prerequisites for entitlement. It is definitely worth informing yourself beforehand about the regulations valid in your country.

Once you retire, the pensions you have accumulated in different countries will be paid by each single country individually. There are just a few exceptions aimed at avoiding mini-pensions. All social security providers award pensions on the basis of their own national legislation. This means, that under certain circumstances, you may be entitled to a pension in several different countries.

More information is available in the Pension ABC offered by the European Tracking Service (ETS) Project.

As a public sector employee, your salary is determined by the collective bargaining agreement applicable to your employment contract. Additionally, you acquire an occupational/company pension at a supplementary pension fund for the public sector, e.g. the VBL (Saarland: RZVK; Hansestadt Hamburg ZDP). More detailed information is offered by the Pension Compass of the European Tracking Service (ETS) Project.

Usually affiliated employers register their employees for compulsory supplementary pension contributions with the VBLklassik scheme. For salaried scientific employees with temporary employment contracts who may not fulfill the required qualifying period in the VBLklassik, the labour agreement on pensions provides an alternative arrangement.

As a rule of thumb, you cannot claim for a refund if you are entitled to a pension. Whether you are entitled to a refund or not mainly depends on these factors:

  • your citizenship (EU; EEA, other nationalities)
  • place of residence and
  • the regulations of the scheme.

For more detailed information on the German pension system and schemes in respect of the aforementioned questions of mobile researchers, please refer to the website of the European Tracking Service (ETS) Project which is supported by the European Commission.


Further information

  • Find your pension (FYP)
    Detailed information on the German pension landscape and matters concerning pension entitlements, pension contributions and benefits.
    European Tracking Service (FYP-ETS) Project
  • Pensions for scientists

    Information about the Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and the Länder (VBL), which is the largest provider of supplementary pensions for the public sector in Germany (in German). Wissenschaftler

  • Pension entitlements in the German statutory pension scheme
    Information on the German statutory pension scheme.
    Deutsche Rentenversicherung
  • FAQ on the international pension rights and the German statutory pension scheme
    Frequently asked questions on the recognition of pension rights.
    Deutsche Rentenversicherung
  • Pensions for Researchers
    Information about EU-wide social security protection and transfer of pension rights.


  • RESAVER (Retirement Savings Vehicle for European Research Institutions)
    RESAVER will be a state of the art retirement savings product that will enable mobile and non-mobile employees to remain affiliated to the same pension vehicle when moving between different countries and changing jobs.