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

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

Who belongs to the top 10 percent of earners in Germany?
Woman withdrawing money from an atm in Berlin. Photo: DPA

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.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


What happens to your EU Blue Card if you lose your job in Germany?

Losing your job can be an unpleasant experience at the best of times. But if it’s tied to your residency title, things can get much more stressful. Here’s what EU Blue Card holders in Germany need to know.  

What happens to your EU Blue Card if you lose your job in Germany?

What is the EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is a temporary residence title that is available to university graduates from non-EU countries. It is generally issued for a period of four years, or, if the employment contract is for a period of fewer than four years, it is issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months.

In Germany, the EU Blue Card has been the main residence title for qualified professionals from abroad since August 1st, 2012.

Who can get an EU Blue Card?

In order to get an EU Blue Card, foreigners moving to Germany need to have a university degree, an employment contract or a binding job offer for a position with a minimum annual gross salary of €58,400.

READ ALSO: How to get fast-track permanent residency rights in Germany

For jobs in the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, engineering and human medicine (excluding dentistry), a reduced minimum annual gross salary of €45,552 applies in 2023 (salary limits are adjusted for each calendar year).

Will I lose my Blue Card if I change or lose my job?

You won’t automatically lose your Blue Card if you lose your job or decide to move to another company.

However, if you change jobs within the first two years of being employed in Germany, you will need to get approval from the local foreigners’ authority, who will check if the conditions for issuing a new Blue Card are met.

If you lose your job, you have a three-month period during which you can look for another qualified position. If you find a new job within this time, you will then have to get a new German Blue Card updated with your new employment details.

READ ALSO: ‘Traumatising’: Foreign residents share stories from German immigration offices

If you don’t manage to find a new job within the three-month time frame, you can apply for a residence title for a job search – an Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Arbeitsplatzsuche – which can be issued for a maximum period of six months. Within this period, you will need to find a job that relates to your qualifications. 

How many Blue Card holders are there in Germany?

According to the figures from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, at the end of 2021, there were around 70,000 EU Blue Card holders registered as living in Germany.