At the turn of the year, new legal regulations come into force in many areas of life in Germany/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Germany: New laws and other changes in 2024

The new year brings important changes for people living in Germany. For example, anyone who is dependent on social assistance or citizen’s allowance will receive more money from January. Other changes include an increase in the basic and child allowance, a higher minimum wage, more money for school supplies and the pink paper prescription from the doctor becomes a digital prescription code.

We have summarised the most important changes for consumers in the course of 2024 for you here.

Minimum wage increases

The statutory minimum wage is rising in two stages. It will rise from 12 euros gross per hour to 12.41 euros on 1 January 2024. One year later – at the beginning of 2025 – the next increase of a further 41 cents to 12.82 euros will follow. With this step, the federal government has implemented the decision of the Minimum Wage Commission of June 2023.

The statutory minimum wage rose to 12 euros on 1 October 2022. The German government had increased it by law, thereby implementing one of its most important election pledges.

Previously, people paid according to the minimum wage received around 1,800 euros gross for a 40-hour week. Since October 2022, it has been around 2,080 euros.

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Mini-jobbers can earn more

From January, mini-jobbers will be allowed to earn 538 euros a month. The annual earnings limit increases accordingly to 6456 euros.

As the minimum wage increases, the lawmakers have also raised the upper limit for mini-jobbers. This is to ensure that mini-jobbers do not have to reduce their working hours, but can work up to ten hours a week on a permanent basis. Previously, working hours always had to be reduced as the minimum wage increased in order not to exceed the earnings limit.

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Trainees to get increased stipends

Trainees can look forward to an increase in their current training allowances at the start of the new year.

From 2024, the monthly salary for apprentices will be 649 euros per month in the first year of their apprenticeship. They will then receive 766 euros per month in the second year. From the start of the third year of training, trainees will then receive 876 euros per month and finally 909 euros per month in the fourth year of training.

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Bürgergeld rises significantly

Anyone who is dependent on social assistance (Sozialhilfe) or citizen’s allowance (Bürgergeld) will receive more money from January 2024.

From the beginning of 2024, single people will receive a total of 563 euros per month – currently it is 502 euros per month. Young people between the ages of 15 and 18 will receive 471 instead of 420 euros per month in future. For children from the age of seven to the age of 14, €390 instead of €348 will be paid to them, while children up to the age of six will receive an increased rate of €357 instead of €318.

The benefit rates under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act will also be adjusted accordingly, provided that these benefits are granted as cash benefits.

People in need of assistance who are unable to work due to age or illness are entitled to social assistance (subsistence assistance or basic income support in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity). People who are unable to find work despite their best efforts or who earn so little from their work that they are unable to earn a living are entitled to citizen’s allowance (basic income support for jobseekers).

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School supplies: more money for pens & co.

For children, teenagers and young adults who receive income support or social assistance, there will be an increase in support for personal school supplies in 2024.

Support as part of the education and participation benefits, the so-called education package, will increase by twelve per cent; in the first half of the school year from 116 euros to 130 euros and in the second half from 58 euros to 65 euros.

School supplies include, for example, fountain pens, colouring pencils, calculators, a set square, exercise books and craft materials.

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Basic tax-free allowance: more income remains tax-free

The basic allowance for income tax will rise by 696 euros to €11,604 for single people in 2024. Married couples are entitled to 23,208 euros. The basic tax-free allowance is the amount up to which the income of single people or jointly assessed spouses remains tax-free. A higher basic tax-free allowance generally also leads to lower income tax.

The tax-free allowance for children, which secures a child’s minimum subsistence level, will also be increased: From 1 January 2024, this will amount to 6384 euros (per child for both parents). For separated parents, half the allowance (3192 euros) will be applied. Including the allowance for care, upbringing and education, the allowance will therefore rise to 9312 euros for married couples and 4656 euros for single parents from 2024.

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Child benefit standardised

In 2024, parents will continue to receive 250 euros per month for each child. For the fourth and each additional child, the amount will remain at 250 euros.

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The e-prescription becomes standard

From 1 January 2024, doctors will be obliged to issue electronic prescriptions for prescription-only medicines. The pink paper prescription therefore becomes a digital prescription code.

Patients can then redeem the prescription at the pharmacy via health card, e-prescription app or paper printout.

The digital prescription has been available in Germany since 2022 and has since been expanded step by step. From 1 January 2024, it will now be mandatory for all people with statutory health insurance: they will then only receive prescription medicines from their doctors via e-prescription.

There are three different ways in which patients can use the e-prescription and redeem it at the pharmacy:

  • They can redeem the e-prescription using their electronic health card. All you have to do is insert the card into a card reader at the pharmacy. That’s all you need, not even a PIN.
  • The e-prescription can be managed via smartphone using an e-prescription app and sent directly to the desired pharmacy.
  • The doctor’s surgery can also give you a paper printout with the prescription code. The pharmacy scans this code and can then dispense the medication.

Insured persons can decide for themselves which of the three options they use to redeem their e-prescription.

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Increase in children’s sick days

Parents with statutory health insurance can apply for child sickness benefit. Children’s sick days (per child and parent) will be increased to 15 for 2024/2025. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the standard number was ten days. If parents take these days, they will receive child sick pay. As a rule, it amounts to 90 per cent of the lost net pay.

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More care benefits

Care allowance and outpatient benefits in kind will each be increased by five per cent from 2024; anyone caring for relatives will be entitled to care support allowance for ten working days each year instead of a one-off entitlement. The subsidy that the long-term care insurance fund pays to those in need of care in fully inpatient care facilities will also be increased.

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19 per cent VAT in the catering industry again

From 1 January 2024, VAT in the catering industry will rise again to 19 per cent from 7 per cent. The tax reduction for food in restaurants was introduced temporarily on 1 July 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and extended several times, most recently until the end of 2023.

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Next stage of the Skilled Labour Act comes into force

The next stages of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act will come into force on 1 March 2024: anyone with a state-recognised professional qualification from abroad and two years of professional experience will no longer have to have their qualification formally recognised. From 1 June 2024, skilled foreigners can apply for an “opportunity card” to migrate to Germany to work and live in the country.

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Children’s passports abolished

The children’s passport previously issued for children under the age of 12 can no longer be applied for as from 2024. This ID document will be replaced by the regular electronic passport, which will be available in future regardless of a person’s age.

However, the old children’s passports remain valid until the stamped expiry date. The regular passport is significantly more expensive, but does not have to be applied for every year and is valid for a maximum of six years.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs has compiled answers to the most important questions about the new regulation on its website.

Femi Awoniyi/© AfricanCourierMedia

Check for comprehensive explanations on the website of the national consumer advisory centre (Verbraucherzentrale) HERE

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