Nadja Voigt, Consultant Agentur für Arbeit Berlin-Mitte

“Berlin is not only hip and edgy, but also dirty and precarious”

Why should freelancers turn to the Agentur für Arbeit – especially if they are not from Germany? At first glance, there are not too many reasons for this.
“Integration into employment subject to compulsory insurance holds priority, because unemployment benefit 1 and all other services of the Agentur für Arbeit are primarily financed by the employee and employer contributions of the unemployment insurance. This is why there is also a legal requirement for priority to be given to placement in employment subject to compulsory insurance, which is also reflected in our consulting approach to labor market integration,” explains Nadja Voigt, consultant at the Berlin Employment Agency. “There is no extra counseling for foreigners – and counseling on self-employment / freelancing usually only takes place if the priority of placement in an employment subject to compulsory insurance is not given. Under certain conditions the employment agency can then even support self-employment”.

German as official language

In the past, the 35-year-old has advised and placed artists and creative professionals such as musicians, singers, UX designers, painters, sculptors, etc., in addition to humanities scholars, with regard to their integration into the job market. Since December 2019 she has been responsible for academic professions across all sectors.
A second major obstacle for freelancers with an international background is that the agency’s service offer is primarily aimed at German-speaking job seekers. “Being registered with the Agentur für Arbeit means having rights and obligations on both sides, so we are also placed in a legal context. And because German is the official language, it is therefore also the responsibility of the clients to understand everything linguistically correctly and to come with a translator, for example”.

Is there a viable perspective?

At second glance, however, it makes perfect sense to use the contact points of the Agentur für Arbeit – also for international freelancers. The focus is on a sustainable perspective for integration into the job market. In the context of reconciling work and family life, it is quite possible that the Employment Agency will advise freelancers to take up part-time employment in order to guarantee basic security.
“It depends on the individual circumstances of life,” confirms Voigt. “Especially with artists and creative people, it was often a topic for me in the past years to look for part-time employment in order to have a constant besides self-employment.”
However, Voigt is not sure whether choosing a freelance profession is the right solution for everyone.

“We live in a bubble”

“Whether freelance works or not often depends on the industry in which someone is working and on their own entrepreneurial personality,” she says, “Project work and freelance activities such as those offered by Comatch are highly remunerated contracts where the client can be expected to pay a high level of remuneration. This does not reflect however all forms and basic conditions of the independence. In Berlin there are considerably more self-employed people than in other federal states, because (the dream of) Berlin continues to attract many people from Germany and abroad, including many freelancers. But Berlin is not always just hip and edgy, but also dirty and precarious; and my experience is that many self-employed people unfortunately don’t make it. In my opinion, the New Work principle has many different sides, all of which should be considered realistically.

As a service, Ms. Voigt has put together a short list of external links and contacts in Berlin and on the Internet, covering the topics of the job market, self-employment, expats, etc. in general.

General industry information, from the Senate and the City of Berlin regarding the future and location marketing:  (Technology locations/ Future locations Berlin)

Overview of industries: (under Industry Navigator) +

(These websites are all also in English)

Self-employment in general / advice centers: (for example: links to incubators)

Expats and employment agency: (CAM) (Virtual Welcome Center, Inbound & Outbound)

primarily for interested parties from abroad before entering Germany

General Expats in Berlin (including offers for consulting self-employment and IQ network) (advice and recognition in the academic field, for example the difference between regulated and non-regulated professions)

Freelance Visa:

Self-employment and employment agency

Voluntary unemployment insurance §28a:

I always recommend, but see possible groups of people page 2:

“Within the last 30 months before taking up self-employment (…) the applicant must have been in a compulsory insurance relationship for at least 12 months. It does not matter whether it is a continuous employment relationship subject to compulsory insurance or whether individual occupations are merely added together. If the employment relationship was interrupted, the time of the interruption cannot be taken into account. A compulsory insurance relationship also exists if periods of compulsory insurance are proven.” (Translated from German)

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