Contracts vs. stipends: The facts

Surveys by the Max Planck PhDnet have shown an increasing trend in stipend holding vs. contract holding doctoral researchers (Ph.D. students) in the Max Planck Society over the past few years. Many students find this trend alarming since stipends do not include the same social insurance policies that contracts have. Actually stipend holders do not get any social insurances with their stipend. But what are these insurances and what are they for? Here’s a quick checklist.

  • Health insurance – With a stipend you normally do not get any financial support for the health insurance from your employer. You have to get your own health insurance, either through the statuatory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) or through a private insurance company. So to compare a contract with a stipend, you effectively have to subtract the cost of the health insurance from your stipend. With a contract, currently 15.5% of your gross salary is paid for the health insurance, roughly half of it (7.3%) is paid by your employer (this is part of the infamous Lohnnebenkosten) and not deducted from your gross salary. If you have a stipend, the statuatory health insurance costs you roughly between 150 and 200 Euro (15.5% since 1st Jan 2009).
  • Pension insurance – With a contract 19.9% of your gross salary is given to the public pension insurance, i.e. almost 300 Euro. Half of it will be deducted from your gross salaray, half of it is paid by the employer. Normally no money is given to a pension insurance if you have a stipend.
  • Unemployment insurance – With a contract: 2.8% (half / half, as above), i.e. roughly 40 Euro with a TvöD 13/2 contract. 
  • Accident Insurances (at work, on the way to work, during business trips) – As a contract holder you are insured in the statuatory accident insurance (gesetzliche Unfallversicherung) through the Berufsgenossenschaft that is responsible for your institute. While most Berufsgenossenschaften seem to include stipend holders for their insurance against accidents at work, accidents on the ways to/from work and on business trips seem to be not insured this way.

Apart from these insurances, contract holders often have additional social benefits such as parental leave – Here the new Elterngeld law applies for contracts (you receive 2/3 of your net income for 1 year). While some research associations have similar rules for their stipend holders, this is not required by law and therefore does not apply to all stipends.


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