The Law on Social Security for Artists (Künstler-Sozialversicherungsfondsgesetz 2001, renamed as Artist’s Social-Security Insurance Structure Act 2011) covers social security issues for artists. Since its implementation, freelance artists have been treated the same as other self-employed professionals, which means they must pay their statutory social security insurance if they earn more than 5 527,92 EUR per year (2020; this amount is adopted annually). In many cases, the law created a situation whereby artists end up making two different types of social insurance payments: statutory insurance for freelance work and any other social security insurance payments which result from other part-time employment contracts they may have. Many freelance artists are employed both part-time and/or do freelance work in the form of either a Werkvertrag (contract for work) – also called the ‘new’ self-employed, a term that describes one person enterprises without a trade licence – or a freier Dienstvertrag (self-employed contract of service), depending on the nature of the work (people who work under the freier Dienstvertrag have more social protection than the self employed, but less than the employed). Thus, the contribution to the social security system is relatively high compared to total income. There was a change here in 2009, and indeed one that applies for those cases in which there is an additional income next to self-employment: if this income exceeds the threshold of EUR 5 527,92 (2020, adopted annually) it will also be subject to the obligatory social insurance payments.
The law set up a Social Security Insurance Fund for Artists (Künstlersozialversicherungs-Fonds) which that grants artists a subsidy for social insurance contributions of up to EUR 158 per month (EUR 1 896 per year in 2020), if their annual income from artistic activity is at least EUR 5 527,92 (2020) and the sum of all their income does not exceed EUR 29 942.90 (2020) annually. This amount increases with each child of the artist. The subsidy for social insurance contributions is based on self-evaluation of future income. If either of the above limits is not achieved, or is exceeded, the subsidy has to be paid back. To achieve the minimum level of income, since 2014 all earnings are taken into account (before, only income minus expenses was taken into account), including up to 50% income from sideline business (education, teaching in the cultural field etc.). The period for the averaging of the minimum income was expanded to three years, and five bonus years are conceded, during which a subsidy can be received without a repayment obligation, even if the minimum income is not achieved. Each year about 1 200 artists receive this subsidy.
Since 2009, self-employed artists have the option of voluntary unemployment insurance. In 2010, the Social Insurance Institute (Sozialversicherungsanstalt SVA) implemented a service for artists that offers advice and support for social-security issues. Furthermore, since then artists have the opportunity to register their self-employed activity and the resulting obligatory insurance as being idle, so that they have access to benefits from unemployment insurance.