Corridor studies on portability of social benefits


Michael Fuchs


Bernd Marin, Juliane Winkelmann


An increasing share of the world population will spend some time of working life outside their home country. Lacking portability of acquired social rights threatens human rights, deteriorates individual life cycle planning and social risk management, affects labour mobility negatively, and creates fiscal costs for at least one of the countries. In the country coordination of portability, bilateral (and multilateral) agreements play a key role. However, what they are able to achieve with regard to human rights and economic and social outcomes remains largely unknown.


Against this background the project sets up corridor studies as an instrument of knowledge gathering and result analysis.The two bilateral social security agreements between Austria/Turkey and Germany/Turkey may bring substantial experiences, as they have existed for many years in migration intensive corridors.A second set of corridor studies focuses on Belgium/Morocco and France/Morocco.The European Centre is responsible for the corridors Austria/ Turkey and Germany/Turkey.


Compared to the respective decrees of the European Union, which represent the most extensive rules on the multilateral level, and other bilateral agreements concluded by Austria and Germany, there are only minor differences in the agreements with Turkey:

  • A pension transfer outside Germany is not possible for pensions related to the reduction in earnings capacity, which are granted under consideration of the labour market situation in Germany.
  • For the calculation of pensions, according to the bilateral agreements only the direct method is used. However, in many cases there are no resulting differences to the pro-rate method that is used on the EU-level in most cases in addition.
  • The bilateral agreement between Germany and Turkey does not contain a regulation for insurance periods of less than 12 months.Thus, those periods are forfeited.
  • For the duration of a regular residence in Turkey, Turkish citizens are only entitled to voluntary insurance in the German pension insurance, in case they have already paid at least a voluntary contribution before the commencement of the supplementary agreement in 1987. In other German agreements (e.g. with Israel, USA), there is a principal entitlement to voluntary insurance under certain pre-conditions, even in case of residence outside Germany.
  • Related to the objective of fiscal fairness between countries, the agreed across- the-board accounting for the reimbursement of health care costs for pensioners and their dependents between Austria and Turkey corresponds to the old EU- decree. Basically there is a trend towards the accounting of real costs.

Also in the expert interviews it turned out that the agreements are rather unremarkable ones. Due to the consideration of feedbacks and comments by the liaison agencies as well as regular exchange, practical considerations are incorporated in the legal regulations of the agreement. Due to globalisation, there are enormous increases in transnational insurance courses that are difficult to handle without electronic data exchange. In Austria, the electronic exchange with Turkey is envisaged for 2015. In principle there is also need for general modernisation and actualisation of the bilateral agreements, e.g. related to agreements on cost reimbursements, etc. From the German point of view, some minor proposals for improvement (e.g. related to contribution refunding, voluntary insurance) exist. However, for reason of details, the agreement will not be changed, as the efforts for a ratification of the new amendment in both countries would be too high.


The bilateral social security agreement between Turkey and Germany was already concluded in 1964, between Austria and Turkey in 1966. They represent typical recruitment agreements with a broad objective area of application incl. health insurance.

After 2010, 3.3% of the Austrian population and 3.6% of the German population had a Turkish migration background. The figures include 1.3% with Turkish citizenship in Austria and 2.0% with Turkish citizenship in Germany (Destatis, 2012a: 7f; Destatis, 2012b: 27ff/63f; Statistik Austria, 2013: 26f). Of persons with Turkish citizenship, in Austria only 5.6% were above 65 years, in Germany 12.1%.

According to data from the Austrian and German pension insurances, the return orientation – that was still important for the Turkish working migrants of the first generation – has lost its guiding role in Germany, but not so much in Austria. Of all 29,119 Austrian pensions paid to Turkish citizens in 2012, 15,005 (51.5%) were transferred to Turkey, 9,551 (32.8%) were paid inside Austria and 4,445 (15.3%) were transferred to Germany. In total, 15,772 pensions with a yearly value of EUR 68.0 million were transferred to Turkey. In December 2012, Germany paid 355,000 pensions to Turkish citizens. Thereof only 59,000 pensions (17%) worth EUR 346 million annually were transferred outside Germany.

The average pension paid to Turkish citizens is clearly below the average of all Austrian/German pensions paid. By trend, the wages and the resulting remuneration points of insured persons with Turkish citizenship are lower compared to Austrian/German citizens. In addition, the employment biographies are shorter, possibly due to immigration in adulthood. Especially for Turkish women, the combination of low wages (often with reduced working hours) and rather short insurance biographies leads to low old-age pensions.


World Bank


09/2013 – 12/2014