Developer Happiness Index: Germany

In this report, we zoom in on developers living and working in Germany to better understand which factors positively and negatively influence their happiness; with particular focus on their career.

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Hélène Le Gascoin

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Eli McGarvie

Germany is fast becoming Europe’s top destination for developers.  As of 2019, there were over 901,400 professional developers spread throughout Germany’s tech hubs, with the majority situated in Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. 

Germany’s technology sector has witnessed considerable growth since the early 2000s, with the sector’s annual sales revenue doubling since the beginning of the millennium. Germany’s tech sector has produced some of Europe’s leading scale-ups, and with growing international attention, talent and investment has flooded in creating one of the fastest growing tech scenes in Europe.

DHI Germany 01

In 2019, there were 124,000 open IT positions in Germany. Research shows that by 2030, there will be an IT shortage in the EU of approximately 700,000.  With thousands of unfilled tech positions, fantastic career opportunities, and a great lifestyle to enjoy, it’s apparent why Germany has become so attractive for developers locally and internationally.

With these projections in mind and the scarcity of skilled developers, we sought to answer two questions: how happy are developers in Germany and what makes them happy?

Developer Happiness Index 2021

This year we released Honeypot’s first Developer Happiness Index (DHI) which aims to provide insights into happiness for developers throughout the world. For the purpose of the index, we grouped happiness into four major factors: career, quality of life, social freedom and community, each composed of five indicators.

Categories of Happiness

In an online survey, we asked developers in Germany to self-evaluate the importance of each indicator and their satisfaction with it. The importance scale allows us to see how an indicator influences a developer’s happiness. The satisfaction scale  judges how fulfilled they are by the indicator. We calculated each respondent’s happiness by weighting the indicators by importance and then multiplying the importance weight by satisfaction associated with this indicator. The sum equals happiness.

For the purpose of this report, we will only be analysing Career happiness for developers in Germany. 

Developers in Germany are the 8th happiest in the world

Generally, Germans are the happiest they’ve been since 1989. According to Deutsche Post’s 2019 ‘Glucksatlas’, the happiness gap between east and west continues to diminish, and financial and family stability increases. One could argue there’s no better time to be in Germany, and in our research, developers in Germany tend to agree.

Happiness map

Developers in Germany rank their happiness at 64 out of a possible 100, three points higher than the average

German developers self-evaluate their happiness at 64, that's three points higher than the average developer globally but one point lower than the average OECD citizen.

Developers in Germany are happier than developers globally, but less happy than the avg. OECD citizen

Developers in Germany report higher satisfaction percentages across all happiness indicators than the average of the rest of the world, the only exceptions are climate and work-life balance. In terms of social freedom indicators, developers in Germany are happier than the average developer. 

Developers in Germany are more satisfied than the average developer globally

When it comes to their careers specifically, developers in Germany tend to have similar preferences as developers globally: work-life balance ranks as number one in both segments. German developers place more importance on work environment and less importance on salary when compared to global averages. 

German developers have similar career preferences to the rest of the world

Work-life balance is the most important indicator of developer happiness in Germany 

Same as the global sample, work-life balance is the most important indicator of happiness for developers in Germany, followed by work environment, healthcare, political freedom and safety (when looking across all indicators). In Germany, 78% of respondents consider work-life balance “very important” to their happiness, percentage values which are very similar to global averages. 

Top 5 most important indicators of developer happiness in Germany

Both male and female developers in Germany consider work-life balance to be the most important happiness indicator. The two deviations in the top five are learning opportunities, which women consider more important than men, and political freedom, which doesn’t appear in female developers' top five.  

Female developers consider learning opportunities more important than male developers in Germnay

The biggest percentage difference between male and females is the importance they place on gender and LGBTQI+ equality. Female developers consider this indicator more than twice as important as male developers. The only indicator male developers in Germany find more important than females is tech stack.

Female developers consider gender and LGBTQI+ equality twice as important as male developers
Male developers care more about tech stack than female developers

Over ⅓ of developers are very satisfied with their work-life balance in Germany

Of all career indicators of happiness, developers in Germany are most satisfied with their work-life balance. 38% of developers report being “very satisfied” with their work-life balance.

Over 1/3 of developers are very satisfied with their work-life balance in Germany

The hours that Germans spend at work are efficient: Germany has some of the highest worker productivity levels in the world, ranking third internationally in 2017. A strong innovative economy, high-quality training and education (which begins from a young age), and high employment rates account for Germany’s high productivity. 

Germany has one of the highest productivity levels in the world

It’s important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected productivity in Germany quite significantly thanks to the mandated lockdowns and forced closure of businesses. Trading Economics forecasts this downward productivity trend to continue well into 2021. 

Germany productivity likely to trend downwards until 2021

Germany is also known for its generous social benefits which (for the most part) extend to foreign workers living in the country. The modern welfare state actually originated in Germany and has been quite progressive ever since its establishment in the 1880s. Today workers are protected from existential risks by numerous state insurance policies across health, pension, and unemployment. 

Paid vacation leave in Germany is fairly average for the European Union, with 24 days (though this varies state to state, and most tech employers offer 24+), plus 10-13 paid holidays per year. Germany, and Europe in general, have favourable annual leave policies compared with other Western countries, especially the US, where employers aren’t obligated by law to provide paid leave.  

German developers get 24 statutory paid vacation days per year

Again, compared to other countries in Western Europe, Germany offers similar policies when it comes to parental leave. Mothers are entitled to 14-weeks paid maternity leave (what you receive depends on your employment and health insurance), plus parents are entitled to up to three years of parental leave.

Germany has some of the best parental leave conditions in the world

Overall, Germany boasts three major cities in Getkisi’s Work Life-Balance Index 2019 (out of 40), with Munich, Hamburg and Berlin finding a place in the top 10. 

Three German cities rank in the top ten cities for work-life balance

But work-life balance satisfaction is still lower than European and North American peers 

Despite over a third of developers being very satisfied with their work-life balance, Germany still has some way to catch up with its global peers. The average developer satisfaction with work-life balance in Western Europe is 40%, two percentage points ahead of Germany.  In Western Europe, developers in the Netherlands are most satisfied with their work-life balance, while those living and working in the UK report the lowest. Developers in Germany report the lowest satisfaction in the DACH region. 

Developers in northern europe are most satisfied with their work-life balance

Developers in Northern European countries report the highest levels of work-life satisfaction: over half are very satisfied. The Scandinavian and Nordic countries of Northern Europe enjoy shorter working hours on average than developers in all other regions. According to StackOverflow, over half of developers in Germany report working between 40–60 hours per week, compared to only 19% in Finland. 

Over half of developers in germany work between 40-60 hours per week

Longer hours don’t necessarily equate to greater productivity. A study from Stanford University showed that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week; anybody working beyond this can damage their future productivity. 

Perks of the four-day work week

In our Developer Happiness Index, we discuss how countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland have seen positive results when working six-hour workdays and four-day-weeks. 

However, working hours is not the only factor determining satisfaction with work-life balance. North Americans are the second most satisfied with their work-life balance by region, despite the fact that 64% of developers in the United States work more than 40 hours a week.

In the United States, large tech companies employ the greatest number of developers countrywide and are at the forefront of progressive work cultures, which promote engineering-led decision-making, encourage dissent and promote creative coding. 

Likewise, Scandinavia’s success in promoting work-life balance is powered by the high amount of trust between people, a culture of collaboration and preference for consensus-based decisions, which leads to greater feelings of autonomy. These progressive policies and open and trusting developer-focused work environments could account for the high levels of work-life balance satisfaction in Scandinavian and North American countries and could indicate improvement points for employers in Germany.

Junior developers are the least satisfied with their work-life balance

Senior developers working in Germany consider themselves more satisfied with their work-life balance than their junior counterparts — the most dissatisfied are developers with the least experience. Inexperienced workers who are eager to gain the trust and respect of their colleagues often develop unhealthy work habits, which a more seasoned professional would avoid.

Less experienced developers in Germany report lower levels of work-life balance satisfaction

Work-life balance is especially important to female developers — and they are much less satisfied than their global counterparts

Female developers in Germany place higher importance on work-life balance than male developers. 83% of women say work-life balance is very important for career happiness compared to 73% of men.

Work-life balance is more important for female developers in Germany

Female developers are not only less satisfied than male developers in Germany, they are also far less satisfied than female developers globally. 39% of female developers globally are very satisfied with their work-life balance compared to 33% of female developers in Germany. 

Female developers in Germany are more unsatisfied with their work-life balance

60% of developers in Germany feel work environment is very important

60% of developers in Germany consider the work environment to be very important, while only 21% are very satisfied. It appears the most experienced developers in Germany are the least satisfied with company culture, a similar pattern to the world average. Junior developers (0-5 years) in Germany are actually more satisfied with their work environment than the world average.

The most experienced developers are the least satisfied with company culture

So what are the important factors for developers in Germany when looking at their work environment? According to StackOverflow, German developers care most about flexible schedules, tech stack, company culture and office environment when considering a job. 

Company culture is the third most important factor for developers considering a job

Developers in Germany were also asked about the challenges they face in the workplace. And while a toxic work environment is considered a top challenge, many of the other issues reported (lack of support, too many meetings, understaffing) also relate directly to the work environment and company culture. 

Top workplace concerns for developers in Germany

Female developers in Germany are more likely to be satisfied with their work environment than global peers

Female developers in Germany place higher importance on their work environment than their male peers and they also report higher satisfaction in Germany and globally. 

Female developers in Germany are more satisfied with their work environment

For junior developers in Germany, learning opportunities are more important than any other indicator — and companies are doing a good job providing them! 

Developers in Germany with 0–2 years experience consider learning opportunities to be the most important career happiness indicator for them. This probably comes as no surprise as they are just entering their careers and are eager to grow and learn. 

Interestingly, junior developers in Germany place far more importance on learning opportunities than the world average but share similar satisfaction levels. Though senior developers think learning opportunities are important they still place far greater importance on work-life balance and flexible schedule. 

89% of junior developers in Germany consider learning opportunities to be very important

Junior developers in Germany are also more satisfied with their learning opportunities compared with their more experienced counterparts. Companies tend to prioritise the learning and growth of junior developers, while senior developers often contribute to their mentorship.

Ways to upskill developers

IT professionals want to specialise in their careers and so prefer a more individualised approach to skill development. A recent survey from PluralSight (2020 State of Upskilling report) shows quite clearly how technology leaders and learners prefer to learn. 

Developers prefer online, self-paced learning
Technologies employees want to learn

Female developers place greater importance on learning opportunities compared with male developers, and also report slightly higher levels of satisfaction. HackerRank’s Women in Tech 2018 report found that female developers are 3.5x more likely to be in junior positions, which could be a possible explanation for their level of satisfaction with their learning opportunities. 

Senior developers crave more growth opportunities — and they aren’t finding them at their companies. 

Growth and learning opportunities are the most common reason for senior developers to jump ship and switch roles. Many feel their trajectories are stagnating and lacking challenge. Developers in Germany report an average dissatisfaction of 26%, and levels of dissatisfaction increase as developers gain experience.

Experienced developers are the least satisfied with their learning opportunities

Technology changes more rapidly than any other industry, and while less experienced developers undergo technical training and attend conferences, mid-level and senior developers are herded into management positions, forfeiting the chance to continue developing the necessary coding skills to remain competitive. According to StackOverflow, only one in four developers want to become managers.   

1 in 4 developers want to become managers

While this can certainly be a huge opportunity for some, it also leaves many feeling neglected in their own growth. Senior developers code less, engage in more administrative tasks, and must play office politics, which explains why satisfaction with learning opportunities begins to diminish from nine years of experience onwards.

Satisfaction in learning and growth decreases with developer experience

German developers care less about salary than their global peers — and they are also more satisfied 

The well-known maxim, “money can’t buy happiness” was touted long before audiences witnessed the tale of Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. And while it’s true that money is not conducive to overall happiness, that’s not to say money is not at all important.

31% of developers in Germany consider salary to be ‘very important’,  6% points less than the global average.

Salary is less important for developers in Germany

Developers in Frankfurt have the highest average salaries

In general, developers in Germany are well paid; Germany ranks in the top ten on a world scale. According to our data, the average salary for a software engineer working in Germany is approximately €50,418. The lowest salaries reported were around €18,000 for entry-level positions, compared to the most experienced developers who reported salaries upwards of €200,000. There were also a number of higher six-figure salaries reported which reflect roles with technical specialists and management positions.

Developers in Germany earn competitive salaries

The United States has the most competitive salaries for software engineers, almost double what Europe and Germany has to offer. 

Average developer salaries in Germany vary from city to city. According to Glassdoor, the highest paid jobs (on average) are in Munich, Frankfurt, and Hamburg while the lowest are in Berlin and Cologne. There’s also quite a difference in the cost of living estimates which can balance the lower salaries.   Out of the top seven German cities, Düsseldorf is the most affordable, with lower prices on average for accommodation, groceries and public transport. Given you have a full-time salary in Düsseldorf you can expect to save more money than Germany’s bigger metropolitan cities. That being said, the career opportunities found in cities like Munich and Berlin will be far more diverse than what’s offered or available in more affordable regions of Germany.  Below is a salary and cost of living comparison for all of the major cities in Germany.

Cost of living is lowest in Dusseldorf, salaries are highest in Frankfurt and Munich

As German developers progress in their career, they become more satisfied with their salaries 

Looking by coding experience, the most experienced developers (18+years) and the least experienced (0-2years) in our sample are the most satisfied with their salaries. Developers with 3-5 years experience are the least satisfied with salary, but as they gain more coding experience they gradually become more satisfied with their salaries.

The most experienced developers in Germany are the most satisfied with their salary

Pay between male and female developers is more equal than other parts of the world — but there is still a 2% difference on average 

There are some slight differences between the salaries of male and female developers in Germany, though it’s important to note that the sample size for male developers is much greater than the sample size for females. Yet given what we have, we can say there’s about a 2% difference between salaries of male and female developers, with men earning slightly more on average.

The gender pay gap for developers in Germany is less than the world average

The biggest noticeable difference is between male and female junior developers, with females earning quite a bit more than their male counterparts. This could be linked to the high demand for female developers in the workforce.  

On average male developers earn slightly more than female developers in Germany

Salary is more important for female developers than male developers in Germany. Additionally, male developers are less satisfied with their salaries, a higher percentage are “dissatisfied” when compared to female developers (27% > 19%).

Female developers in Germany are more satisfied with salary than male counterparts

Tech Stack is the least important factor for developer career happiness

Tech stack ranks as the least important factor in determining developer's happiness at work in our survey. Nevertheless, it is still considered very important by almost 24% of developers in Germany and somewhat important by a further 48%.

Tech stack is the least important predictor of career happiness for developers in Germany

As developers in Germany become more experienced, their satisfaction with the technologies that they are using decreases. Junior developers in Germany are on the whole satisfied with the tech stack they are using. Developers with 15–17 years of professional experience report the highest percentage of dissatisfaction (29%). 

Junior developers in Germany are most satisfied with their Tech Stack

While tech stack is lower on the totem of importance for career happiness, developers considering two jobs side-by-side with the same compensation, benefits, and location, rank tech stack as the second most important decision factor (according to StackOverflow). So while an organisation’s tech stack might not be the most important factor when it comes to retaining talent, it is certainly a big player when it comes to attracting skilled talent.  

Tech Stack is the second most important job factor for developers in Germany

So how happy are developers working in Germany?

Developers have been clear about what makes them happy at work, and it isn’t necessarily extrinsic factors like salary. In their own words, a healthy work-life balance, the ability to engage in continuous learning and career growth, and being a part of a healthy work environment and company culture are most conducive to their overall well-being and happiness. 

Companies racking their brains for ways to increase developer happiness in the workplace, need to simplify their strategy —  provide opportunities for developers to speak up and listen to their responses. And take happiness seriously; it's not just an ethical imperative, it's an economic one.

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