Germany’s BDÜ Updates Guidance on Fair Remuneration for Interpreters

Germany Interpreters 2023

Following the BDÜ’s guidance on interpreting fees published in 2022, the Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators in Germany (BDÜ) is continuing to push for fair remuneration for professional interpreters and demanding changes to quality assurance measures when employing translators and interpreters.

On February 28, 2023, the organization announced that it had updated the guidance with up-to-date example calculations as well as practical help for interpreters on good argumentation in contract negotiations.

Last year’s publication on community interpreting fees was a practical addendum to the BDÜ’s two position statements: one on the lowering of fees, sometimes called “fee dumping”, and the consequences of this; and a second on the dangers of “voluntary” interpreting when referring to a professional service that aims to protect people’s rights and freedoms. 

The association is concerned that people who are bilingual are often encouraged to interpret for free ‘for the common good’, but that this devalues the profession and undermines the qualifications and professionalism required.

The BDÜ hoped to demonstrate the repercussions of unfair remuneration, which not only forces qualified interpreters to leave this “important field of work” (BDÜ), but also traps bilingual individuals in a “volunteer loop”. This primarily refers to immigrants with knowledge of languages rarely spoken in Germany who interpret free of charge and are not offered training or access to recognized qualifications that would allow them to attain sustainable employment.

BDÜ Helps Interpreters Earning Below Poverty Threshold

The sample calculations found in the updated guidance have now been adjusted in line with Germany’s social security contributions and income tax rates for 2023. The BDÜ also suggests that this guidance can be used during negotiations to help interpreters argue their case for fair remuneration.

The announcement in February maintains that interpreters are still earning far too little; an hourly rate of EUR 25-30 is still commonplace. The German Parity Association’s Poverty Report 2022 (Paritätischen Armutsbericht 2022) classifies an individual as income poor if their income is less than 60% of the median income. 

The average annual monthly net salary for a full-time employee in Germany was EUR 2,636 in 2022. Therefore, even if an interpreter earns EUR 60 per hour — double the usual rate mentioned by the BDÜ — and assuming they work eight hours per day, five days a week, they would only earn EUR 2,400 and would still be considered income poor.