Ein compulsory social service for all young people in Germany? The initiative by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is not only met with rejection in the Federal Government. Some large welfare organizations, in whose old people’s homes, hospitals and facilities for the disabled, among other things, the service could be completed, are against a mandatory solution – and call for voluntary commitment to be promoted more instead.
Diakonie President Ulrich Lilie said on Monday that he thinks it is fundamentally right to get more young people involved in social activities. Society needs this commitment “more urgently than ever”. Voluntariness and personal conviction are decisive, however.
Ulrich Schneider, General Manager of the Joint Association, made a similar statement. “Nobody wants to be cared for or cared for by people who, in case of doubt, do not have the motivation to do so, but have been obliged to do so,” he told the FAZ on request. “We therefore reject the proposal for a compulsory social year. You can’t do that with coercion.”
Steinmeier sees advantages in compulsory service
Steinmeier had revived the debate about the introduction of compulsory service for young people in a newspaper interview. It has been used again and again in Germany since the end of general conscription eleven years ago, and the Union in particular had spoken out in favor of it in the past. So far, however, the discussion has always petered out.
Steinmeier now argues that compulsory social service – which does not have to last a whole year and can also be performed in the Bundeswehr – strengthens social cohesion. “You get out of your own bubble, meet completely different people, help citizens in need,” he said.
The federal government reacted cautiously. After Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) and Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) had already rejected compulsory service at the weekend, Deputy Government Spokesman Wolfgang Büchner also referred to the existing voluntary services on Monday.
100,000 young people complete a voluntary year
For example, young people up to the age of 27 can complete a voluntary social year or a voluntary ecological year in a day care center, hospital or environmental foundation. There is also the Federal Volunteer Service, which is open to everyone. According to the federal government, around 100,000 people get involved in one of these ways every year. They do not receive any remuneration for this, but only pocket money of a maximum of 423 euros.
In their coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP have set themselves the goal of expanding the number of places in voluntary services, increasing pocket money and improving part-time opportunities. Green leader Ricarda Lang also said on Monday that the commitment could be counted more towards the pension. This should meet with approval from the welfare organizations.
In any case, from the point of view of the Diakonie, it is the right way to create incentives so that more people decide voluntarily for social commitment. They not only supported the institutions but also gained insights into various fields of work. They often opted for an apprenticeship in a social institution afterwards. The Paritätische Gesamtverband, which demands practice times in school lessons, argues similarly.
The details of such an idea remain vague
In any case, as in previous debates, it is still unclear what a general compulsory service could look like and how it could be remunerated. Would it be politically conceivable for the advocates of the statutory minimum wage of 12 euros per hour for the state to assign people to work against their will and then refuse them the minimum wage?
From a purely legal point of view, it would probably work without a minimum wage. Before general conscription was suspended in 2011, recruits received a daily wage of 10.50 euros plus board and lodging in the barracks. However, at that time there was no general minimum wage.
With him, compulsory military service would be a very expensive affair for the public coffers, as a rough calculation shows: A year consists of around 700,000 young people. In order to employ them for a year on the basis of a 38.5-hour week at EUR 12 an hour, the state would have to spend more than EUR 15 billion a year on wage costs, plus employer contributions to social security and other ancillary wage costs. The welfare associations also fear an enormous organizational effort.
Diakonie also warns against seeing compulsory service as a solution to the shortage of staff in the social sector. This cannot be a substitute for the lack of specialists in the education, health and care sectors, says her specialist Rainer Hub. “Instead, these professions urgently need to be upgraded.” But: It could definitely offer the opportunity to strengthen the THW.
Leave a Reply