Man should not be under any illusions – there are no economic arguments for mandatory service for young people, as Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is bringing up. On the contrary: young people who help out for a short time in hospitals, nursing homes and kindergartens alleviate the shortage of skilled workers at best in homeopathic doses.
They have to be trained, have no previous knowledge and are not allowed to take on many tasks in care and supervision. The companies are also missing prospective programmers and engineers for a year longer. The cost of compulsory service would be enormous.
If the young women and men earn the statutory minimum wage of 12 euros per hour – anything else is unimaginable with SPD participation – the state would have to release around 15 billion euros in tax money a year. For comparison: In 2021, the federal government spent a meager 4.3 billion euros on universities, science and research.
The economic benefit does not correspond to the social benefit
However, it would be wrong to conclude from these arguments that compulsory service cannot be socially worthwhile. Service to people (and why not to arms again?) has a value that cannot be quantified in euros and cents: it has an integrative function when young people from all walks of life work together.
And anyone who spends a few months in homes and day-care centers inevitably becomes aware that social tasks do not take care of themselves. It certainly doesn’t hurt one or the other academic child to get their hands dirty for others. And that’s better on your own doorstep than with any project in the rainforest.
Whether these arguments are sufficient for the expensive encroachment on freedom ultimately remains a question of consideration. Politicians would do well to involve the young people who present themselves as responsible in the decision about compulsory military service and, in case of doubt, to take the Greta generation at its word: Anyone who demands sacrifice and renunciation for a good cause from society cannot have anything against it, even in the duty to be taken.
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