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Conservatives suggest mandatory public service for young adults

DPA/The Local · 26 Aug 2010, 12:06

Published: 26 Aug 2010 12:06 GMT+02:00

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If Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg succeeds with his plans to end conscription, the so-called Zivildienst for young men who opted out of military service would also cease to exist.

But the prospect has worried German charity organisations, which fear they will not be able to make up for the loss of the free labour by some 90,000 Zivis, as the volunteers are known. Many of the Zivis work as caretakers in nursing homes and other social facilities.

Saarland state premier and member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) Peter Müller spoke in favour of mandatory community service for both men and women on Thursday.

In an interview with daily Rheinische Post he said he had questioned “whether we should legally establish the societal responsibility of a citizen.”

“It is not legitimate to require young people to make themselves available to the community for a limited time period?” he asked.

Outgoing Hessian state premier Roland Koch also suggested such a programme, but only for young men.

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“The society will be poorer if young people are spared any kind of challenge to do something for their community,” he told daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, calling it an “issue of upbringing.”

Meanwhile Family Minister Kristina Schröder, also a CDU member, has suggested a government-supported volunteer programme for 35,000 young people starting at age 16. Their service would last between six months to a year.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:01 August 26, 2010 by iseedaftpeople
The problem with Zivildienst (or Wehrersatzdienst as it is officially called) is that you can't simply abolish it together with draft/conscription, because Zivildienst is an important backbone of the German healthcare and social system. Since its inception, it has provided generation after generation of cheap young labor (Zivildienst employees make about 3 euros an hour nowadays) - without which the costs of healthcare would skyrocket even more in the future, considering Germany's ever-aging population.

Making Zivildienst mandatory for every citizen, though, would make the health and social sector even more dependent on cheap government-subsidized labor (Zivildienst is paid for by the German government which reimburses an employer for what they pay a Zivieldienstleistender). While at the same time forcing out trained and skilled staff with years of work experience who won't be able to compete against such "Lohndumping". Monthly wages in the health sector have already been decreasing for a number of years, and it would put even more pressure on those employees.
16:44 August 26, 2010 by whatzup
What a great idea. Public service is something that should have been mandated in the US years ago. It teaches kids responsibility and the country benefits from their service, a win-win situation. The unfortunate fact of life is that no politician with national ambitions will touch it for fear of alienating the youth vote.
17:26 August 26, 2010 by William Thirteen
how unfair that it is just for men. i propose a new mandatory service bill to accompany this one, requiring young women to wash my car each week - in shorts and bikini tops.
15:55 August 27, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
I have an idea.

I propose, that as a country, we stop acting like a bunch of nihilistic, quasi-existentialist bohemians, and start caring about the fate of our country, as well as that of the world, again. I say we become more competitive in manufacturing and intellectual labor, rebuild the armored forces, and enforce a hegemony of peace in the Balkans like we *should* have been doing since the Ottomans withdrew, instead of using it as a political balance beam with Russia. On that note, I say we check Russia's economic expansionism into the former eastern bloc, by reinvesting in nuclear power and exporting it for pennies, so that the Ukraine, for example, is not dependent on Gazprom. I say we raise the education standards of our youth, and try to instill some fragment of a sense of civic responsibility in the average German again.

How about that?
09:57 August 28, 2010 by happyez
"alienating the youth vote."

When have politicians really cared about the youth vote?
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