Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has initiated a debate on the introduction of compulsory social service for young people in Germany. “It’s about the question of whether it wouldn’t be good for our country if women and men put themselves in the service of society for a certain period of time,” he told the “Bild am Sonntag”.

Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) and Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) immediately rejected such a service. “There will be no duty with us,” Stark-Watzinger wrote on Twitter.

Steinmeier spoke of a “mandatory time” and emphasized that it didn’t have to be a year. “You can also choose a different period of time.” This time could be done in the Bundeswehr, but just as well in the care of seniors, in facilities for the disabled or in shelters for the homeless. “Especially now, at a time when understanding for other life plans and opinions is decreasing, a social duty time can be particularly valuable. You get out of your own bubble, meet completely different people, help citizens in need. That breaks down prejudices and strengthens the sense of community.”

Introducing such a service will certainly not be easy, said Steinmeier. “But I wish that we would have a debate about compulsory social time.”

Federal Family Minister Paus, on the other hand, advocated leaving it at the voluntary services popular among young people. “Compulsory social service would mean an encroachment on the individual freedom of every young person,” said the Greens politician. “Voluntary commitment becomes an obligation. We should continue to give our young people, who have suffered particularly badly from the corona pandemic and still shown solidarity with their elders, the freedom to make their own decisions.”

The FDP politician Stark-Watzinger argued the same way: “For more than two years, young people have taken a back seat to society and have given up a lot. State intervention in the CV is pretty much the last thing you need now,” wrote the Federal Minister of Education on Twitter.

So far, there have been the Voluntary Social Year, the Voluntary Ecological Year and the International Youth Volunteer Service especially for young people. These offers are open to young women and men up to the age of 27, regardless of their school qualifications, origin or income situation. There is also the Federal Volunteer Service, an offer for people of all ages.

Paus emphasized: “For the individual young person, such a voluntary service means personal enrichment, for society it is an important support – also because the young people volunteer and put their heart and soul into it.”