He wanted a debate, he’s getting a debate: Federal President Steinmeier seems to have struck a chord with his push for mandatory social time. But supporters also report concerns.

In the debate initiated by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier about compulsory social service, critics of the idea called for voluntary services to be strengthened instead.

After members of the traffic light coalition, representatives of trade unions and social organizations also expressed their opposition to compulsory social service – while it met with approval in the CDU and the care council.

Federal Council President Bodo Ramelow (left) urged to look at the issue more calmly and drew a parallel to compulsory schooling. “Instead of just reflexively just picking on the Federal President and talking about new compulsion again and simply hiding compulsory schooling, I advocate looking at the topic with a little more composure,” said Ramelow of the German Press Agency. Compulsory schooling is also a compulsion and the state intervenes in the lives of young people. He wonders why you can’t “define” another year. Ramelow had repeatedly spoken out in favor of a mandatory period for young adults in the past. On the other hand, the head of the left-wing parliamentary group, Dietmar Bartsch, positioned himself against a social obligation.

“Get out of your own bubble”

Steinmeier had initiated a debate about compulsory social service at the weekend and justified this by saying that compulsory service could strengthen the community. “Especially now, at a time when understanding of other life plans and opinions is decreasing, a social obligation can be particularly valuable,” said Steinmeier of the “Bild am Sonntag”. “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.”

The CDU now argues in a similar way: Society is becoming more and more pluralistic, “at the same time many social and ethnic milieus no longer meet,” said the deputy federal chairman of the CDU, Carsten Linnemann, to the newspapers of the Funke media group. This could be countered with a “mandatory company year”.

Although Steinmeier generally spoke of a mandatory period, i.e. not explicitly addressing young people, his initiative was interpreted by many as such. From the point of view of the nursing council, compulsory social time could help bring young people “into contact with nursing and health care and thus with a task for society as a whole,” President Christine Vogler told the newspapers of the Funke media group. It must be prevented, however, that young people are used in this way as inexpensive nursing substitutes. “That would not do justice to either the young people or those to be cared for,” said Vogler.

Party offspring against social service

Youth organizations from various parties, including the Jusos, the Young Liberals and the Green Youth, rejected Steinmeier’s proposal on Monday. The Junge Union can gain something from a general obligation to serve. However, her boss Tilman Kuban spoke out in favor of using an online survey to clarify how willing young people are. “I therefore propose a digital youth survey of 14 to 21 year olds. In this way we give a voice to those who are being spoken about here and hear what they actually want, »he told the editorial network Germany (RND).

In the “Rheinische Post” and in the RND, the Lebenshilfe and the Paritätische Gesamtverband spoke out in favor of strengthening the offers for voluntary services. In social and charitable work, “dedicated volunteers with motivation and professionals with the right training should work,” said the managing director of the parity, Ulrich Schneider. In some cases, there are too few funded places for volunteers, complained the chairwoman of the federal association Lebenshilfe, Ulla Schmidt, in the “Rheinische Post”. The Social Association Germany (SoVD) also called for the expansion of voluntary service. “However, the aim of social commitment should not be to fill staff gaps in facilities and services,” warned President Adolf Bauer in the Funke newspapers.

From the point of view of Verdi boss Frank Werneke, compulsory service inadmissibly interferes with the life planning of young people. In addition, “all pending state tasks would have to be carried out within the framework of public services of general interest, which must be adequately financed,” he told the RND. The head of the youth organization of the German Trade Union Confederation, Kristof Becker, criticized in the Funke newspapers: “Anyone who wants to convince young people to work in certain areas should ensure good training and working conditions and not cry out for compulsory services.”