2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
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National Programme for Youth Volunteering
Characteristics of youth volunteering
Support to young volunteers
National Programme for Youth Volunteering
Germany has two national volunteering schemes, volunteering being a specific kind of civic engagement: the youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste) and the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst, BFD). They are aimed at different target groups and are subject to different legislation. Volunteering opportunities are available in a wide range of areas:
- Social care, e.g., kindergartens or day-care centres, retirement and care homes, hospitals, outpatient social or care services, emergency services, civilian protection or disaster relief
- Culture and monument preservation, e.g. memorial sites, museums, cultural associations, archives, theatres or youth clubs
- Education, e.g., special schools, all-day schools or media education programmes
- Sports, e.g., in sports clubs or associations, “exercise-oriented” kindergartens (Bewegungskindergarten) or leisure and sports activities
- Integration and inclusion, e.g., facilities for people with a disability, or schemes assisting refugees and migrants to integrate
- Democracy, e.g., as part of a voluntary year to promote youth participation (Freiwilliges Jahr Beteiligung zur Förderung von Jugendbeteiligung)
- Environment, especially for Voluntary Ecological Year placements (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr), e.g., in an environment or conservation association, conservation centre, landscape maintenance and horticulture, farming and animal husbandry, forestry, environmental technology and renewable energies, animal care, environmental education, environmental science and environment agencies.
Youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste)
The rules and regulations surrounding the youth voluntary services schemes Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr (Voluntary Social Year, FSJ) and Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr (Voluntary Ecological Year, FÖJ) are laid down in the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Gesetz zur Förderung der Jugendfreiwilligendienste, JFDG), which came into force effective 1 June 2008 (last amended 12 December 2019). These schemes are designed for young people who have completed full-time compulsory education but are under the age of 27. The Act sets out the general framework and stipulates basic parameters for volunteers to take part in these schemes, for example the duration of a voluntary service, what organisations may be accredited as providers of youth voluntary services and which labour law, health and safety provisions and data protection provisions must be observed.
The service unit for youth voluntary services (Servicestelle für Jugendfreiwilligendienste, which is attached to the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA), advises and supports organisations, volunteers’ places of work and volunteers. The FSJ Bundestutorat (national tutoring group) of BAFzA is responsible for quality development and assurance in regard to the educational support provided. It assists the educational staff working for non-affiliated organisations in providing this educational support. It also organises national conferences for experts working in this field and conducts statistical surveys and evaluations.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) provides statistics on the youth voluntary service schemes FSJ and FÖJ.
Development of the number of FSJ and FÖJ volunteers:
Broken down by federal state, in 2019/2020 the numbers were as follows:
FSJ and FÖJ placements may also be completed abroad, as detailed in article 6 of the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Jugendfreiwilligendienstgesetz). In 2018/2019, 20 FSJ volunteers and 6 FÖJ volunteers went abroad for their placement. In 2019/2020, the numbers were 13 and 5, respectively.
Volunteers with special needs (cognitive, emotional or physical disabilities) across Germany receive special assistance and educational support. Volunteers who are members of the immigrant community, too, are covered by a nationwide inclusive approach and are given personal assistance.
Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst)
The Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst. BFD) is a scheme for everyone in Germany who wishes to contribute to the common good outside of work or school. It is open to everyone who has completed full-time compulsory education. Depending on the federal state, this can include young people aged 16 or even 15. The BFD was introduced upon the coming into force of the Federal Volunteer Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz) on 28 April 2011 (last amended 12 December 2019).
The competent authority is the Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA) . It is supported by what are known as central offices (Zentralstellen), which are responsible for providing support to the volunteers’ places of work and the distribution of funds. BAFzA also deploys advisers (Berater) across Germany.
BAFzA collects statistics on the Federal Volunteer Service. Of the 35,246 volunteers who were active in August 2020, 25,085 were younger than 27.
In October 2018, the number of registered and approved BFD places of assignment in Germany stood at 32,150.
For measures to strengthen civil society with a focus on voluntary services, around 353 million euros have been earmarked in the 2020 federal budget (Bundeshaushalt), specifically section 17 of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ). Of this, the following amounts have been earmarked for voluntary services:
- Youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste), including Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ) and Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ) (title 684 11)
2020: FSJ: 91,781,000 euros (2018: 75,781,000 euros); FÖJ: 10,300,000 euros (2018: 7,800,000 euros). No funding from the European Social Fund.
- Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) (title 684 14)
2020: 207,202,000 euros (2018: 205,202,000 million). No funding from the European Social Fund.
Characteristics of youth volunteering
The final report on the joint evaluation of the Federal Volunteer Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz, BFDG) and the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Jugendfreiwilligendienstgesetz, JFDG) and the most recent volunteering survey (Freiwilligensurvey) in 2014 draw fairly similar conclusions when it comes to volunteering services as a specific, regulated form of civic engagement. The youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste) – the Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr) and Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr) – are the most popular schemes. More women than men opt for a volunteering placement. Most young male volunteers join the Voluntary Social Year scheme, working with seniors, patients, children, adolescents or people with a disability. The age group most likely to opt for a volunteer service is young adults aged 18 to 29 (9.2% compared to 3.8% of 30- to 49-year-olds). Well-educated 18- to 29-year-olds are more likely to complete a volunteer placement than their peers with a mid-level or basic education. Young volunteers from the immigrant community, too, are underrepresented.
For statistics on the Federal Volunteer Service and youth voluntary services), see ‘National Programme for Youth Volunteering’.
The civic engagement strategy (Engagementstrategie) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) points out that the level of civic engagement among young people has declined slightly in recent years, due amongst other things to increased time pressure, in turn due to rising expectations in terms of education, training and the transition from school to work. The resulting need to remain geographically more mobile and the loss of one’s social surroundings were other factors that have led to volunteers discontinuing the activity prematurely.
The groups at which volunteering schemes are aimed are clearly defined in the legislation:
The youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste) Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ) and Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ) are aimed at individuals who have completed full-time compulsory education but are under the age of 27 (Section 1 of the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Gesetz zur Förderung von Jugendfreiwilligendiensten).
The Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst, BFD) is open to individuals under the age of 27 who have completed full-time compulsory education and individuals over the age of 27 who meet certain requirements (Setion 2 of the Federal Volunteer Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz)).
In 2015, an evaluation was conducted of the Federal Volunteer Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz) and the Act to Promote Youth Voluntary Services (Jugendfreiwilligendienstegesetz) that found that certain target groups are under-represented in the schemes, namely male volunteers, volunteers with mid-level or low educational qualifications and volunteers from the immigrant community. See Characteristics of youth volunteering.