Number of applicants for voluntary military service remains low

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The Minister of Defense wants to set up a new voluntary service. The number of applicants has been falling almost continuously for the past nine years. But there is a strategy behind it, says the ministry.

Berlin (dpa) – The interest in voluntary military service in the Bundeswehr remains at a low level. In the first half of 2020, around 5,200 men and women applied for the 7 to 23-month service, compared to 11,200 throughout the past year. For comparison: in the first years after the suspension of conscription in 2011, the number of applicants was still over 18,000. This emerges from a current list of the Ministry of Defense, which is available to the German press agency.

Voluntary military service has existed since 1996, but it only became more important when military service was suspended in mid-2011. In 2012, 19,300 men and women applied for it, but since then the number has decreased almost every year. Only from 2018 to 2019 there was a slight increase from 10,700 to 11,200.

The Ministry of Defense attributes the falling numbers to a change in strategy from 2016. At that time, the reduction in the number of troops that had continued since the end of the Cold War was stopped and the number of personnel increased again. That is why, according to the ministry, there has since been increased recruitment for temporary soldiers who generally commit to at least 24 months. A spokeswoman for the dpa said their number had risen in parallel with the decline in those doing military service. The total number of applicants for jobs in the Bundeswehr has been stable between 52,000 and 59,000 in the past nine years.

Applications for the new “Voluntary Military Service in Homeland Security”, for which Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) wants to recruit 1,000 young men and women per year, should be possible from September. It is said to consist of seven months of military training and reserve missions over the next six years. The task of the new volunteers: homeland security, i.e. crisis and disaster operations like now in the fight against the corona pandemic.

With this, Kramp-Karrenbauer wants to close a gap in the job offers of the Bundeswehr. A total of 146,600 men and women have applied for the previous voluntary military service since July 2011, of whom an average of 56 percent have been employed. In the past three years, however, this rate has been significantly higher, with more than two thirds each. According to the information, the proportion of women in the service of military service was 18 percent recently, which is six percentage points higher than that of regular and professional soldiers.

Almost one in four conscripts (23 percent) already stopped their service during the probationary period. Almost every second (43 percent) gave “private reasons” for this, 13 percent “alternative job offers”. The reasons “excessive demands” (3.5 percent) and “lack of proximity to home” (2 percent) were mentioned comparatively rarely. The Federal Armed Forces fired around four percent of those who volunteered for military service since 2011.

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