Federal Voluntary Service

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In the Federal Volunteer Service ( BFD ), people (known as Bufdis or Federal Volunteers ) are committed to the common good , especially in the social , ecological and cultural areas as well as in the area of ​​sport, integration and civil protection and disaster control ( Section 1 BFDG). It was introduced in 2011 as an initiative for voluntary, non-profit and unpaid work in Germany . The Federal Voluntary Service was created by the federal government in response to the suspension of compulsory military service in 2011 and thus also of community service . It should complement the existing voluntary services and promote civic engagement. One of the aims is to put the concept of voluntary service on a broader social basis, since the federal voluntary service is also open to adults over the age of 27.

For the BFD, the principle of labor market neutrality has been adopted by the civil service (see Section 3 (1) BFDG), which is checked by the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (BAFzA).

The central administration is carried out by the BAFzA (successor authority of the Federal Office for Community Service).


In West Germany Liselotte Funcke advocated a voluntary social year for young women in the 1960s . As early as the 1950s there was a state mass initiative in the GDR, the National Reconstruction Organization , which took care of removing the rubble from the Second World War. In the 1960s, this initiative was replaced by the "Do-with-Movement" (slogan: Better our cities and communities - join in! ) And the National Economic Mass Initiative (VMI).

The debate that flared up again and again from the end of the 1990s on the possible abolition of compulsory military service and the high demand for places in the youth voluntary service prompted the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs to convene an expert commission “On the future of civil society” in 2003. Representatives of the social and environmental associations and the ministries concerned drew up a final report which, among other things, encouraged the promotion of intergenerational volunteer services. Two corresponding model projects ran from 2004, but only included projects with weekly working hours up to a maximum of 20 hours. These did not correspond to the full-time work in the youth voluntary services. The follow-up project “Voluntary Service for All Generations”, which ran from 2009 to the end of 2011, only offered volunteering opportunities on a part-time basis (8 hours per week).

After it became clear from the late summer of 2010 that the attempt by the Federal Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to suspend compulsory military service would be successful, the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs approved a federal voluntary service bill on November 16, 2010. After a relatively short legislative process, owed to the circumstances, the Federal Voluntary Service Act (Bundesfreiwilligendienstgesetz - BFDG) of April 28, 2011 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 687) came into force on May 3, 2011. After initial reluctance, the service is now considered a success. A number of associations and organizations are advocating a further expansion of the service after almost all places had been allocated in 2012.

Federal Voluntary Service Act

Basic data
Title: Federal Voluntary Service Act
Short title: Federal Voluntary Service Act
Abbreviation: BFDG
Type: Federal law
Scope: Federal Republic of Germany
Legal matter: Special administrative law
References : 2173-2
Issued on: April 28, 2011 ( BGBl. I p. 687 )
Entry into force on: predominantly May 3, 2011
Last change by: Art. 50 G of December 12, 2019
( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2652, 2718 )
Effective date of the
last change:
January 1, 2024
(Art. 60 G of December 12, 2019)
GESTA : G026
Weblink: Text of the law
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.
  • The service is intended to promote engagement for the common good in social, ecological and cultural areas as well as in sport and - new to the youth volunteer services - in civil and disaster protection as well as in integration. It also serves for lifelong learning ( § 1 : Tasks).
  • Potential volunteers are all people who have completed compulsory full-time schooling and have no upper age limit ( § 2 No. 1).
  • The work is full-time ; For volunteers over the age of 27, a reduction to more than 20 hours per week is possible (§ 2 No. 2).
  • The length of service is usually 12 months, in special projects between 6 and 24 months; In special cases, a division into 3-month blocks is also possible (§§ 2 No. 3 and 3 Paragraph 2).
  • Adults over the age of 27 are allowed to do a federal voluntary service every five years ( Section 3 (2)).
  • Accommodation, food, clothing and pocket money should be paid for in the same way as for youth volunteer services (Section 2 No. 4).
  • Deployment sites can be institutions that are oriented towards the common good (not only non-profit ) in the social and environmental sector (Section 3 (1)).
  • In the same way as for youth volunteer services , seminars must be attended for 25 days per year, regardless of the weekly working hours. In the case of employment periods deviating from 12 months, one seminar day more or less is required per month (Section 4, Paragraph 3). A seminar week must serve political education and should "usually be carried out in the existing state community service schools" (explanation on § 4).
  • An educational support of all volunteers is provided, whereby but not fixed, how and by whom (§ 4. 1 and 2). However, attention should be paid to an age group orientation (explanations on § 4).
  • The social insurances correspond to those in the youth voluntary services, i.e. the volunteers are insured like employees. There is (regardless of the amount of pocket money paid) compulsory insurance in the statutory social insurance (§ 17), whereby the deployment site (carrier agency) also pays the employee's shares. This results in the following contribution rates from January 1, 2017: Pension insurance 18.7%, health insurance 14.6%, long-term care insurance 2.55% (or 2.8% for childless people), unemployment insurance 3.0%, which is paid by the deployment locations are to be paid.
  • All deployment sites must be recognized by the federal government, whereby all previous community service posts are automatically recognized. New positions are recognized by the federal government directly or with an FSJ / FÖJ provider with the consent of the respective federal state (§ 7).
  • The administration of the volunteer places is carried out by central offices, which watch over the organizations and deployment sites and the federal funds promised in winter from September 1st. then redistribute them (§ 8). Such central offices already exist in the area of ​​the FSJ, in the environmental area NABU , BUND , Schutzstation Wattenmeer and the BAK FÖJ are planning to set up central offices.
  • The working agreement is concluded between the federal government and the volunteer on the basis of a joint proposal by the deployment sites and volunteers. This is therefore a bilateral employment relationship, which, however, is not an employment relationship in the narrower sense, in which the institution is not a contractual partner, but a federal contractor (Section 9).
  • All federal volunteers elect seven spokespersons and seven deputies once a year, who represent the interests of the volunteers above all towards the BAfzA and the BMFSFJ.
  • It is the duty of the deployment centers to issue a qualified certificate for each volunteer (§ 11).

Federal voluntary service with reference to refugees

At the end of 2015, in the course of the refugee crisis, the federal voluntary service with reference to refugees was introduced when the Asylum Procedure Acceleration Act expanded the Federal Voluntary Service Act to include Section 18 .

As of December 1, 2015, an additional contingent of 10,000 new BFD positions will be available as part of a special Federal Volunteer Service program with refugee issues that is limited to December 31, 2018 . These additional BFD places with reference to refugees are available

  • for volunteers in general, if the job description of an assignment location shows a reference to the support of persons entitled to asylum , persons with international protection or asylum seekers (e.g. help with accommodation and care, for social orientation and integration as well as activities to coordinate a corresponding civic engagement.), and
  • for persons entitled to asylum and asylum seekers who are expected to be legally and permanently resident (asylum seekers from a safe country of origin, on the other hand, cannot conclude a BFD agreement, as it is assumed that a lawful and permanent residence is not expected).

In the special program, a distinction is made between deployment sites with direct and indirect refugee references. Deployment centers with a direct reference to refugees include, for example, initial reception centers in the state and facilities that accommodate unaccompanied minor refugees . Locations with an indirect refugee reference include, for example, kindergartens that (also) take in refugee children.

The spokesman for the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (Bafza) expressed the hope that a large part of the 10,000 positions could be filled by refugees. The German course and being part of a team are a great opportunity, especially for asylum seekers. ( Compare: Residence permit # work ban .)

By the end of October 2016, almost 5,000 positions, i.e. almost half of the possible additional BFD positions, had been filled.

Speaker system

The BFDG stipulates that the volunteers elect speakers who represent their interests vis-à-vis the BafZA, the deployment centers and the central offices. They are members of the Advisory Board for the Federal Voluntary Service, which advises the BMFSFJ on BFD issues. Seven speakers and seven deputies can be elected once a year directly by the volunteers online via the website of the Federal Voluntary Service.

Benefits and pocket money

The volunteer should receive adequate pocket money; the maximum limit is currently (2020) to a monthly amount of 414 euros, i.e. H. 6% of the assessment ceiling in general pension insurance. In the case of part-time employment, it is reduced proportionally. In addition, the volunteer can receive food, accommodation and clothing or the equivalent amount paid out (according to the Social Insurance Remuneration Ordinance, the following non-cash benefits apply to 2016: food 236 euros, accommodation 223 euros per month). These payments in cash and in kind are income that is subject to contributions to social security. Since the BFD is a voluntary service that is free of charge, the services do not represent a wage, but an allowance for expenses . The place of work decides how much the pocket money is and whether it offers or pays out the additional services.

The place of assignment pays the contributions for pension, accident, health, nursing care and unemployment insurance.


The cost bearers are on the one hand (possibly also in full) the federal government, on the other hand the deployment centers or their sponsors (see examples). Each BFD place is funded by the federal government with 250 euros (up to the 25th birthday) or 350 euros (from 25 years) per month. However, only pocket money and the social security contributions (approx. 40% of the total of all benefits) are taken into account. Food, accommodation and clothing must be borne by the site itself if they are offered.

Example 1:

Pocket money of EUR 279 per month is paid for a 75% part-time position (30 of 40 hours) (75% of the maximum EUR 372). Food, accommodation and clothing are not paid. The 40% social security contribution results in an additional amount of 111 euros. The resulting costs of 390 euros (279 euros pocket money + 111 euros taxes) are largely borne by the federal government (up to 350 euros for people over 25). The place of assignment pays the remaining 40 euros.

Example 2:

The maximum pocket money of 372 euros per month is paid for a full-time position. Food, accommodation and clothing are paid at a flat rate of 250 euros. The 40% social security contributions result in an additional amount of 249 euros. The eligible costs of 621 euros (372 euros pocket money + 249 euros in taxes) will be borne by the federal government on a pro rata basis with a maximum of 350 euros. The place of assignment pays the remaining part of 271 euros as well as the full grant (250 euros: food, not eligible for funding).

Additional services

In addition to pocket money, food and accommodation, government grants such as child benefit , housing benefit and unemployment benefit II can be obtained . The receipt of maintenance for adult participants by parents or legal guardians is not intended for the time of the BFD, especially if the BFD only serves to bridge a waiting period. For underage participants, there may be a residual need for maintenance that must be paid by parents or legal guardians.

In the case of asylum seekers, income from the BFD is offset against other benefits to the volunteer or his family members in accordance with Section 7 AsylbLG.


Total number

At the end of 2011, the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (BAFzA) reported 26,240 federal volunteers ("Bufdis" / BFDler) on duty. The goal of 35,000 federal volunteers set by the federal government was achieved in February 2012 and some applicants were rejected.

Between January and November 2015, the number of federal volunteers fluctuated between 32,932 in August and 41,923 in November. Of these, 23,367 were women and 18,556 were men. To mark the fifth anniversary of the BFD, it was announced that by July 2016 more than 216,000 people had worked as Bufdis.

While a total of 41,190 people took part in the federal voluntary service in 2018, around 39,000 Bufdis were counted in the first half of 2020.

Contrary to original expectations, many older people have also volunteered within the framework of the BFD. By mid-2012 alone, more than 1,100 people aged 60 or over had been deployed as federal volunteers, mainly in facilities for disabled people, in educational and cultural projects or in nature conservation.


One point of criticism is the fact that - unlike in civilian service - the travel costs to the service are not necessarily covered by the employer, so that the voluntary service providers sometimes lose up to a quarter of their expense allowance through travel costs alone. That is why the day of action for #freifahrtfuervolwillige takes place every year on December 5th, international volunteering day. Free or discounted tickets for public transport are required for graduates of voluntary services. Soldiers have been able to travel free of charge on Deutsche Bahn since January 2020. On this day, volunteers share e.g. B. Pictures with your bus and train tickets on social media and add up the costs incurred.

Similar services

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Goyke: The 100 from Bonn. Between Barzel and Wehner. Gustav Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1970 (2nd edition), here p. 83
  2. Wording and synopses of the law on the introduction of a federal voluntary service
  3. Supporters hope for 30 percent more BFD positions. In: Stern Online . February 4, 2012, accessed January 27, 2013 .
  4. Diakonie in Bayern demands more money for "Bufdis". In: Welt Online . February 7, 2012, accessed January 27, 2013 .
  5. Amendment to § 18 BFDG of October 24, 2015. In: buzer.de
  6. Program brought forward: Now refugees should also be “Bufdis”. In: The world. November 24, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  7. a b c Asylum seekers and refugees in the Federal Voluntary Service (BFD). BFD, accessed June 1, 2016 .
  8. Voluntary Services & Refugee Aid. Voluntary Services DRS gGmbH, accessed on June 1, 2016 .
  9. Voluntary service: rush to Bufdi positions “with reference to refugees”. In: The world. December 22, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  10. Almost 5,000 people do federal voluntary service in refugee aid. Welcome culture Hamburg, October 27, 2016, accessed on November 1, 2016 .
  11. See (for 2019): The Federal Voluntary Service from A to Z - keyword pocket money
  12. See (for 2016): StGB NRW communication 54/2016 of December 17, 2015 ( Memento of July 23, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  13. See (for 2014): Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (ed.): Leaflet on the implementation of the Federal Voluntary Service. ( Memento of July 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 48 kB), p. 3.
  14. Frequently asked questions. In: bundesfreiwilligendienst.de. Retrieved July 23, 2016 .
  15. See Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks (Ed.): Guideline on Section 17 of the BFDG as amended. of January 9, 2013 ( Memento of July 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 38 kB); here: 2.1.1
  16. See also: BMFSFJ guidelines on Section 17 of the Federal Volunteer Service Act. (PDF) (No longer available online.) Www.bundesfreiwilligendienst.de, October 30, 2014, archived from the original on May 9, 2016 ; accessed on July 23, 2016 .
  17. Newsletter No. 12. (No longer available online.) BFZ , archived from the original on February 17, 2012 ; Retrieved December 29, 2011 .
  18. ^ Hartz IV - Unemployment Benefit II. Association "For social life e. V. ", accessed on January 8, 2012 .
  19. Relation to family law: maintenance claim during the BFD (and FSJ)? Association “For social life e. V. ", accessed on January 8, 2012 .
  20. Leaflet “Use of Refugees in the Federal Voluntary Service”. (PDF) Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband Niedersachsen e. V. - Federal Volunteer Service, accessed on November 26, 2015 .
  21. Voluntary service: The civilian is leaving, the Bufdi is coming. In: Spiegel Online . December 28, 2011, accessed January 27, 2013 .
  22. Sebastian Puschner: Liberated from exile . In: Der Spiegel . No. 18 , 2012, p. 50 ( online ).
  23. Federal Volunteer Service. Two thirds of all places: Federal Office wants to give 6,700 Bufdi positions to refugees. In: Focus. December 23, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  24. bundesfreiwilligendienst.de
  25. bundesfreiwilligendienst.de
  26. https://www.br.de/nachrichten/deutschland-welt/corona-kriseneinsaetze-fuer-freiwillige-giffey-startet-plattform,RvT0CkS
  27. Seniors in the federal voluntary service: registration procedure. In: haufe.de. May 31, 2012, accessed January 6, 2020 .
  28. Christine von Lossau, Nadine Thielen: Zivi replacement "Bufdi": Voluntary in the financial shortage. In: Spiegel Online . September 3, 2012, accessed September 3, 2012 .
  29. https://freiwilligendienste-kultur-bildung.de/news/freifahrtfuerfreiwillige/
  30. https://www.bmvg.de/de/aktuelles/ministerin-gibt-gruenes-licht-soldaten-fahren-bald-kostenlos-bahn-92958