Civil service in Germany

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The civil service in Germany was in the Federal Republic of Germany at the time of general compulsory military service the most common form of Completion of an alternative military service for recognized conscientious objectors. In 2009, for example, 90,555 conscientious objectors did civil service , most of them in the social sector, among others. a. in hospitals and old people's homes.

With the suspension of compulsory military service in 2011, the last civil service relationships expired; there has been no civil service in Germany since 2012. The Federal Voluntary Service created in 2011 has been replacing part of the redundant staff in social institutions since July 1, 2011. The Federal Voluntary Service is open to everyone, regardless of gender, age or nationality, and takes 6–24 months, depending on the contractual relationship.


Number of applications, drafts and number of conscientious objectors in Germany

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany does not provide for the right to choose between military service with a weapon and community service. But according to Art. 4 of the Basic Law, no one may be forced to do military service against their conscience. According to Art. 12a , "those who refuse to do military service with a weapon for reasons of conscience [...] can be obliged to do alternative service." In Germany, the legal conditions were regulated by the Civil Service Act, which came into force on January 20, 1960. The first to do community service was Berthold Morlock , who had organized his position in a sanatorium even before the draft. The civil service was administered by the Federal Office for Community Service . Analogous to the Armed Forces Commissioner , there was the Federal Commissioner for Community Service, to whom those doing community service could turn with information and complaints.

See the article on conscientious objection .

Until 1972 the service was called "Civilian Alternative Service".

Instead of doing civilian service, it was possible to do another service abroad or a voluntary social year . Both took longer than community service; the ADiA at least two months longer than the community service (§ 14b, Paragraph 1, Sentence 1, No. 1 ZDG), the FSJ at least twelve consecutive months (§ 14c, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2, ZDG). Since it was a matter of voluntary work, both were paid much less than community service. If recognized conscientious objectors were able to demonstrate six years of involvement in civil or disaster control, their obligation to do community service in peacetime was no longer valid. This could, for example, be an obligation at the technical relief organization , a medical organization or the volunteer fire brigade . Police officers in training and Catholic priests were also not used.

Civilian service was performed at a civilian service that had to be recognized by the Federal Office. Every civil service office had to ensure that the ZDL maintained neutrality on the labor market , which meant only filling 1/8 of a job. This was to prevent normal workplaces from being replaced by ZDL.

Attraction to service

Anyone fit for military service who had refused to do military service for reasons of faith and conscience in accordance with Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the  Basic Law could be used for community service .

A common misunderstanding was that it was assumed that men unfit for military service could be used for community service. This was not the case, since civil service was an alternative service exclusively in the event that military service could not be completed for reasons of conscience . Medical or other reasons were irrelevant. So if a man was classified as unfit during the draft, he could not be used for community service. This also applied analogously to all reasons that exempt from military service despite fitness.

Anyone who had reached the age of 23 could no longer be used for civil or basic military service, unless he was beyond the age of 23 - e.g. B. because he was in training - postponed.

Length of service

Duration of military and community service in Germany (in months)

The Basic Law stipulates in Article 12a (2): “The duration of alternative service may not exceed the duration of military service.” However, there is room for interpretation. Usually the longer civil service was explained by the fact that former military service members could be called in for military exercises, which is why the civil service worker had to do a longer service to compensate. For most of its existence, civilian service was therefore longer than military service, at the top by a full five months (20 months of civilian service out of 15 months of military service in the period from 1984 to 1990). The length of service was identical from 2004 to the suspension of compulsory civil service in 2011.

From Duration of community
Duration of
military service
1.4.1957 none 12 months Civilian service was initially not specified, even if, according to Article 4 of the Basic Law, the right to refuse had already existed from 1949.
1.4.1961 12 months 12 months
April 1, 1962 15 months 15 months
July 1, 1962 18 months 18 months People who worked in mining or went to sea did not have to do military or community service.
1.1.1973 16 months 15 months ZDL who refused to do so between August 1, 1977 and December 16, 1977 according to the so-called postcard procedure , had to serve 18 months.
1.1.1984 20 months 15 months An increase in the length of service decided in January 1989 was intended to extend community service to 24 months from June 1, 1989. Military service should be 18 months. However, this was initially suspended for three years and became obsolete with the change on October 1, 1990.
October 1, 1990 15 months 12 months Anyone who had worked more than the required time on the cut-off date of the reduction could do the entire time or, if desired, be dismissed early.
1.1.1996 13 months 10 months
1.7.2000 11 months 10 months
1.1.2002 10 months 9 months
October 1, 2004 9 months 9 months
1.1.2011 6 months 6 months
July 1, 2011 Suspension of community service (as a result of the suspension of compulsory military service). Since that date, recognition as a conscientious objector is still possible, but no one can do their community service. The last ZDL were released on December 31, 2011.

The suspension of community service is partially offset by the Federal Voluntary Service, which was introduced on July 1, 2011.

Service details

Application area

Care for the elderly, carried out by a community service provider

Civil service providers were called in by institutions officially recognized as service bodies for a wide variety of civilian tasks. The most well-known areas of application were hospitals, youth centers, old people's homes , emergency services and organizations that had dedicated themselves to the care of the disabled. Mainly care and driving services as well as support were provided here.

Other popular areas of application were increasingly found in the field of environmental and nature conservation, e.g. B. in national park areas . Here, the work often concentrated on public relations and education, depending on the department, mixed with practical work for nature (habitat maintenance, mapping, etc.).


People doing civil service received the same pay as those doing military service in the armed forces. In reality, however, people doing community service mostly received cash benefits (“more money”) for the elimination of benefits in kind, since those doing military service received certain benefits in kind that a person doing community service usually did not receive. So the Bundeswehr provided the uniforms, usually a service accommodation and also the catering with all three meals. A ZDL received monetary compensation for this if the department could not offer it these services.

As of January 1, 2010, following changes to the Military Wages Act, the daily rate was 2 euros more. The following information has been updated accordingly. The basic salary was divided into three pay levels: pay level 1 (9.41 euros / calendar day) applied from the beginning of community service, pay level 2 (10.18 euros / calendar day) was generally paid from the 4th month of service and the third pay level (10.95 euros / calendar day) usually from the 7th month. In addition, each person doing community service received a special allowance ("Christmas bonus") in the amount of € 172.56 and a discharge allowance of up to € 690.24. The Christmas bonus was also paid to the ZDL (then in the last month of service), which were no longer on duty in December. In addition, those doing community service were entitled to benefits in kind (clothing allowance: 1.18 euros / day; mobility allowance: if living in a business accommodation was arranged and the distance between the company residence and place of residence was more than 30 km: 0.51 euros / km / month , max. 204 euros / month); The food allowance (maximum 7.20 euros / day = double the food rate) was granted if the office and the ZDL mutually agreed to forego natural food at the beginning of the civil service period. Civilian service workers, like those doing military service, were insured by the state (free medical care). Regular health insurance was suspended during the period of service.

Payment of the salary and the other monthly payments usually took place on the 15th of each month. The civil service office paid the remuneration in cash and in kind to be granted to the civil service provider on behalf of the federal government (guidelines for civil service F3 2.1). The amounts disbursed by the community service center were reimbursed by the Federal Office as part of the quarterly accounting (Guideline F2 3.1), provided they were not borne by the community service center itself (Section 6 ZDG).

The civil service pay and the discharge allowance were tax-free. In the case of child benefit, however, the discharge allowance was added to the income of the person doing community service.

In addition to his service, the person doing community service could also take up marginal or self-employed employment on request, provided that this did not hinder him in fulfilling his official duties. Permission had to be obtained for such employment.

Entry into service

Starting work was usually the first working day of the month. In addition to information about the service, other things such as the civil service ID were then prepared. There was also a medical examination to determine that the conscript was still fit. This was usually carried out by the responsible health department or a "civilian service doctor" (federal contract doctor). The start-up examination should be carried out four days after starting work. That is why the department had to make an appointment with the doctor before the person doing community service began. With the documents that were sent to the agency by the Federal Office, she received the official order form to carry out a recruitment examination . If - e.g. B. because of a short-term call-up - the documents were not available when starting work, the department was able to receive a replacement copy from the responsible administrative office.


Community service providers often received discounted admission to public institutions such as museums or swimming pools. Also could z. B. Magazines can be obtained at discounted subscription conditions, which otherwise apply primarily to students. The civil service card was also valid as a ticket for family trips home on Deutsche Bahn trains . In addition, the railway granted a 25% discount on the purchase of certain tickets.

Introductory courses

If the service allowed, community service providers should be ordered to an introductory course in a community service school . This course usually lasted one week. In addition, the community service provider was able to attend a special course in a community service school, which trained him for work in his department. This was e.g. B. in nursing work, a nursing course or paramedic training for community service providers. This could take several weeks. This special course could also be linked to the introductory course. During the courses, the community service provider usually lived in the community service school. On the weekends that are generally free for courses, the service provider was not allowed to be used by his department to provide services.

Citizenship Seminars / Education and Training

If he wished to do community service, he was entitled to attend civic seminars for further training. This right only existed for seminars in the region in which the office was located. There was a fixed regional division for this. For up to two seminars, the agency had to release the community service worker and pay the travel expenses. If the agency agreed and also covered the costs, more than two seminars and seminars in other regions could be attended. In addition, the Federal Office supported certain training and further education measures upon request. If necessary, the person doing community service was also to be granted special leave.

Working hours and vacation

The working time regulations for the full-time employees of the department were decisive for the weekly working hours. The vacation entitlement of those doing community service, however, was set at 1 day / month of service from August 17, 2010. This meant that everyone doing community service was entitled to 6 days of vacation. Service providers who were drafted before July 1, 2010 were an exception; they were still entitled to 20 days. Community service providers who performed their service in the transition period (July 2010 - December 2010) had the option of voluntarily extending their service to 9 months and thus taking the full 20 days of vacation. The service was bound by the Working Hours Act as well as collective or internal working time agreements. If there were no regulations for full-time employees, the civilian service provider was to be deployed according to the provisions on working hours for federal civil servants. In practice, this rule was not used.

In the first three months of service, community service workers were not allowed to work overtime. After that, overtime work was permitted, for which time off had to be granted within two months.

Shifts and night shifts were permitted for community service workers as long as they were also performed by full-time employees. Night duty in the sense of the guideline for the implementation of the community service was any service that was performed between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Performing night or shift work exclusively by community service providers was not permitted.

Financial or leisure time compensation was not permitted for work on Sundays and public holidays as well as for night work. However, additional leave was provided for night shifts. Community service providers who were on duty between 6 p.m. and midnight on December 24th should receive a small donation up to a value of 10 euros from their office.

Suspension or abolition of community service

On December 15, 2010, the Federal Cabinet decided to suspend compulsory military service and community service as of July 1, 2011.

Article 12a of the Basic Law states:

"Men can be obliged to serve in the armed forces, in the Federal Border Guard or in a civil defense association from the age of eighteen."

Since the wording with “can” leaves room for interpretation, it was argued that this was not an obligation to carry out such a service. So one can simply suspend the draft without having to change the Basic Law. But this view was controversial.

The fact that the commission report, which also recommended the adjustment of service hours, also dealt with the effects of a possible suspension of compulsory military service, sparked a general discussion about the continued existence of compulsory service in Germany.

Since civil service is firmly linked to military service, its existence depends on compulsory military service. Most parties at the federal level are against conscription. Alliance 90 / The Greens did so for reasons of principle and their pacifist attitude. The FDP stated that conscription was obsolete in the current security situation, also because conscripts could not be sent on missions abroad. The left preferred to suspend compulsory military service, as a change in the Basic Law could not be made with the existing majority. The SPD was divided on this issue and developed “voluntary conscription” as a compromise formula, in which drafting should continue to take place. However, according to this model, in the end only those who wanted to do so would be used for military service. This would probably also mean the de facto end of community service. The CDU and CSU were until 2010 the only parties who argued closed for military service. In 2010, however, an internal party debate began in the CDU / CSU after CSU politician and Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had spoken out in favor of suspending conscription. The Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Kristina Schröder , spoke out in favor of voluntary community service because of the Minister of Defense's plans for voluntary military service in August 2010. Accordingly, 35,000 volunteers would have to register each year in order to be able to maintain the structures that existed at the time. This should last between 6 and 24 months and be possible for men and women of all ages.

End of the civil service era

From October 2010, people doing community service were only called up at their own request. The last possible date for a voluntary call-up was July 1, 2011. On December 31, 2011, the last remaining civilian service relationships ended, even if an obligation for more than six months was chosen. Since then there has been no civil service in Germany for an indefinite period.

Criticism of community service

Demonstration on the abolition of conscription on May 3, 1990 in Berlin

Numerous criticisms of civil service in Germany are essentially criticisms of compulsory military service in general. This concerns u. a. the legal bases such as the lack of freedom of choice. It was felt to be unfair that the men were selected purely for military reasons and that men who were actually suitable for community service were thus exempted from any service obligation. Women were also categorically excluded. This added a new aspect to the debate about the different treatment of the sexes in military service, as women were not allowed / had to do community service, although they were encouraged to do a voluntary social year (FSJ) which was very similar in structure to community service.

Further points of criticism arose from the conscientious objection procedure itself. Because of the written refusal procedure and the large number of refusals, it was often assumed that the control of the conscientious objector's motives was negligent, if only for logistical reasons.

It was generally considered problematic that civilian service had in fact replaced this as main service until military service was suspended , making military service the actual alternative service. One of the main reasons for maintaining compulsory military service was thus seen primarily in maintaining community service. In March 2010, for example, 77,437 men were doing community service, while at the same time only 32,673 men were doing basic military service.

Community service was widely accepted. However, this acceptance developed hesitantly, as the Bundeswehr was seen by many as an important step in a man's growing up. For a long time, conscientious objectors were insulted as "slackers" or even "traitors to the fatherland". Since the threshold to conscientious objection was very high for a long time due to a much longer period of service and tough selection procedures, only comparatively few dared to take the step, so that they automatically became outsiders. Only with the simplified refusal, the end of the Cold War and almost the same length of service for military service and community service did this criticism fade.

Further points of criticism arose from the allocation of departments and the implementation of the service. The lack of or inadequate training of those doing community service was the subject of criticism from the authorities. After a training phase that often lasted only days, a person doing community service could not do the same work as a specialist trained for this purpose over many years. There were state community service schools, but this training was usually limited to a few weeks and was not carried out for all community service providers.

In addition, there was the aspect of the six-month service period, which meant that it was no longer worthwhile for many departments to employ a civil service worker because he was in fact only fully available for a few months in the company due to vacation, training phase and possible call-up to civil service school. The organizational effort and the associated costs also increased due to the more frequent change of community service providers. In some areas, the training alone took three months. Adequate deployment was also made more difficult because community service providers found it difficult to establish a relationship of trust with the people in their care during their short period of service. Many departments have already announced that if the service is shortened to six months, they will give up jobs and no longer deploy civil service workers in certain areas.

A person doing community service should actually be employed neutrally in terms of labor market policy, i. H. it should not represent a substitute for a regular worker, so as not to take jobs away from the labor market. This did not result from the Civil Service Act, but from the notification of recognition of the Federal Office for Civil Service. There this was given to the departments as a condition. A review of this provision turned out to be difficult, also because the community service worker cost the agency money and should therefore also carry out activities that justify the expenditure. In addition, because of the low pay, people doing community service were very cheap full-time workers, so it was economically interesting to use them to the full. In reality, people doing community service often did jobs that normally would have had to be carried out by regularly paid workers. From social associations - i.e. the community service offices that employed people doing community service - it was therefore repeatedly complained that the abolition of compulsory military service - and thus of community service - would collapse the German care system. A study from 1993 states that the abolition of community service would be of slight economic benefit. There was practical experience in some hospitals that cut their community service positions and were able to improve not only their finances, but above all the working atmosphere.

Benefits of community service

A positive characteristic of community service was generally seen as the fact that those doing community service render a direct service to society.

Another positive aspect of community service was that many community service providers continued to support their organizations as volunteers after their service ended .

Since many young men did not consider a job in the social field or a voluntary social year for themselves, doing civil service brought them into contact with such professional fields. Even those who came from a technical job or who later worked in a technical job got to see a different working and living environment in civil service. After this experience, some people doing community service changed their plans for the future and pursued a career in the social field, which also increased the generally low proportion of men there.

Rights and duties compared to military service

Community service providers had some additional rights and obligations compared to those doing military service. That meant z. B .:

  • The obligation to move into service accommodation could be waived with a home sleep permit.
  • They could be obliged to take part in communal meals.
  • They were allowed to take a part-time job with special permission (those doing military service were not allowed to do so).
  • They had to take an introductory course, which, depending on the type of service , could include a first aid course, a citizenship course, an ambulance service training , a natural history introduction, a nursing assistant training or similar; the length of the training in this introductory course varied according to the purpose of the community service provider.
  • If uniforms were not handed out in the office ( those doing military service always received a uniform ), in addition to their pay, those doing civil service received a daily flat rate for the wear and tear and soiling of their own clothing (as of mid-2007: EUR 0.69 clothing fee and EUR 0.49 cleaning fee).

Regarding the duties related to service accommodation and introductory course, it should be noted that in the majority of cases a home sleep permit was given and that the introductory course often did not take place until several months after the beginning of community service. Some people doing community service did not have to attend any course at all.

Like a soldier in the German Armed Forces , a person performing civilian service was clearly identified by a personal identification number at the Federal Office for Civilian Service .

Those doing civilian service could revoke their conscientious objection at any time without giving reasons to the Federal Office for Family and Civil Society Tasks. They were then released from community service within a few days and were required to do military service again. The civil service time still to be performed was accounted for from the basic military service still to be performed. However, a call-up was unlikely, especially with short remaining periods of service.


  • Florian Birkenfeld: Conscription in Germany. Costs, comparison, prospects . VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken 2006, ISBN 3-86550-181-8 .
  • Marcus Matthias Keupp: Counselor for community service . Rowohlt, Reinbek b. Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-499-60836-7 .
  • Steve Przybilla: The Civilian Diary . amicus-Verlag Föritz 2005, ISBN 3-935660-65-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. For me it was religious reasons. In: Radiofeuilleton on Deutschlandradio Kultur . April 1, 2011, accessed April 3, 2011 .
  5. BGBl. 2010 I p. 1052
  6. ^ FDP: For the abolition of compulsory military service ( Memento of March 6, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  7. DIE LINKE: Current ( Memento from January 2, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Tagesschau: Bundestag shortens military and community service ( Memento from June 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  9. gxs / AFP: Suspension of compulsory military service: Schröder speaks out in favor of voluntary community service. In: Focus Online . August 23, 2010, accessed October 14, 2018 .
  10. Margarete van Ackeren: Civil service plans: The nice civil grandma from next door. In: Focus Online . August 23, 2010, accessed October 14, 2018 .
  11. Official information from the Federal Office for Community Service for March 1, 2010, accessed on March 28, 2010 ( Memento of November 25, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  12. Official information from the Bundeswehr, accessed on March 28, 2010
  14. ↑ Community service is about to end ( Memento from November 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  15. Incentives instead of forced labor
  16. Fierce debate about shortened community service: ( Memento from December 1, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  17. see also the question of costs in social affairs when community service is discontinued ( memento of July 2, 2007 in the Internet Archive )