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Voluntary Instead of Cumpolsory Military Service - Young People Working for the Common Good. By Angelika Dörfler-Dierken

In short by Harald Keller

Young people can be recruited to serve in the Bundeswehr if conditions are congruent with their life goals. Social scientist Angelika Dörfler-Dierken arrives at this conclusion having evaluated several youth research studies.

But first of all, current ideas about what young people want should be revised. While material aspirations, job security, and an attractive workplace are still part of young people’s ideals, they are not the only priority – indeed they are not even necessarily priorities. Non-material factors such as self-fulfillment and the common good are also important to young people.

Furthermore, the concern that youth are passive, unmotivated and politically disinterested is unfounded. The opposite is true, and precisely this aspect needs to be taken into account if offers of a career in the armed forces are to attract the interest of the addressees.

The youth of today recognize the need to be socially and politically involved. And they follow their words with deeds. The number of young people participating in social or environmental voluntary programs has increased significantly year-on-year since 2011/12. Respondents are adverse to joining the Bundeswehr, however, because they do not believe that military force will bring the right solution. Angelika Dörfler-Dierken writes that the Bundeswehr “does not offer young people any [...] opportunities for identification with the meaning of the organization and their own action within it [...].”

Dörfler-Dierken concludes that current campaigns to recruit young people are not aligned with the target group’s interests and worldview. She underlines the need to conduct a proactive debate involving young people about the responsibilities of the Bundeswehr. Simply making cosmetic changes to the advertising campaigns is not enough.

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