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Child and Youth Services in Germany

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Civic engagement, volunteers

A total of 30 million people across Germany are active in over 600,000 non-profit organisations.

  • 72% of these organisations work exclusively with volunteers.
  • 18% are part of the "education and upbringing" sector.

In child and youth services, this work mostly takes place in the many (predominantly non-profit) democratically structured associations and organisations.

A sizeable portion of young people work as volunteers. Around two-thirds of 14- to 28-year-olds volunteer in a range of areas.


A total of 30 million people across Germany are active in over 600,000 non-profit organisations. 72% of these organisations work exclusively with volunteers. 18% are part of the "education and upbringing" sector.

Overall, it is thanks to the contribution of volunteers that child and youth services is integrated into civil society and thus democratic society as a whole. Through their work on the boards and committees of (non-profit and democratically structured) supporting bodies, volunteers participate in steering child and youth services. A large number of volunteers work on the ground supporting the daily activities of socio-educational facilities throughout the various fields of child and youth services' work.

Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII) makes multiple references to volunteer work in child and youth services, most clearly in relation to the work of youth associations, with Article 12 highlighting its member-led nature.

Article 73 (volunteer work) states that persons who volunteer in youth services must receive guidance, advice and support in their work, thus normalising the need to support volunteer work in child and youth services.

Article 74 (funding for non-statutory youth services) fleshes out this requirement in para. 6, which says that funding for recognised youth services providers must also include resources for further training for full-time, part-time and volunteer staff as well as youth work resources to establish and maintain recreation and education centres for young people.

Despite the lack of detailed figures on the work of volunteers in the various areas of child and youth services, it is clear that volunteers work in child and youth services organisations on boards and committees at managerial level, take on specific responsibilities in the facilities and services in line with their personal interests and skills, and lobby for child and youth services in interactions with the public and policymakers.

Taking child day-care facilities as an example, there are many different types of volunteer work in evidence: in parent representative groups, assisting with general day-to-day work (in the form of lay-professional cooperation), in parents' initiatives as facility providers, in cooperation with local associations and organisations (visits to the fire brigade, company tours, partnerships with retirement homes, etc.), in support schemes for newly arrived families/parents (in particular, for example, for refugee families), and many more besides.

Kind in Feuerwehr-Uniform / Child in firefighter uniform

A large portion of young people also devote their time to volunteer work. In the narrower context of child and youth services, they mainly volunteer for youth work and youth association work. In the wider context of creating positive living conditions (cf. Article 1 [3] of Book 8), young people volunteer in various "green" and sports-related fields, politics (political youth associations) and initiatives addressing change for the future (such as Fridays for Future).

The 3rd Civic Engagement Report published by the Federal Youth Ministry in 2020 shows that 63.7% of 14- to 28-year-olds are active as volunteers in this broader scope.

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