Report: German Forces Face Recruitment Crisis | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.08.2008
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Report: German Forces Face Recruitment Crisis

The number of volunteers signing up to join the German Bundeswehr has reportedly slumped by up to 62 percent this year. The Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan appears to be one major reason for the drop in applicants.

German Bundeswehr soldier saluting with flag behind him

Fewer volunteers are signing up to serve their ccuntry

The death on Wednesday, Aug. 27, of a German soldier in an attack in northern Afghanistan brought to 28 the number of Bundeswehr troops who have lost their lives in the country since 2002.

In international comparison, this might seem a relatively low figure. But it is unprecedented in post-war Germany and a reflection of the radical revision of the German armed forces' role in recent years. When the Bundeswehr was created in 1955, it was for the sole purpose of defense. Its first armed engagement outside Germany's borders came with the NATO-led mission in Kosovo in 1999.

The R heinische Post cites an internal army document as the source of its recruitment statistics. In addition, the newspaper reports that the recruitment and retention of doctors and pilots is becoming increasingly difficult.

A money problem?

Overturned armoured vehicle that has been subject to bomb attack

Images like this one are doing nothing for Bundeswehr recruitment

Remuneration here also appears to be a factor. According to the newspaper, pilots are increasingly being enticed by civilian jobs offering wages of up to 9,000 euros ($13,270) a month, compared to some 3,000 euros a month on deployment in Afghanistan.

And some 10 percent of officer recruits are reportedly leaving the force before their career has really taken off.

The deputy head of the Federal Armed Forces Association, which represents the interests of both conscripts and professional soldiers and their families, also reported a drop in the number of volunteers. Ulrich Kirsch told the Osnabruecker Zeitung that the number of applicants had gone down by more than 50 percent when compared to last year.

Kirsch said that soldiers in Afghanistan received 92 euros untaxed extra pay a day. But "money isn't everything," he added. The latest attack in the Hindukush showed that death and injury was part and parcel of the Afghan mission, he said.

Wilfried Stolze, a spokesman for the Federal Armed Forces Association, told the Rheinische Post that there were no official statistics about why people were leaving the forces.

"But we are also witnessing this phenomenon", he said and added that Afghanistan was seldom the sole reason for the decision, but was often the result of several factors, including further cost-cutting measures.

"If Christmas bonuses are reduced by 50 percent that gives a corporal food for thought," he said.

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