Germany's 18-year-olds have been invited to register on an app called the "KulturPass," to receive €200 ($216) from the government. The pass can be spent on a variety of cultural activities of their choice, including museum visits, films, theater and concerts. But will they choose pop music or opera?
Holders can also spend the money on physical objects like records and books, and even on musical instruments — although the money must be spent "locally," excluding non-German streaming and subscription services.
The funding, which has cost the German government €100 million, will initially apply to around 750,000 people. Anyone who turns 18 in 2023 and is a registered resident of Germany is eligible for the program.
With the initiative, which will be launched on June 14, the federal government aims to encourage young people to experience culture locally: "We want to open the way to culture," Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media Claudia Roth said. The "KulturPass" is also intended to support the cultural sector, which continues to suffer the effects of the pandemic.
A 'birthday present' for new adults
When she announced the move last November, Roth described the voucher as the "equivalent of a birthday present" for those who will turn 18 in 2023.
"The 'Kulturpass' is a great opportunity for 18-year-olds to make the most of the rich and diverse cultural life in our country," Roth told the German news agency dpa, adding that it was important to offer this to "the 18-year-olds of today and thus to win them over in the longer term."
When the plans were first announced, some critics feared the money could profit internet giants, until it became clear that large online retailers such as Amazon, streaming services such as Netflix or music platforms like Spotify, would be excluded from the "KulturPass."
Cultural providers need to register to be part of the scheme. More than 700 cultural events and organizations have joined the initiative so far. The eligible institutions and businesses that are not yet part of the program have been urged to sign up.
Inspired by other European models
The German scheme follows an example set by several other European countries.
In 2016, Italy launched the "18app," which offered €500 to 18-year-olds for cultural activities, which was seen by many as a success. But since her election in 2022, right-wing populist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has threatened to scrap the app. She has announced new schemes based on "merit" and family income, but the popularity of the "18app" scheme has made it difficult to get rid of — and any change has now been postponed until 2024.
France launched a program in which €300 was handed out to 18-year-olds in 2021. It allowed French youth to spend the voucher on activities as well as French streaming platforms, musical instruments and books. But much to the frustration of many champions of French classical arts and culture, according to The New York Times, 75% of the purchases in 2021 were of books, of which two-thirds were the Japanese comic form manga.
Spain, launching their own €400-scheme in 2022, attempted to find a compromise by placing a cap on how much could be spent on each type of service. For example, only €100 can be spent on physical objects and only €200 on live event tickets.
German officials say they have been directly inspired by other European schemes, though they shied away from putting a Spain-like cap on the scheme. Some commentators have said that Germany's €200 will not go very far compared to other European countries, while others welcome any opportunity for youth the engage with the cultural scene.
Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier