Germany's defense minister has announced plans to overhaul the country's military to make it more attractive to volunteers. The multi-million dollar reforms include better childcare for children of recruits.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday set out plans to pump 100 million euros ($136 million) into reforming the image of the Bundeswehr, Germany's military, over the next five years.
The reform package, known as the "attractiveness offensive," includes flexible working hours, more modern accommodations and better career opportunities. In a bid to make the military more family friendly, more daycare facilities for children of service people will also be created.
Von der Leyen, who became Germany's first female defense minister in December, said the Bundeswehr needs to aim for about 60,000 young applicants a year. Currently the Bundeswehr has more than 260,000 soldiers and civilian employees.
Since abandoning conscription in 2011, Germany's Bundeswehr faces competition from business for new recruits in a humming economy that is facing only 6.6 percent unemployment.
"We want the best," she said. "People who are young and qualified have a multitude of offers today ... and they choose the employer who, among other things, makes the most interesting offers."
According to official figures, the Bundeswehr spent 30 million euros for recruitment campaigns and advertising, up from 16 million in 2011.
Unemployment in Germany stands at 6.6 percent - far below double-digit rates in many other European nations.
The plans have, however, received criticism.
Retired General Harald Kujat told German daily broadsheet the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the plans appeared to have been "drawn up by people who don't know the Bundeswehr." Once Germany's top military officer and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Gen. Kujat argued that modernizing Germany's military equipment is more urgent.
"Rather than kindergartens, it would much more helpful to a soldier's family if they knew that everything is being done for his safety in deployment," Kujat said.
Von der Leyen dismissed that criticism, saying it's right for Germany to invest billions in good equipment, "but is that a reason not to think about at least investing millions in the people who have to operate this highly complex equipment?"
hc/crh (AP, dpa)