Country Situation Germany

Current national situation of young people having disadvantaged background

In Germany, around one quarter of young Germans grow up with disadvantages. This means, those young people face one or more of the exclusion factors and obstacles below compared to their peers. The following situations often prevent young people from taking part in employment, formal and non-formal education, trans-national mobility, democratic process and society at large:

  • Disability (i.e. participants with special needs): young people with mental (intellectual, cognitive, learning), physical, sensory or other disabilities etc.
  • Health problems: young people with chronic health problems, severe illnesses or psychiatric conditions etc.
  • Educational difficulties: young people with learning difficulties, early school leavers, lower qualified persons, young people with poor school performance etc.
  • Cultural differences: immigrants, refugees or descendants from immigrant or refugee families, young people belonging to a national or ethnic minority, young people with linguistic adaptation and cultural inclusion difficulties etc.
  • Economic obstacles: young people with a low standard of living, low income, dependence on social welfare system, young people in long-term unemployment or poverty, young people who are homeless, in debt or with financial problems etc.
  • Social obstacles: young people facing discrimination because of gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc., young people with limited social skills or anti-social or high-risk behaviours, young people in a precarious situation, (ex-)offenders, (ex-)drug or alcohol abusers, young and/or single parents, orphans etc.
  • Geographical obstacles: young people from remote or rural areas, young people living on small islands or in peripheral regions, young people from urban problem zones, young people from less serviced areas (limited public transport, poor facilities) etc.

In Germany, “disadvantage” is taken to mean the presence of various indicators of risk. The three most common indicators are poverty, unemployment and poor level of education. The socioeconomic situation of young people is composed of the disadvantages suffered by their parents, their parents’ educational status (school qualification), and the young people’s dependence on e.g., state welfare.

Within this population group, adolescents and in particular young adults comprise those who are increasingly at risk of poverty – over the last decade in particular. Over the last few years, the poverty rate has been highest among young adults aged 21 to 30. Children and young people represent the largest age group in receipt of benefits under Social Code Book II (SGB II). However, there are major regional variations. For instance, the rate in East Germany (25.3 per cent) is almost double than in West Germany (13.4 per cent).

9.5 % of 18 to under 25-year-olds in Germany have not completed secondary school and are not in further education or training, referred to as early school-leavers (Schulabbrecher). At 33 %, the share of 30 to under 35-year-olds from the immigrant community who have no vocational training qualification is around three times as high as their peers who are not from the immigrant community (10 %). Young people of non-German nationality are equally disproportionately more likely not to have a vocational qualification.

But, the social integration and inclusion of young people is a basic right, as enshrined in Germany’s Basic Law (Grundgesetz), specifically Articles 1(1) and (2). Besides parental responsibility this section also emphasizes the responsibility of the state by obliging child and youth services to support young people so they can develop as individuals and as members of society.


Main challenges of youth workers who work with youngsters having disadvantaged background in their daily implementation

In Germany, the official number of youth offers has decreased by 18,000 offers only in 4 years (2014 to 2018). These general developments also have an impact on the day-to-day work of youth workers working with young people with fewer opportunities.

Firstly, there are too few jobs for full-time or part-time youth workers who specialise in and work with the needs of disadvantaged young people. In addition, the low public awareness of youth work leads to a decrease in volunteers and volunteers who work with disadvantaged young people. Both of these factors result in those working with disadvantaged young people being overburdened and not having enough time for individual young people and young adults.

The increase in bureaucratic requirements (for example, compliance with the DSGVO and protection against other legal consequences) leads to a higher risk for youth workers.

Particularly in the case of full-time and part-time youth workers, the increased administrative and documentation effort means that they have to spend more time on bureaucratic tasks in their daily work and therefore have less time for the actual work with disadvantaged young people.


Current tools and methodology that youth workers and social workers use by working with disadvantaged youngsters to promote their integration

In order to promote the integration and inclusion of disadvantaged young people, youth workers and youth social workers need to pay close attention to individual young people and their needs. Ideally, youth workers are not alone with their task, but can cooperate with the school, the families, the employment and youth welfare office or other institutions. A good network of supporters promotes the integration of disadvantaged young people.

The most effective tools in practice have proved to be the strengthening of the self-esteem of disadvantaged young people and their participation in public and social life. By promoting these two aspects, the youth workers can succeed in integration.

Furthermore, the preventive and outreach approach has proved its worth in practice, i.e. youth social workers approach the families of disadvantaged young people as early as possible, work together with them and in this way try to prevent the disadvantaged young people from falling further through the cracks.


Brief description of Good Practices on youth work aimed at youngsters having disadvantaged background in the country

The national programme „Culture builds strength – Alliances for education“ (Kultur macht stark – Bündnisse für Bildung) has two main focuses: on young people with a migration background and on young people with educational disadvantages. Local citizens across Germany form alliances for education to implement projects for children and young people who have little to no access to cultural education, such as mentoring programmes, reading programmes, holiday camps, and music, dance, drama and circus projects. In the first funding period (2013-2017), more than 730.000 children and youngsters between the age of 3 and 18 were reached. The majority of them are disadvantaged youth and haven’t participated before in youth offers.

The national programme “Encouraging Youth in the Neighbourhood (JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier)” aims at young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are transitioning from school to work.  The projects are aimed specifically at young people aged 12 to 26 who lack perspectives and for who other services are largely out of reach. The target group consists of, e.g., school drop-outs, young people who have failed to complete a labour market integration course, and recently arrived young immigrants requiring special integration assistance. A characteristic feature of the programme is that the measures are co-ordinated and controlled by the municipalities (local sponsors of public youth welfare services). In the first funding phase (2015-2018), almost 44,000 young people have been reached in 178 municipalities: Almost 30,000 young people have already completed the program and just under 60 percent of them have completed a school or vocational training or have found a job. More than 1000 projects have been implemented in the social spaces of young people.