Scanty Troops

Military Ramps Up Recruiting

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Demographic changes and the end of conscription have sent the German military scrambling to find personnel.

  • Facts


    • Berlin put an end to conscription in 2011.
    • Meanwhile the number of eligible young people is rapidly shrinking.
    • Given Germany’s difficult military history, many young people also don’t necessarily view the Bundeswehr as an appealing employer.
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German Defence Minister von der Leyen talks aboard a German Air Force plane on the way from Jordan to Iraq
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen speaks with Bundeswehr leaders on a transport plane this September. Photo: Reuters

With a new YouTube reality show about boot camp and fresh marketing campaign, the German military is trying to increase its visibility and attract urgently needed new recruits. The effort is part of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s push to paint the Bundeswehr as one of the “best employers in Germany,” as her ministry described it in a new human resources strategy seen by Handelsblatt.

By 2025, she plans to implement improved human resources management “that members of the Bundeswehr value” and also opens desirable career paths for them. The defense ministry hopes these efforts will make becoming a soldier a more appealing vocation because troop numbers have been dropping swiftly in recent years.

“In June 2016 we had the smallest Bundeswehr of all time,” parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces Hans-Peter Bartels told Handelsblatt. With 166,000 career and enlisted soldiers, it was even smaller than the 170,000 originally intended, he said.

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