Youth legislation is shaped by Germany’s Social Code - Book VIII, which deals specifically with child and youth welfare services, and more recently by the 2011 Youth Protection Act. In 2019, the Federal Cabinet adopted the Youth Strategy of Germany. The youth strategy contains 163 measures that relate to nine fields of action relevant to youth.

Published on October 4, 2023
Updated on February 12, 2024

Definition of youth

Differing definitions of youth in Germany exist depending on the source. The Youth Strategy of Germany refers to youth as those persons between the ages of 12 and 27. The Social Code - Book VIII uses the following definitions in �7: children are under 14 years old, adolescents are 14 to 17 years old, young adults are 18 to 26 years old, and young people in general are not yet 27 years old.

Definition 1
12 - 27 years

Source: Youth Strategy 2019

Definition 2
14 - 26 years

Voting Rights

Majority age
18 years
Voting age
18 years
Criminal responsibility
15 years

Candidacy age

Lower House
18 years
Upper House
18 years
--- (tbc)

Marriage & Gender

Without parental consent
18 years
18 years
With parental consent
16 years
16 years


Is same-sex marriage legalized?


Are other genders recognised?
compulsory medical diagnosis

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?

Youth legislation is shaped by Germany'sSocial Code - Book VIII,which deals specifically with child and youth welfare services, and more recently by the 2011 Youth Protection Act. In 2019, the Federal Cabinet adopted theYouth Strategy of Germany. The youth strategy contains 163 measures that relate to nine fields of action relevant to youth:

  1. Future, generational dialogue & images of youth
  2. Participation, engagement, and democracy
  3. Urban and rural spaces, housing, and culture
  4. Diversity & participation
  5. Education, work, and freedom
  6. Mobility and digital issues
  7. Environment
  8. Health
  9. Europe and the world.

TheMinistry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth(BMFSFJ)was primarily responsible for the development of the strategy, but all other federal ministries were also involved. The Youth Strategy is based on the "Independent Youth Policy"officially pursued by the ministry since 2015. Underlying the strategy is the belief that all areas of government must pull together to achieve positive results for young people and the good of society as a whole. As stated in the document,

"Youth-oriented action must not be allowed to fail because of separate responsibilities. Rather, there needs to be a shared sense of responsibility for the young generation and a unified interdepartmental youth policy. This conviction forms the basis for the German government's youth strategy".

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority that is primarily responsible for youth?

The Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) has the main responsibility for youth affairs at the federal level. According to the organisational chart of the BMFSFJ, the Directorate for Children and Youth within the ministry has three departments with 15 policy and programme units that focus on topics such as school education, children's rights, integration as well as youth-related topics such as youth strategy, independent youth policy, youth protection law, and European and international youth policy. At the state level, all 16 states maintain separate youth ministries, which cooperate and coordinate their work through the Conference of Ministers for Youth and Family Affairs (JMFK) and the Working Group for Child and Youth Welfare (AGJ).

Youth & Representation

Does the country have a national youth organization or association?

The German Federal Youth Council (DBJR) is the country's network of youth organisations. Its membership consists of 28 youth associations, 16 regional youth councils and seven associated youth platforms. Internationally, youth organisations are represented by the German National Committee for International Youth Work (DNK), a joint working group of the German Federal Youth Council (DBJR), the Council of Political Youth Organisations (RPJ)and the German Sports Youth (DSJ). DNK is a member of the European Youth Forum.

According to the EU Youth Wiki, youth in Germany are regularly consulted on issues impacting them. For example, theYouth Policy Days 2019 enabled young people to contribute to the development of the Youth Strategy of Germany (2019) in discussions with representatives of government ministries. The Youth Policy Days take place every two years, and one of the objectives is to foster the process of implementing the strategy and review the progress made so far.

Youth work

Is youth work a formally recognised profession?

Youth work in Germany, according to the EU Youth Wiki, comprises two main areas: youth associations and open youth work. Youth associations are generally formed around similar historical roots, their members' ties to the association, and their orientation to specific values. Open youth work mainly provides activities that are available to all young people and generally free of charge. Youth work is subject to local government regulations. As reported in theCountry Sheet on Youth Work in Germany (2018), the Social Code - Book VIII establishes the legislative framework for youth work at the federal level. It emphasises the importance of offering youth work in order to strengthen the self-determination and social engagement of young people. Section 11 defines the scope, key aspects and providers of youth work. Section 12 deals with the support of youth associations, and Section 13 covers youth social work.

The federal government has set up a portal for youth work professionals that provides a platform for networking, communication, and resources.

Budget & Spending

Does the national youth policy have a dedicated budget?

As stated in the EU Youth Wiki, youth policy is funded at all levels of government. At the federal level, it is the responsibility of several ministries, making it difficult to determine an exact total figure. Despite there being a national Youth Strategy of Germany (2019),each federal state can have its own autonomous youth policy and budget.

According to the2022 federal budget,the total spending for the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) in 2022 is EUR 12.6 billion (USD 13 billion). This sum is 2.54% of the total federal expenditures in 2022. Approximately 8% of the BMFSFJ's spending was for "Child and youth policy": a sum of EUR 1 billion (USD 1.066 billion) for 2022.

The government also launched the "Youth Budget"in 2021; it provides funding to projects selected by a jury that offer innovative solutions to the areas of action outlined in thefederal government's youth strategy.The budget amounts to EUR 1 million (USD 1.066 million). The programme came to an end in March, 2023.

Contextual Figures

Liberal Democracy Index
Youth Progress Index

Economic Indicators

GDP per capita
Human Development Index
Gini coefficient

Additional background

TheWorking Group for Child and Youth Welfare(AGJ) published a position paper in 2021 dealing with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people and youth work. The findings were quite critical of the response by German policymakers in dealing with these issues.

The paper notes that young people were initially reduced only to their role as students in the pandemic. The policymakers failed to recognise that other elements of their lives were just as essential, such as social and extracurricular contacts essential for mastering core challenges of gaining qualifications, independence, and self-realisation. The consequences of severe restrictions massively curtailed the personal development of youth and caused a great deal of stress, loneliness and psychological issues. Yet the media tended to portray young people very negatively, focusing on rule-breakers and alleged "Corona party-goers". Young people remain deeply concerned about their future prospects and face uncertainties about possible locations for continued studies, apprenticeships, internships, and exchange opportunities, all of which have been greatly diminished during this time.

The research found that the crisis also affected opportunities supported by youth workers, youth social work, and club life, which were more restricted in the first year of the pandemic than other areas. Socially disadvantaged youth in precarious situations were hit even harder by the regulations. Although youth workers reacted creatively to the challenges posed, they remain at a disadvantage due to a low level of planning security. The paper also ascertains that digital encounters could not achieve the usual pedagogical quality of in-person contacts. Although various political measures have been taken recently to support child and youth welfare services, the paper states that resources are far from sufficient.

Another point of critique was that young people and their organisations were not adequately represented when it came to crisis politics. Policymakers eventually asked for their input, but it was "too little and too late". The AGJ concludes that the participation of young people on key political measures must not only be ensured, but also be made crisis-proof. They also emphasise that youth work and youth social work institutions need to be recognised as systemically relevant in their essential role in helping young people's development and growth, also in future crises.


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