German hospitals rely on conscientious objectors for cheap labor

Hospitals in Germany may lose a source of cheap labor if a proposal to abolish the draft is pushed through.

Because Germany is under pressure to cut defense spending and modernize its armed forces, the defense minister has called for military conscription to be scrapped, the Wall Street Journal reports. But some people affiliated with the healthcare sector argue that abolishing the draft would hurt public services, because the pipeline of conscientious objectors who staff social services for six months at a time would dry up.

For the past 20 years, more than half of draftees have opted for conscientious objector status, which is allowed in Germany. In 2009, 66 percent of the 226,000 men deemed fit to serve filed as conscientious objectors, which got them jobs as civilian servants, the WSJ reports.

Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes have come to depend on the conscientious objectors to perform "supplementary" work that doesn't compete with traditional jobs. Peer Kopf, an expert on personnel and operations at the German Hospital Association, told the WSJ that losing their help "would definitely be a loss."

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article