What is an FÖJ? Information on the Freiwillige Ökologische Jahr (Voluntary Ecological Year) in Germany


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The Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ) is an offer to young women and men between the ages of 16 and 26 who want to work and learn voluntarily in a nature and environmental protection or environmental education facility for a year.

The Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ)  is a youth voluntary service, similar to this Voluntary Social Year (FSJ). In the FÖJ you are committed to nature and environmental protection, animals, environmental education, ecological agriculture or sustainable development for a year.


What is the FÖJ?

The Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ) is an ecological education year , i.e. no apprenticeship or employment relationship. It’s about nature and the environment. It’s about doing something, working, being creative.

It is also a year of orientation for later (professional) life, in which key qualifications are imparted. And: It’s all a lot of fun!!!

The FÖJ usually begins on September 1st and lasts until August 31st of the following year.

All German states have designated FÖJ deployment sites spread across cities and the countryside.

Requirements, general conditions & Benefits of the FÖJ

You can become active in the Voluntary Ecological Year for twelve months at a placement of your choice if:

  • You are between 15 and 25 years old,
  • You have full-time compulsory schooling (at least 9 years) and
  • You have not been involved in any other youth volunteer service, or have not done so for more than 6 months, e.g. participated in FSJ or BFD.

What do you get in the FÖJ?

  • free accommodation and/or meals at numerous deployment sites,
  • pocket money between 180 and 300 euros. The amount of pocket money depends on whether the place of assignment provides you with board and lodging (180 euros pocket money) or only pays you pocket money (300 to 400 euros pocket money),
  • Protection in social security (health, pension, nursing care, unemployment and accident insurance),
  • free participation in the FÖJ seminars,
  • any necessary work clothing and tools are provided by the deployment site,
  • a weekly working time of 39 hours,
  • 30 working days vacation per year.

Additional advantages of the FÖJ

  • Fare reduction on time tickets in local transport (just like for trainees),
  • Orphan’s pension will continue to be granted
  • Recognition by the ZVS: study place promises before or during the FÖJ are retained,
  • Recognition as a vocational part of the advanced technical college entrance qualification.

Important information for your parents regarding the FÖJ

  • During the FÖJ, your parents will continue to receive child benefit as long as you are not yet 25 years old. The old additional income limit was dropped in 2012.
  • Child allowance for income tax remains.

And this is what you bring:

  • Commitment to the environment and nature to the extent of a full-time position (39 hours per week),
  • Interest in topics of environmental protection and nature conservation or development work,
  • willingness to work in a team,
  • Motivation to exchange ideas with other participants and to help shape the accompanying seminars,
  • a report about your experiences at the end of your FÖJ.

Other important factory you need to consider when deciding on the FÖJ

FÖJ part-time

In justified exceptional cases, an FÖJ can also be done part-time if, for example, a child or a relative in need of care has to be looked after or there are health restrictions. 

The following generally applies: The weekly working time must be more than 20 hours per week and should correspond to the maximum working time that you can personally afford. 

The pocket money will be adjusted accordingly. Participation in the FÖJ seminars is (as far as possible) normal. The Youth Voluntary Services Act, which was amended in May 2019, regulates the details.

Statutory Health insurance

Volunteers in the FÖJ are generally compulsorily insured as members of the statutory health insurance for the duration of the voluntary service. The contributions are taken over by the place of assignment and paid to the insurance company. 

Any previously existing family insurance is excluded for the period of voluntary service (§ 10 Para. 1 Sentence 1 No. 2SGB V). The compulsory insurance in the statutory health insurance system also applies to volunteers who were privately insured before starting the FÖJ.

Participants in the FÖJ are exempt from the additional contributions of some health insurance companies. To do this, you must submit a copy of your FÖJ certificate or your FÖJ contract to your health insurance company.

Are you planning a university degree or further school training after the FÖJ and would like to return to family insurance or private health insurance? In this case, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs strongly recommends that you seek advice from a statutory or private health insurance company before starting the FÖJ.

Measles vaccination protection

In many placements, FÖJ participants regularly look after children and young people as part of environmental education offers. This is also often the case in the FÖJ at all-day schools and the FÖJ in sports. That is why volunteers must provide proof of measles vaccination and proof of immunity. 

This is prescribed by the Measles Protection Act, which came into force on March 1st, 2020, for all people who were born after 1970 and work in a so-called community facility, where they regularly and predominantly look after minors. Please bear this in mind if you would like to apply for a position in one of these areas. For more information see https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/impfpflicht.html or also https://www.masernschutz.de


Can foreign participants apply for the FÖJ?

Participants from abroad are very welcome at the FÖJ in most German states!

Requirements for an assignment at the FÖJ in most German states are:

  • proven ecological commitment
  • advanced knowledge of the German language and willingness to further train this knowledge
  • written commitment to work in the allocated FÖJ location for at least one year
  • participation in at least 25 seminar days at the FÖJ
  • the willingness to represent their home country in Schleswig-Holstein
  • Obtaining a one-year visa from the German embassy

Activities in the FÖJ

During the FÖJ, work is done in the diverse areas of environmental protection and nature conservation.

There is:

  • practical species and biotope protection (e.g. creation and maintenance of biotopes, water bodies, hedges, meadow orchards)
  • Collaboration in environmental and nature conservation centers
  • Work in organic farming and forestry
  • technical environmental protection (wind and solar energy, operational environmental protection…)
  • environmentally-oriented public relations and environmental education
  • administrative activities in the environmental field
  • Work in environmental organizations and nature conservation groups.


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