Development Service

What are the contractual terms and conditions of service?

One in ten Germans can imagine doing development service abroad. A lot more would be interested, but they have reservations. The contractual basis and the terms and conditions of development service are a mystery to all but a few people.* Eva and Pablo, for example, have a lot of questions about development service. Andrea Berg, a member of AGdD’s working group on "Social Security and Development Workers’ Contracts" and a team leader at AGIAMONDO, has some answers.

* Results of a target group analysis commissioned by AGdD and conducted by the comX Institute in 2019/2020

** Two fictitious people who are interested in doing development service

Development Service – What is it?

Here you will find all information about requirements, application, contractual terms and conditions, job vacancies and member organisations.

Go further – development service


Eva: I can well imagine working abroad for a while. I want to make a meaningful contribution in a place where life is more difficult for a lot of people. But do you get paid at all when you do development service?

Yes, you do get paid when you do development service. The German Development Workers Act (Entwicklungshelfer-Gesetz, EhfG) stipulates that development service professionals must undertake service without expecting to earn a salary. Instead, they receive an allowance to cover living costs. That means that they do not receive a salary, as such, but they do receive a maintenance allowance. The level of the maintenance allowance differs slightly between the various development agencies and sending organisations. In addition to the basic allowance, you also receive other benefits during your service. These may cover part or all of your rent, school fees, and insurance costs, for example. All in all, the complete package provides good financial security.

Andrea Berg

Pablo: I’m Spanish. We don’t have any development agencies that send out professional or skilled workers. Can I apply to a German agency? Would the same conditions apply as for Eva?

The EhfG is a German law, but it applies to all EU citizens who are over 18. So you can do service under the Development Workers Act as well - and under the same conditions as Eva, as regards social security, etc.

Andrea Berg

Pablo: You can’t be sure to get good medical care in some host countries. What happens if I fall ill out there? Do I have to take out worldwide health insurance?

Health care can vary greatly from place to place, depending on where you are. Under the EhfG, all professionals and their accompanying dependants must be covered by a fully comprehensive insurance policy. This includes health insurance, including provision for travel to a neighbouring country or to Europe for important medical reasons, and insurance cover for returning home in the case of a medical emergency. You don’t have to arrange this insurance yourself. Your sending agency takes care of it.

Andrea Berg

Pablo: Do I have to fulfil certain health criteria before I can go? The climate is very different in a lot of countries, for example. Do I need special vaccinations?

As a professional, you have to undergo a thorough medical examination before you begin your service. This also applies to any family members who are accompanying you. The medical examination is usually conducted in a tropical health centre or clinic, where you will be informed about the health situation in your host country and given advice about vaccinations. Some agencies conduct a psychological assessment beforehand in order to check on your mental health. The costs of such preliminary examinations, and whatever vaccinations you may choose to have, are covered by the sending agency.

Andrea Berg

Eva: I have two small children. What do we need to bear in mind? And who bears the extra costs?

As a rule, when a post is advertised, the advert already includes information about whether the placement location is suitable for families. Some placements and locations are not recommended for families. But there are just as many that are suitable for families with children. You will already be informed and advised about practical issues - e.g., the situation as regards schools and the provision of health care - during the selection process. And as far as the costs are concerned, the EhfG guarantees that the costs for any accompanying family members - family allowance in addition to the basic maintenance allowance, flight costs, insurance, and so on - are covered by the sending agency. If your spouse works in the host country and earns more than a certain amount, the maintenance allowance will be reduced accordingly.

Andrea Berg

Eva: And what if I become pregnant during my term of service? Can I return home to give birth? And do I have a right to maternity leave and parental leave?

There are differences between the sending agencies: AGIAMONDO, for example, would pay a proportion of your flight costs, if you return to Germany to give birth. This is included in the insurance cover for our professionals. You are also entitled to the usual period of maternity leave. And you can then resume your service in your placement afterwards. It is not possible to take parental leave, though. Instead, it is possible, under certain conditions, to work part-time for six months during your child's first year.

Andrea Berg

Eva: What’s the situation as regards local schools for children? Are there German or international schools? What fees will we have to pay?

There are usually national and international schools wherever you are living. And there may be a German school as well. The choice of school for your children is left up to you as a professional development worker. Most - if not all - of the school fees will be paid by the sending agency.

Andrea Berg

Pablo: In some host countries, there’s a higher security risk - due to political unrest, crime, or natural disasters, for example. Will I be prepared for this? And who will help and support us if something happens?

Professionals and their family members usually complete safety training before they leave. The intensity of the training depends, of course, on the host country and the particular risks that you might have to face there. In most cases, there are structures and institutions in the host country that can help with security issues. And the service agencies themselves keep in close touch with you directly. You are always in regular communication with your sending organisation. If the security situation becomes very critical, the local embassy and the Federal Foreign Office can also take action, e.g., organise evacuation, should it come to that.

Andrea Berg

Pablo: What happens if, for example, my mental health is suffering because of stressful circumstances in the host country?

At AGIAMONDO, we are always available if any of our professional development workers want to talk to us. Whenever problems arise, we try to quickly clarify what the root causes are. Then we look at what measures might be appropriate – whether we can offer supervision or coaching or even psychological counselling. So there are a lot of ways in which we can help. Other agencies offer similar help and support.

Andrea Berg

Eva: If I have a contract for two years or longer, I’ll want to take a vacation in my home country and visit friends and family. Is that possible and will travel expenses be covered?

Yes, that is possible. And the different development agencies help with travel costs in various ways. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) specifies what can be paid for, and the agencies have their own systems for providing appropriate financial support. Some pay for a flight home, for example, while others pay a thirteenth month maintenance allowance to cover the cost of a trip home.

Andrea Berg

Eva: When we finally return home, will we be able to get unemployment benefit? And is any other support provided?

When you have completed your development service, you will be entitled to Arbeitslosengeld I (unemployment benefit) in Germany. We at AGIAMONDO will invite you to take part in returnees’ gatherings. This is an important feature of the ending of the contract. And the AGdD Förderungswerk (Reintegration Programme) offers seminars and advice on reintegration into the jobs market (see pages 22 and 27). There are also networks and events for former professionals. You won't be on your own.

Andrea Berg