Young Germans are to join other Europeans in being offered a voucher to spend on their choice of cultural offerings under a scheme launched by the government.
The 200 € Kulturpasswho will be made available to all 18-year-olds, has a dual purpose: to encourage young adults to experience live culture and abandon pandemic habits of staying at home; and give a financial boost to the art scene, which has yet to recover from repeated blockages.
German Culture Minister Claudia Roth described the cultural passport as “equivalent to a birthday present” for the 750,000 people who will turn 18 in 2023. It will bring the most populous country closer to EU of France, Italy and Spain, which have introduced similar schemes.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner described the pass as “cultural start-up capital” which its beneficiaries can use within two years for everything from theater and concert tickets to books or music. It will be run through an app and website that will provide a direct connection to a virtual marketplace of everything from bookstores to theaters.
The estimated cost to the German state is around €100 million, in addition to the country’s annual cultural budget of €2.3 billion.
There is a particular focus on live culture, with theaters and concert halls expected to use the program to recruit new viewers as they compete for revenue.
Online platforms such as Amazon and Spotify have been excluded from the program, which focuses on smaller, often local organizations such as independent cinemas and bookstores. Individual purchases will be limited in value to prevent someone using the voucher to purchase, for example, a single concert ticket for €200.
Start the KulturpassRoth and Lindner said if successful, the program would be scaled up and likely extended to a wider age group, possibly starting at age 15.
A similar scheme, announced last year by Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, offers young people a €400 culture check when they turn 18. According to the Spanish government, 57.6% of everyone who turned 18 in 2022 signed up for the voucher program in its first year.
The Pass Culture France, or youth culture pass, a promise from President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 election campaign, was tested nationwide the following year and – after a long delay due to the pandemic – officially launching in 2021.
The app-based pass gives each 18-year-old €300 to spend on cinema, museum, theater and concert tickets, as well as books, art materials, art lessons, musical instruments or a subscription to a French digital platform such as Canal Plus, Salto or, for music, Deezer.
This year, the system of 200 million euros per year has been extended to those over 15, in two parts: a collective allowance of (depending on age) 25 to 30 euros per pupil and per year available to teachers for classroom visits to exhibitions, films, plays, concerts or workshops, plus €20-30 that each teenager can spend individually.
In 2016, Italy has introduced a “cultural bonus” of €500 for every 18-year-old under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, it has been maintained by the culture ministry despite various changes of government since then and an attempt by populist leaders to scrap it in 2018.
83% of those who adopted it spent the money on books followed by musical products and concert tickets, according to the Ministry of Culture.
Roth said the German pass would open up a range of cultural opportunities for young people comparable to the Interrail pass, a train ticket that has enabled generations of Europeans to travel cheaply across the continent.
Olaf Zimmermann, chairman of the German Cultural Council, an umbrella organization representing more than 200 cultural associations, said the voucher was a “meaningful way to support both young people and the world of culture who have suffered particularly badly from the pandemic”. . But he said working out what young adults could spend was “likely to be complicated” and should cover as many areas as possible, from drawing lessons to buying a musical instrument.
He urged the Ministry of Culture to clarify its guidelines soon, “to ensure that this is really a birthday present for future 18-year-olds”.