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Military service Information

Military service

Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft (conscription). Some nations (e.g. Mexico) require a specific amount of military service from each and every one of its citizens (except for special cases such as physical or mental disorders or religious beliefs). A nation with a fully volunteer military does not normally require mandatory military service from its citizens, unless it is faced with a recruitment crisis during a time of war.

World War 1 Picture -   No armed forces, No conscription, Plan to abolish conscription in the near future, Conscription, No information

Picture - No armed forces No conscription Plan to abolish conscription in the near future Conscription No information

Summary of countries

In this summary, 195 countries are included.

No defence forces (19)

Costa Rica
Federated States of Micronesia
Marshall Islands
San Marino
Solomon Islands
Vatican City

No enforced conscription (98)

Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Czech Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dominican Republic

Germany (2011)
Republic of Macedonia
New Zealand

Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saudi Arabia
Sierra Leone
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States of America

Conscription only in special circumstances (6)

Belize - conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented
Chile - conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; 18-year old males are selected at random using a special software (done once a year, if necessary)
China - conscription exists (in theory) for all males more than 18 years, but is not enforced for the long number of volunteers.
Indonesia - selective conscription may be in effect when the state is in wartime and it is considered as necessary or on demand
Jamaica - younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent
Uruguay - enlistment is voluntary in peacetime, but the government has the authority to conscript in emergencies

Both compulsory and voluntary military service


Selective conscription

Cape Verde
Central African Republic

El Salvador

Civilian, unarmed or non-combatant service option (14)

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Austria (9 months civilian, 6 armed)
Burkina Faso
Cyprus (option is written but you may not select it)
Finland (12 months civilian, unarmed 9 months, armed 6, 9 or 12 months)
Switzerland (390 days civilian, 260 armed)

Military service limited to 1 year or less (20)

Albania (12 months)
Austria (6-12 months)
Bolivia (12 months)
Brazil (9-12 months)
Cape Verde (12-14 months, selective)
Denmark (4-12 months)
Estonia (8-11 months)
El Salvador (12 months, selective)
Finland (6-12 months)
Greece (9 months)
Guatemala (12-24 months)

Moldova (12 months)
Mongolia (12 months)
Norway (6-12 months)
Paraguay (12 months for Army, 24 months for Navy)
Russia (12 months)
Republic of China (Taiwan) (12 months, selective)
Tunisia (12 months)
Turkey (6-15 months)
Ukraine (12 months)
Uzbekistan (12 months)
Zimbabwe (6-12 months)

Military service limited to 18 months (10)

Cxte d'Ivoire
Eritrea (see Eritrean Defence Forces#National service)

Military service longer than 18 months (32)

Armenia (2 years)
Angola (2 years, civilian or non-combatant option available)
Central African Republic (2 years, selective)
Chad (2 years men, 1 year women. Civil service available only for women )
Cuba (2 years)
Equatorial Guinea (2 years, selective)
Egypt (2-3 years)
Guinea (2 years, selective)
Guinea-Bissau (2 years, selective)
Israel (21 months for women, 36 months for men)
Kazakhstan (2 years)
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (3 years minimum. Uncertain.)
Republic of Korea (22 months army & navy, 25 months air force)
Kyrgyzstan (2 years)

Kuwait ?
Libya (2 years)
Mali (2 years, selective)
Mauritania (2 years in the army. Navy & air force is all volunteer)
Mozambique (2 years)
Niger (2 years, selective)
Sxo Tom and Prxncipe (2 years)
Senegal (2 years, selective)
Singapore (without regard to Full-Time National Service in the Singapore Civil Defence Force or Singapore Police Force, under the Ministry of Home Affairs)
Somalia ?
Syria (30 months army & air force, 18 months in the navy)
Sudan (1-2 years, both sex)
Tajikistan (2 years)
Thailand (2 years)
Togo (2 years)
Turkmenistan (2 years)
Vietnam (2 years, 3-4 years in the navy)
Yemen (2 years service minimum obligation)

Conscription to be abolished in the near future (3)

Germany (1 July 2011)
Taiwan (2015)
Ukraine (2015)

Countries without mandatory military service


Albania had compulsory military service. Albania's conscription ended completely at the end of 2010 and the forces become an all-professional army.


Argentina suspended military conscription in 1994 and replaced it with a voluntary military service, yet those already in service had to finish their time in service.

This came as a result of political and social distrust of the military, dwindling budgets which forced the military to induct fewer conscripts every year, the experience of the 1982 Falklands War which proved the superiority of professional servicemen over conscripts and a series of conscription-related brutality scandals which came to a head with the murder of Private Omar Carrasco at an Army base in 1994, following a brutal disciplinary action.

It should be noted that military conscription has not been abolished; the Mandatory Military Service Law is still in the books and might be enforced in times of war, crisis or national emergency.

Conscription was known in Argentina as la colimba. The word colimba is a composite word made from the initial syllables of the verbs correr (to run), limpiar (to clean) and barrer (to sweep), as it was perceived that all a conscript did during service was running, cleaning and sweeping. Conscripts themselves were known and referred to as "colimbas".


See main article: Conscription in Australia

Although various levels of conscription were in force during times of conflict (World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War), Australia currently has no conscription. All forms of conscription were abolished by the Whitlam Government in 1972.


Barbados has set the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the Barbados Defence Force at 18. Younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent.


Belgium suspended conscription on 31 December 1992 by amending the 1962 Law on Conscription, which became applicable only to conscripts drafted in 1993 and earlier. In practice this meant that the law no longer applied to those born in 1975 and later. Since 1 March 1995 the Belgian armed forces consist of professional volunteers only.


Belize has set minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the Armed Forces at 18. (According to the Section 16 of the Defense Act of the Defence Ordinance of 1977.) Conscription has never been prescribed in the Defense Act, but is at the Governor General’s discretion.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina abolished compulsory military service as of 1 January 2006.


Bulgaria abolished compulsory military service. The last conscripts were sent home on 25 November 2007.

Previously there was mandatory military service for male citizens from eighteen to twenty-seven years of age. Duration of the service depended on the degree of education. For citizens studying for or holding a bachelor degree or higher the service was six months, and for citizens with no higher education it was nine months. The duration of service was two years in 1994, and was dropping steadily, until it was finally abolished.


See main articles: Conscription Crisis of 1917 and Conscription Crisis of 1944

In Canada, conscription has never taken place in peacetime. Conscription became an extremely controversial issue during both World War I and World War II, especially in the province of Quebec.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948. See Military of Costa Rica


On 3 October 2007, the government proposed to the parliament of the Republic of Croatia a decision to suspend all compulsory military service. This was supported by President Stjepan Mesić, and after a vote in the parliament on 5 October 2007, the decision became official. As of 1 January 2008, obligatory military (or civil) service is replaced with voluntary military service.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic abolished compulsory military service on 31 December 2004.


Modern conscription was invented during the French Revolution, when the Republic wanted a stronger defense and to expand its radical ideas throughout Europe. The 1798 Jourdan Act stated: "Any Frenchman is a soldier and owes himself to the defense of the nation". Thus Napoleon Bonaparte could create afterward the Grande Arme with which he set out on the first large intra-European war.

France suspended peacetime military conscription in 1996, while those born before 1979 had to complete their service; since the Algerian War (1954-62), conscripts had not been deployed abroad or in war zones, except those volunteering for such deployments.


See main article: Conscription in Germany

On the 15th November 2010, the German Government voted in favour of abolishing Universal conscription with the aim of establishing a professional army by 2011. The last conscripts were drafted on 1 January 2011.


Hungary abolished mandatory military service by November 2004, after the parliament had modified the constitution, ending a long-standing political dispute. To restore drafting, a two-thirds vote in parliament is needed, which is unlikely in the short term. The country is currently developing a professional army, with strong emphasis on "contract soldiers" who voluntarily serve 4+4 years for a wage.


India has never had mandatory military service, either under British rule or since independence in 1947. In WWII the Indian Army became the largest all-volunteer force in history, rising to over 2.5 million men in size. And It has since maintained the world's third largest army and the world's largest all volunteer army.


Saddam Hussein's large Iraqi army was largely composed of conscripts, except for the elite Republican Guard. About 100,000 conscripts died during the First Persian Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm. In the intervening years, Iraq's military suffered from decay and poor leadership, but there was still compulsory service. One program of note was "Ashbal Saddam" known as "Saddam's Cubs" where children were trained to defend Iraq through "toughening" exercises such as firearms training and dismembering live chickens with their teeth. Following the Second Persian Gulf War where the original military was disbanded, the Iraqi Army was recreated as a volunteer force with training overseen at first by the Coalition Provisional Authority and later by the American presence.


Ireland was initially exempt from conscription in the First World War, but in April 1918 new legislation empowered the government to extend it to Ireland. Although the government never implemented this legislation, it led to a Conscription Crisis in Ireland and politically pushed the country further to seek its independence from the UK.

The Republic of Ireland has always had a fully voluntary military, it remains a neutral nation.


Italy had mandatory military service, for men only, until 31 December 2004. The right to conscientious objection was legally recognized in 1972 so that a "non armed military service", or a community service, could be authorised as an alternative to those who required it.

The Italian Parliament approved the suspension of the mandatory military service in 2004, with effect starting from 1 January 2005, and the Italian armed forces will now be entirely composed of professional volunteer troops, both male and female, except in case of war or serious international military crisis, when conscription can be implemented.


In Jamaica the military service is voluntary from 18 years of age up. Younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent.


Japan's Self Defense Forces have been a volunteer force since their establishment in the 1950s, following the end of the Allied occupation. As the Japanese constitution expressly prohibits Japan from maintaining any offensive military force, conscription will most likely not be an issue in the near future.


Latvia abolished compulsory military service on 1 January 2007.


Lebanon previously had mandatory military service of one year for men. On 4 May 2005, a new conscription system was adopted, making for a six-month service, and pledging to end conscription within two years. By 10 February 2007 it did.


Luxembourg has a volunteer military.

Republic of Macedonia

Republic of Macedonia abolished compulsory military service as of October 2006.


President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović has, as of 30 August 2006, abolished conscription for the military.


Morocco eliminated compulsory military service as of 31 August 2006.


The Netherlands established conscription for a territorial militia in 1814, simultaneously establishing a standing army which was to be manned by volunteers only. However, lack of sufficient volunteers caused the two components to be merged in 1819 into a "cadre-militia" army, in which the bulk of troops were conscripts, led by professional officers and NCOs. This system remained in use until the end of the Cold War. Between 1991 and 1996, the Dutch armed forces phased out their conscript personnel and converted to an all-volunteer force. The last conscript troops were inducted in 1995 and demobilized in 1996. Formally, the Netherlands has not abolished conscription; that is to say, the laws and systems which provide for the conscription of armed forces personnel remain in place, and Dutch citizens can still, theoretically, be mobilized in the event of a national emergency.

New Zealand

See main article: Compulsory Military Training in New Zealand

Conscription of men into the armed forces of New Zealand came into effect in 1940, and was abolished in 1972.


Like India, Pakistan has always maintained a purely volunteer military. However, in the immediate aftermath of independence, and the 1948 war; at a time when the army was just reorganising from a colonial force to a new national army; militias raised for service from, the Frontier, Punjab and Kashmir were often raised from locals tribe; each tribe was given a quota and many of the individuals sent did not "volunteer" in the strictest sense (though many did). This is the only example of a conscription like situation in Pakistan.


Panama officially abolished the entire military in 1992, and transformed it in National Police. Prior to that, the US invasion to Panama practically destroyed what was in that time the Defence Forces of Panama, in 1989.


Peru abolished conscription in 1999.


The Philippines does not have compulsory military service, however military training is a compulsory part of the high school curriculum and is optional for the college curriculum. As the training lasts for only a few hours a week and is embedded in the school curriculum, students do not have to live away from their homes during the year they receive the training.

Filipino citizens who refuse to undergo such training in senior year of high school (known as Citizen's Advancement Tranining or CAT) are not eligible for graduation. Prior to 2003, CAT used to be oriented towards purely military skills but today, non-military aspects have been added to the training programme.

In college, military training, known as Reserved Officers' Training Corps or ROTC is now one of the options for the compulsory National Service Training Programme (NSTP), the other two being Citizen Welfare Training Service (CWTS) and Literacy Training Service (LTS). ROTC used to be compulsory until 2001 when controversies surrounding officer misconduct prompted it to be reformed. Students are required to complete 6 units of NSTP to be eligible for graduation which is reduced from 12 units when ROTC was the sole option (6 units per year).

Depending on the school a student is in, military training can either be oriented towards the army, navy or air Force.

Foreign citizens are exempt from undergoing the national service programmes however those who hold dual-citizenship with one of them being Filipino are not.


Poland suspended compulsory military service on 5 December 2008 by the order of the Minister of Defence. Compulsory military service was formally abolished when the Polish parliament amended conscription law on 9 January 2009, the law came into effect on 11 February.


Portugal abolished compulsory military service on 19 November 2004.


Romania suspended compulsory military service on 23 October 2006. This came about due to a 2003 constitutional amendment which allowed the parliament to make military service optional. The Romanian Parliament voted to abolish conscription in October 2005, with the vote formalising one of many military modernisation and reform programmes that Romania agreed to when it joined NATO.


Serbia abolished compulsory military service on 1 January 2011. Before that, Serbia had compulsory national service for all men aged between 19 and 35. In practice, men over 27 weere seldom called up. Service was usually performed after University studies have been completed. The length of service was 9 months but was reduced to 6 months in 2006. There was also an alternative for conscientious objectors which lasted 9 months. Serbian nationals living outside of the country were still expected to complete national service, however, they could defer it if it would have seriously impacted their career in the country where they currently resided. This could be done by contacting the embassy in the country of residence (if under 27), or done by contacting the army directly (if over 27).


Slovakia abolished compulsory military service on 1 January 2006.


Slovenia's Prime Minister Anton Rop abolished mandatory military service on 9 September 2003.

South Africa

South Africa under the apartheid system had two years of compulsory military service for white men, followed by camps at intervals. This was abolished in 1994. See End Conscription Campaign.


World War 1 Picture - Military service in Spain (1945)

Picture - Military service in Spain (1945)

Spain abolished compulsory military service in 2001. Military and alternative service was nine months long and in recent years the majority of conscripts chose to perform alternative, rather than military, service.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has never had mandatory military service, either under British rule or since independence in 1948. It maintains an all volunteer military.


Since 1902, military service was mandatory in Sweden until the 1st July 2010 when conscription was officially suspended during peace time. Before this, all Swedish men aged between 18 and 47 years old were eligible to serve with the armed forces. Albeit an alternative community service for Conscientious Objectors was easily available, the number of men actually completing their service continued to decline in recent years.


Tanzania used to employ conscription, but has abolished it.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom introduced conscription during both world wars. For the first two years of World War I the British relied on volunteers. But by 1916 the need for yet more soldiers to replace losses at the front forced the British Government to introduce conscription under the Military Service Act. Conscientious objectors were required to do war-related work of an unarmed nature, and some of those who refused this alternative, or engaged in anti-war protest, went to jail.

Conscription was reintroduced in the UK in 1939 at the start of World War II. Besides the armed forces themselves, conscription was used to increase output in coal mining (see the "Bevin Boys") and other dimensions of the war effort. Later in the war women were conscripted into the Women's Land Army to help with agricultural production. Conscientious objectors were treated more leniently than in WWI, but could still go to prison if they refused war-related work. For example the scientist Kathleen Lonsdale was sentenced to a month in Holloway prison in 1943 for refusing to register for war duties and refusing to pay a resulting fine of two pounds. Northern Ireland was exempt from conscription in the Second World War, and was also excluded from the post-war National Service.

After World War II, the Government re-introduced conscription in 1948 under the title of compulsory National Service. This was abolished in 1960. The last conscript was not discharged until May 1963, due to deferrals.

United States

The United States has employed conscription intermittently. For example, in 1863 the imposition of a draft during the Civil War touched off the New York Draft Riots. Conscription was next used after the United States entered World War I in 1917. The first peacetime conscription came with the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Active conscription ("the draft") ended in 1973. Currently, male U.S. citizens, if aged eighteen through twenty five, are required to register with the Selective Service System, whose mission is "to provide manpower to the armed forces in an emergency" including a "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" and "to run an Alternative Service Program for men classified as conscientious objectors during a draft." No one has been prosecuted for violating the conscription law in the USA since 1986. Women do not register for Selective Service in the United States, but they may enlist for voluntary service.

Countries with mandatory military service


Armenia has compulsory military service for two years for males from 18 to 27 years old.


Austria has mandatory military service for fit male citizens from 18 to 35 years of age. Since 2006, the period of service has been six months. Conscientious objectors can join the civilian service (called Zivildienst) for nine months. A 12-months participation in the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, the Austrian Social Service or the Austrian Peace Service is regarded as an equivalent to the civilian service.

Since 1 January 1998, females can join the military service voluntarily.


Belarus has mandatory military service for all fit men from eighteen to twenty-seven years of age. Military service lasts for eighteen months for those without higher education, and for twelve months for those with higher education.


Bermuda, although an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, still maintains conscription for its local force. Males between the age of eighteen and thirty-two are drawn by lottery to serve in The Bermuda Regiment for a period of thirty-eight months. The commitment is only on a part time basis, however. Anyone who objects to this has the right to have their case heard by an exemption tribunal.


Males in Brazil are required to serve 12 months of military service upon their 18th birthday. While de jure all males are required to serve, numerous exceptions mean military service is de facto limited mostly to volunteers, with an average of between 5 and 10% of those reporting for duty actually being inducted. Most often, the service is performed in military bases as close as possible to the person's home. The government does not usually require those planning to attend college or holding a permanent job to serve. There are also several other exceptions, including health reasons, for which one may not have to serve. Recruits accepted at a university may also choose to train under a program similar to the American ROTC, and satisfy their military requirement this way. Direct entrance to one of the military academies will also substitute for this requirement.

Burma (Myanmar)

The Burmese junta requires able bodied persons aged 18 and over to register with local authorities. Civil servants, students, those serving prison terms, and those caring for an elderly parent are currently excluded from the draft, but they could be later called to serve. Totally exempt are members of religious orders, disabled persons, and married or divorced women with children. Those who fail to report for military service could be imprisoned for three years, and face fines. Those who deliberately inflict injury upon themselves to avoid conscription could be imprisoned for up to five years, as well as fined.

China (PRC)

Conscription has existed in theory since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949; however, because of China's huge population and therefore the large number of individuals who volunteer to join the regular armed forces, a draft has never been enforced.

Conscription is enshrined in Article 55 of the Constitution, which states: "It is a sacred duty of every citizen of the People's Republic of China to defend his or her motherland and resist invasion. It is an honored Obligation of the citizens of the People's Republic of China to perform military service and to join the militia forces." [2]

The present legal basis of conscription is the 1984 Military Service Law, which describes military service as a duty for "all citizens without distinction of race (...) and religious creed." This law has not been amended since it came into effect. [1] [4]

Military service is normally performed in the regular armed forces, but the 1984 law does allow for conscription into the reserve forces.

Hong Kong and Macau SAR residents however, as of 1997 and 1999 are forbidden from joining the military.


Colombia has compulsory military service for males. 18-24 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; Service obligation - 18 months (2004).


Cyprus has compulsory military service for all Greek Cypriot men between the ages of eighteen and fifty. Additionally, from 2008 onwards, all men belonging to the religious groups of Armenians, Latins and Maronites, also serve their military service. Military service lasts for twenty-four months. After that, ex-soldiers are considered reservists and participate in military exercises for a few days every year. Conscientious objectors can either do thirty three months unarmed service in the army or thirty eight months community work. Legislation and practice relating to civilian alternatives to military service remained punitive in nature, although new legislation which came into force in 2004 reduced the length of such alternative service. The Special Committee, which makes recommendations on applications for conscientious objection, proposed a blanket rejection of applications based on ideological grounds where applicants do not declare particular beliefs. AI called for a re-evaluation of the Committee’s methods and for the authorities to establish an alternative to military service of a purely civilian nature, outside the authority of the Ministry of Defence.


As described in the Constitution of Denmark, 81, Denmark has mandatory service for all able men. Normal service is four months, and is normally served by men in the age of eighteen to twenty-seven. Some special services will take longer. Danish men will typically receive a letter around the time of their 18th birthday, asking when their current education (if any) ends, and some time later, depending on when, they will receive a notice on when to attend to the draft office to be tested physically and psychologically. However, some may be deemed unfit for service and not be required to show up.

Even if a person is deemed fit, or partially fit for service, he may avoid having to serve if he draws a high enough number randomly. Persons who are deemed partly fit for service will however be placed lower than those who are deemed fit for service, and therefore have a very low chance of being drafted. Men deemed fit can be called upon for service until their 50th birthday in case of national crisis, regardless of whether normal conscription has been served. This right is very rarely exercised by Danish authorities.

Conscientious objectors can choose to instead serve six months in a non-military position, for example in Beredskabsstyrelsen (dealing with non-military disasters like fires, flood, pollution, etc.) or foreign aid work in a third world country.


Egypt has a mandatory military service program for males between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Conscription is regularly postponed for students until the end of their studies, as long as they apply before they turn twenty-eight years of age. By the age of thirty a male is considered unfit to join the army and pays a fine. Males with no brothers, or those supporting parents are exempted from the service. Former President Sadat added that any Egyptian who has dual nationality is exempted from military service and this is still in effect till today. Males serve for a period ranging from fourteen months to thirty-six months depending on their education; high school drop-outs serve for thirty-six months. College graduates serve for lesser periods of time, depending on their education, and college graduates with special skills are still conscripted yet at a different rank and at a different pay scale with the option of remaining with the service as a career. Some Egyptians evade conscription and travel overseas until they reach the age of thirty, at which point they are tried, pay a $580 fine (as of 2004), and are dishonorably discharged. Such an offense, legally considered an offense of "bad moral character", prevents the "unpatriotic" citizen from ever holding public office.


Since 1995, women have been able to volunteer for military service. During the first 45 days, women have an option to quit at will. Having served for 45 days, they fall under the same obligation to serve as men except for medical reasons. A pregnancy during service would interrupt the service but not automatically cause a medical discharge.

Belonging in a sexual minority is not an automatic cause for a medical discharge; only if it is connected with psychological problems. Transsexuals usually get their service postponed until they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Non-military service of twelve months is available for men whose conscience prevents them from serving in the military. Men who refuse to serve at all are sent to prison for six months or half the time of their remaining non-military service at the time of refusal. In theory, male citizens from the demilitarized xland region are to serve in customs offices or lighthouses, but since this service has not been arranged, they are always exempted in practice. Jehovah's Witnesses' service is deferred for three years, if they present a written testimony, not older than two months, from the congregation of their status as baptized and active members of the congregation. Jehovah's Witnesses will be exempted from peace time duty at the beginning of the age 29. Military service has been mandatory for men throughout the history of independent Finland since 1917. Soldiers and civilian servicemen receive a daily allowance of €4.40 (days 1 - 180), €7.30 (days 181 - 270), or €10.20 (onward from day 271).

Approximately 20% are trained as NCOs (corporals, sergeants), and 10% are trained as officers-in-reserve (second lieutenant). In wartime, it is expected that the officers-in-reserve fulfill most platoon leader and company commander positions. At the beginning of the service, all men go through same basic training of eight weeks. After this eight week period it is decided who will be trained as NCOs or officers.

Having completed the initial part of the service as a conscript, the soldier is placed in the reserve. Reservists may be called for mandatory refresher exercises. Rank and file serve a maximum of 40 days, specialists 75 days and officers and NCOs 100 days. Per refresher course day, the reservists receive a taxable salary of about fifty euro. The salary depends slightly on the military rank: officers receive €56, NCOs €53 and rank-and file €51 per day. The service is mandatory; it is not possible to refuse an order to attend the refresher exercise, only postpone. As of late though, the option to opt for non-military service has been made available as the Finnish Defence Forces has made ongoing budget cuts, reflected in the number of reservist exercises annually.

There are no general exemptions for the conscription. The law requires employers, landlords etc. to continue any pre-existing contracts after the service. For medical reasons, exemption or postponing can be given only by a military doctor. If the disability is expected to be cured, there is no exemption, and the service is postponed. The basic doctrine is that the great majority of each age cohort serve, and the size of the active army can be adjusted by changing the maximum age of reservists to be called up, instead of using selective service.

The option to military service is civilian service, where a conscript finds a job at some public institution, where he serves 12 months, the same as the longest rank-and-file service (drivers). Before 2008, the law required 13 months, which was criticized for being punitive.

The national security policy of Finland is based on a credible independent defence of all Finnish territory. The maximum number of military personnel abroad is limited to 2,000 (out of the 900,000 available reserve). Contributions to the UN troops comprise only professional soldiers and trained, paid reservists who have specifically applied to such operations. Therefore, there is no "expeditionary wars" argument against conscription.

Draft dodging is nearly non-existent, as failure to show up to conscription immediately leads to an arrest warrant and is prosecuted as absence without leave, or desertion after five days of absence. Showing the military pass is required to obtain a passport.

Political opposition to conscription is rather marginalized and heavily associated with Communist or anarchist groups. Particularly, the "Defenders of Peace" (Rauhanpuolustajat), who opposed military readiness, were supported by the Soviets during the Cold War era. Therefore, opposition to conscription is still heavily associated with anti-patriotism and Communism.

Military rank, either as NCO or reserve officer, is highly valued as a merit in Finland by employers when recruiting a male employee. Grand majority of Finnish males who hold a managerial position in Finland have either NCO or officer rank in reserves.


On the 15th of November 2010, the German government voted in favour of abolishing universal conscription with the aim of establishing a professional army by mid-2011.


As of 2009, Greece (Hellenic Republic) has mandatory military service of nine months for men. Although Greece is developing a professional army system, it continues to enforce the 9-month mandatory military service despite earlier promises that the draft would be reduced to six months. Women are accepted into the Greek army as salaried professionals, but they are not obliged to join as men are. Conscript soldiers receive full health insurance and a nominal salary of €9 per month for privates and €12 for the rank of draft corporal and draft sergeant. The minimum wage for an unskilled worker stands at around €650 per month in Greece, while professional soldiers are paid upwards of €800. This results in reservist corporals and sergeants receiving a wage that is 1/70th that of a professional soldier, whom they outrank. The symbolic conscript "wages" are not sufficient to sustain a draftee serving his tour away from his place of residence and most draftees depend on their parents to support them financially while they are on their tour.

Conscientious objection to military service (Greece)

The length of alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors to military service remained punitive at 42 months. Amnesty International was also concerned that the determination of conscientious objector status fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, which breaches international standards that stipulate that the entire institution of alternative service should have a civilian character.


Iran has a mandatory military service for men which starts at the age of 18. Duration of military service is dependent on some conditions and circumstances. There is an 20 month military service for general, 18 months for destitute areas and 16 months for boundary areas, there is two months for military education. There are exceptions for those who cannot serve because of physical or mental health problems or disabilities. Students are exempt as long as they are attending school. The higher the education of a man, the higher his rank will be in the military service. Since 2008 and the commence of Iran's national elites organization activity (Bonyade Mellie Nokhbegan), students who are accepted as members of this organization (because of their special achievements, e.g. national and international olympiad medals and winners of invention competitions) can have a "scientific research" substitution instead of mandatory military service, and the research grant is given to these members from military universities, otherwise, formally these members are regarded as "soldiers" who are spending the mandatory military service program, and in any publication related to that research, their citation have to be that of the military university giving the research grant.

Exemptions from the Iranian military service, but also military duty in case of war include:

Single fathers.
Only Children; Men who do not have brothers or sisters under the ideology that their mother and/or father need the assistance of their only son.
Only Son; Men who are the only male in their family.
Men who are the sole carers of a disabled or mentally problematic parent, sibling, or 2nd line family members.
Doctors, firefighters and other emergency workers who their uptake for military duty or service jeopardizes local health and emergency services.
Workers of vital government institutions that assist or indirectly serve the military (exempt at time of war).
Workers of businesses that serve the military, e.g. military equipment factories (exempt at time of war).
and also having 3 brother which pass the conscription.

Prisoners may be excused of their sentence to serve in the military at a time of war or to complete military service in exchange for a reduced sentence dependent on the nature of the crime committed.

Men reaching 18 years old who are not granted exemption from the military service are not able to apply for a driving license, passport, or leave the country without special permission.


Israel has mandatory military service for both men and women. All Israeli citizens are conscripted at age 18 or the conclusion of 12th Grade, with the following exceptions:

Haredim are eligible for a deferral during their religious studies, which essentially becomes an exemption.
Israeli Arabs are exempt from conscription, although they may volunteer. The men of other non-Jewish communities in Israel, notably the Druze, Bedouin, and Circassians, are conscripted; women are not though may volunteer.
Religiously observant Jewish women can apply for an exemption from army service. Although some choose to serve, many opt to serve voluntarily in civilian "national service" Sherut Leumi.
Women are not inducted if they are married or pregnant.
Candidates who do not qualify on grounds of mental or physical health.

Typically, men are required to serve for 3 years and women for 24 months. Officers and other soldiers in certain voluntary units such as Nahal and Hesder are required to sign on for additional service. Those studying in a "Mechina" (pre-induction preparatory course) defer service until the conclusion of the program, typically one academic year. An additional program (called "Atuda'i") for qualified applicants allows post-secondary academic studies prior to induction. See also: Israel Defence Forces.

There is a very limited amount of conscientious objection to conscription into the IDF. More common is refusal by reserve soldiers to serve in the West Bank and Gaza. Some of these conscientious objectors may be assigned to serve elsewhere, or are sentenced to brief prison terms lasting a few months to a year and may subsequently receive dishonourable discharges. See also: Refusal to serve in the Israeli military.

After a year their period of regular army service, men are liable for up to 30 days (much less on average) per year of reserve duty (miluim) until they are in their early forties. Women in certain positions of responsibility are liable for reserve duty to a limited extent, until they are twenty-four years old, married, or pregnant.

South Korea

South Korea has mandatory military service of 21 months (in army, reducing a day per two weeks). There are no alternatives for conscientious objectors except imprisonment. In general, with very few exceptions, most South Korean males serve in the military. The duration of service varies from branch to branch of the military, however by 2014, it will be reduced to 18 months. However, there is a recent talk going on to increase the time to 24 months due to recent attack from North Korea.

Exemptions are granted to Korean male citizens with physical disabilities or whose mental status is unstable or questionable. When a Korean man becomes of legal age, he is required to take a physical check-up to determine whether he is suitable for military service. Every male is labeled into one of four different grades. Grades 1-3: normal, Grade 4: special service. Grade 4: special service is given to individuals that fulfill their military duties as a civil worker amongst civilians.

There are some controversies portrayed in Korean media concerning special treatment given to celebrities. Some celebrities are given exemptions to their mandatory military service, even though they clearly have no physical disabilities. The government has begun implementing tougher sanctions to those who attempt to avoid their military duty. It is considered shameful, undutiful, and treasonous for a man to take measures to avoid his military service when he is healthy and capable of fulfilling his 22 month requirement. In the case of celebrity, Yoo Seung Jun, he was a popular Korean pop star but in 2002 he became a naturalized American citizen in order to avoid his military duty in Korea. For this reason, Korea has banned Yoo from the country and actually deported him. Another more recent example is MC Mong. He is a very popular singer/rapper in Korea who began his career in the early 2000s. In 2010, it was discovered that MC Mong took measures to avoid his military service. He got his molar teeth removed in order to dodge his mandatory military duty. As of March 2011, he has been to trial to face these accusations and faces a potential two-year prison sentence.


Currently, all males reaching eighteen years of age must register for military service (Servicio Militar Nacional, or SMN) for one year, though selection is made by a lottery system using the following color scheme: whoever draws a black ball must serve as a "disponibility reservist", that is, he must not follow any activities whatsoever and get his discharge card at the end of the year. The ones who get a white ball serve Saturdays in a Batallxn del Servicio Militar Nacional (National Military Service Battalion) composed entirely of one-year SMN conscripts. Those with a community service interest may participate in Literacy Campaigns as teachers or as physical education instructors. Military service is also (voluntarily) open to women. In certain cities, such as Mexico City and Veracruz, there is a third option: a red ball (Mexico City) and a Blue ball (Veracruz), which entails serving a full year as a recruit in a Paratrooper Battalion in the case of Mexico City residents, or an Infanterxa de Marina unit (Navy Marines) in Veracruz. In other cities which have a Navy HQ (such as Ciudad Madero), it is the Navy which takes charge of the conscripts, instead of the Army.

Draft dodging was an uncommon occurrence in Mexico until 2002, since a "liberated" military ID card was needed for a Mexican male to obtain a passport, but since this requirement was dropped, absenteeism from military service has become much more common.


Norway has mandatory military service of nineteen months for men between the ages of 18.5 (17 with parental consent) and 44 (55 in case of war). Beginning in 2006, the armed forces will also invite females to take a pre-service medical examination, but they will not be drafted unless they sign a declaration of willingness. The actual draft time is six months for the home guard, and twelve months for the regular army, air force and navy.

The remaining months are supposed to be served in annual exercises, but very few conscripts do this because of lack of funding for the Norwegian armed forces. As a result of this decreased funding and greater reliance on high technology, the armed forces are aiming towards drafting only 10,000 conscripts a year. Currently, an average of 27% of young men actually complete military service each year. The remainder, for the most part, either are formally dismissed after medical tests or obtain deferral from the service because of studies or stays abroad.

Some, such as those who choose vocational course paths during high school (for example, carpenters and electricians) opt to complete their required apprenticeships within the military. While some Norwegians consider it unfair that they have to complete the compulsory military duty when so many others are dismissed, others see it as a privilege and there is normally high competition to be allowed to join some branches of the service.

The Norwegian armed forces will normally not draft a person who has reached the age of 28. In Norway, certain voluntary specialist training programs and courses entail extended conscription of one to eight years. Pacifists can apply for non-military service, which lasts 12 months.


The conscription system was introduced into Imperial Russia by Dmitry Milyutin on 1 January 1874. As of 2008, the Russian Federation has a mandatory 12 months draft. Some examples of how people avoid being drafted are:

Studying in a university or similar place. All full-time students are free from conscription, but they can be drafted after they graduate (or if they drop out). Graduated students serve one year as privates, but if they have a military education, they have the option to serve two years as officers. Persons who continue full-time postgraduate education, or have an academic degree (Candidate of Science, PhD, Doctor of Science) are not drafted.
Getting a medical certificate that shows that a person is unfit for service.
Having more than two children.

In Russia, a person can be conscripted at the age 18 - 27, i.e. a man can't be drafted after he turns twenty-seven. In 2006, the Russian government and State Duma gradually reduced the term of service to 18 months from 24 for those who will be conscripted in 2007 and to 12 months from 2008 and dropped some legal excuses for non-conscription from the law (such as non-conscription of rural doctors and teachers, of men who have a child younger than 3 years, etc.) from 1 January 2008. Also full-time students graduated from civil university with military education will be free from conscription from 1 January 2008.

As a result of draft evasion, Russian generals have complained on numerous times that the bulk of the army is made up of drug addicts, imbeciles, and ex-convicts, which in turn has led to an overall decline of the morale and function of the Russian armed services. Conscripts often face brutal hazing and bullying upon their entrance into the military, known as dedovshchina, some dying as a result.

See also

Conscription through detention in Russia's armed forces
Only eleven percent of Russian men enter mandatory military service.


In Singapore, the NS (Amendment) Act was passed on 14 March 1967, under which all able-bodied male citizens of 18 - 21 years of age were required to serve 24 months of compulsory national service in the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force, or the Singapore Civil Defence Force. Upon completion of full-time NS, they undergo reservist training cycles of up to forty days a year for the next ten years.

The majority of conscripts serve in the Singapore Armed Forces due to its larger manpower requirements. Almost all conscripts undergo basic military training before being deployed to the various services, the police, or Civil Defence; conscripts do not have the opportunity to choose their assignment. Conscripts, known as National Servicemen, hold leadership positions as Specialists or commissioned officers.

Singapore used to have one of the longest mandatory military service periods for males, at thirty months prior to 2005. The Republic will regain this title again when South Korea reduces its conscription to 18 months in 2014 (see above). Israel is one of the few (?only) country to have a longer period of conscription.


Military service for Swiss men is obligatory according to the Federal Constitution, and includes 18 or 21 weeks of basic training (depending on troop category) as well as annual 3-week-refresher courses until a number of service days which increases with rank (260 days for privates) is reached. (It is also possible to serve the whole requirement at one piece, meaning no refresher courses are required.) Service for women is voluntary, but identical in all respects. Conscientious objectors can choose 390 days of community service instead of military service. Medical deferments and dismissals from basic training (often on somewhat dubious grounds) have increased significantly in the last years. Therefore, only about 55% to 60% of Swiss men actually complete basic training.

Taiwan (ROC)

The Republic of China has had mandatory military service for all males since 1949. Females from the outlying islands of Fuchien were also required to serve in a civil defense role, although this requirement has been dropped since the lifting of martial law. In October 1999, the mandatory service was shortened from twenty-four months to twenty-two months; from January 2004 it was shortened further to eighteen months, and from 1 January 2006 the duration has decreased to sixteen months. The ROC Defense Ministry had announced that should voluntary enlistment reach sufficient numbers, the compulsory service period for draftees will be shortened to fourteen months in 2007, and further to twelve months in 2009.

ROC nationals with Overseas Chinese status are exempt from service. Draftees may also request alternative service, usually in community service areas, although the required service period would be longer than military service. Qualified draftees with graduate degrees in the sciences or engineering who pass officer candidate exams may also apply to fulfil their obligations in a national defense service option which involves three months of military training, followed by an officer commission in the reserves and four years working in technical jobs in the defense industry or government research institutions.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for administering the National Conscription Agency.

On 1 August 2008, the Defence Minister announced that from 2014 on, Taiwan would have a purely volunteer professional force. However, males who opt not to volunteer will be subjected to three to four month military training. Those who do not have a tertiary education will have a three month training when reaching military age, whereas those who are receiving tertiary education will have to complete the training in summer vacations.

Should this policy remain unchanged, although Taiwan will have a purely volunteer professional force, every male will still be conscripted to receive a three to four month military training. Thus, after 2014, compulsory military service will still remain in practice in Taiwan.


In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male citizens from twenty to forty-one years of age (with some exceptions). Those who are engaged in higher education or vocational training programs prior to their military drafting are allowed to delay service until they have completed the programs, or reach a certain age, depending on the program (e.g. 29 years of age for undergraduate degrees). The duration of the basic military service varies. As of July 2003, the reduced durations are as follows: fifteen months for privates (previously eighteen months), twelve months for reserve officers (previously sixteen months) and six months for short-term privates, which denotes those who have earned a university degree and have not been enlisted as reserve officers (previously eight months).

For Turkish citizens who have lived or worked abroad of Turkey for at least three years, on condition that they pay a certain fee in foreign currencies, a basic military training of twenty-one days (previously twenty-eight days) is offered instead of the full-term military service. Also, when the General Staff assesses that the military reserve exceeds the required amount, paid military service of one-month's basic training is established by law as a stopgap measure, but has only been practiced in reality once so far, and only applied to men of a certain age (born in or prior to 1973). This was done in order to generate funds to recover from the aftermath of the 1999 İzmit earthquake, which took place in the highly industrialized Marmara region of the country, and had a considerable negative impact on the Turkish economy due to the severe damage it caused to a significant number of residential and industrial structures.

Although women in principle are not obliged to serve in the military, they are allowed to become military officers.

Conscientious objection of military service is illegal in Turkey and punishable with imprisonment by law. Many conscientious objectors flee abroad mainly to neighbouring countries or the European Union (as asylum seekers or guest workers).


The options are either reserve officer training for two years (offered in universities as a part of a program which means not having to join the army), or one year regular service. In Ukraine, a person could not be conscripted after he turned twenty-five. The Ukrainian army had similar problems with dedovshchina as the Russian army did until very recently, but in Ukraine the problem is getting less severe compared to Russia, due to cuts in the conscript terms (from 24 months to 18 months in the early 2000s and then to 12 months in 2004) and cuts in total conscription numbers (due to the switching of the army into a full-time professional army) since the last conscripts may be drafted until the end of 2015.

Volunteer military
National service
Enlistment age by country

Dated but useful info

Further reading

Eighmey, John. “Why Do Youth Enlist?: Identification of Underlying Themes.” Armed Forces & Society, Jan 2006; vol. 32: pp. 307-328.
Woodruff, Todd, Ryan Kelty, and David R. Segal. “Propensity to Serve and Motivation to Enlist Among American Combat Soldiers.” Armed Forces & Society, Apr 2006; vol. 32: pp. 353-366.
Bachman, Jerald G., David R. Segal, Peter Freedman-Doan, and Patrick M. O'Malley. “Does Enlistment Propensity Predict Accession? High School Seniors’ Plans and Subsequent Behavior.” Armed Forces & Society, Oct 1998; vol. 25: pp. 59-80.
McAllister, Ian. “Schools, Enlistment, and Military Values: The Australian Services Cadet Scheme.” Armed Forces & Society, Oct 1995; vol. 22: pp. 83-102.
Shields, Patricia M. “Enlistment During the Vietnam Era and the ‘Representation’ Issue of the All-volunteer Force" Armed Forces & Society, Oct 1980; vol. 7: pp. 133-151.
Military Service and Recruitment: Types of Military Recruitment, Conscience and Peace Tax International (retrieved 15 December 2009).

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