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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. Israelmarker, Iranmarker) 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.

Summary of countries

In this summary, 195 countries are included.

No defence forces

No enforced conscription

  • Afghanistan
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Bhutan
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burma
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Chile

  • Congo
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • France
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan

  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Lithuania
  • Liberia
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malawi
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Morocco
  • Montenegro
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand

  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Yemen
  • Zambia

Conscription only in special circumstances

  • Belize — conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented
  • Bolivia — when annual number of volunteers falls short of goal, compulsory recruitment is effected
  • 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

  • Bermuda
  • Burundi
  • Gabon
  • Kuwait
  • Mali

  • Mauritania
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Uganda
  • Venezuela

Selective conscription

  • Benin
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador

  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Niger
  • Senegal
  • Taiwan
  • Togo

Civilian, unarmed or non-combatant service option

  • Angola
  • Algeria
  • Austria (9 months civilian, 6 armed)
  • Belarus
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • Denmark

  • Estonia
  • Finland (12 months civilian, unarmed 330 days, armed 6, 9 or 12 months)
  • Germany (9 months civilian, same as armed)
  • Latvia
  • Norway
  • Serbia (9 months civilian)
  • Sweden

Military service limited to 1 year or less

  • Austria (6 months)
  • Bolivia (12 months)
  • Brazil (9–12 months)
  • Denmark (4–12 months)
  • Ecuador (selective conscription)
  • El Salvador (selective conscription)
  • Estonia (8–11 months)
  • Finland (6–12 months)
  • Germany (9 months)
  • Greece (9-12 months)
  • Guatemala (12–24 months)

  • Mexico (selective conscription)
  • Moldavia (12 months)
  • Mongolia (12 months)
  • Norway
  • Paraguay (12 months for Army, 24 months for Navy)
  • Russia (12 months)
  • Serbia (6 months)
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan (selective conscription)
  • Tunisia (12 months)
  • Ukraine (12 months)
  • Uzbekistan (12 months)

Military service limited to 18 months

  • Azerbaijan
  • Cambodia
  • Colombia
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Eritrea

  • Georgia
  • Iran
  • Laos
  • Madagascar
  • Turkey (6–15 months)

Military service longer than 18 months, no unarmed option

  • Armenia
  • Congo (Democratic Republic)
  • Cuba
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Egypt
  • Guinea
  • Israel (24 months for women, 36 months for men)
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Libya
  • Mozambique

  • North Korea
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Singapore (disregarding Civil Defence forces which is part of the Interior Ministry)
  • Somalia
  • South Korea
  • Syria
  • Sudan
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Turkmenistan
  • Vietnam

Conscription to be abolished in the near future

  • Albania
  • Serbia
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine

Countries without mandatory military service


Argentinamarker 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.


Belgiummarker suspended military conscription in 1994. A voluntary military service will be reintroduced as from january 2010.


Belizemarker 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 determination.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

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


Bulgariamarker abolished compulsory military service. The last conscripts were sent home on November 25, 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 Canadamarker, 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 Quebecmarker.

Costa Rica

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


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

Czech Republic

The Czech Republicmarker abolished compulsory military service on December 31, 2004.


Modern conscription was invented during the French Revolution, when the Republicmarker wanted a stronger defense and to expand its radical ideas throughout Europe. The 1798 Jourdan Act stated: "Any French is a soldier and owes himself to the defense of the nation". Thus Napoleon Bonaparte could create afterward the Grande Armée 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.


Hungarymarker 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.


Indiamarker 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 second largest army and the worlds largest all volunteer army.


Saddam Hussein's large Iraqimarker 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.

Republic of Ireland

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


Italymarker had mandatory military service, for men only, until December 31, 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 January 1, 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 Jamaicamarker the military service is voluntary from 18 years of age up. Younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent.


Japanmarker's Self Defence 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.


Latviamarker abolished military service on 1 January 2007.


Lebanonmarker 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.


Luxembourgmarker has a volunteer military.

Republic of Macedonia

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


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


Moroccomarker eliminated compulsory military service as of August 31, 2006.


The Netherlandsmarker 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 Zealandmarker 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.


Panamamarker 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.


Perumarker 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.

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


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


Portugalmarker abolished compulsory military service on November 19, 2004.


Romaniamarker suspended compulsory military service on October 23, 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 NATOmarker.


Slovakiamarker abolished compulsory military service on January 1, 2006.


Sloveniamarker's Prime Minister Anton Rop abolished mandatory military service on September 9, 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.


250 px
Spainmarker abolished compulsory military service in 2001. It was known derogatively as "la mili", more often than not with an obscene adjective, as in the name of a supplement ("Puta Mili") attached to the popular satyrical "El Jueves" magazine. Military and alternative service was nine months long and in recent years the majority of conscripts chose to perform alternative, rather than military, service.


Tanzania used to employ conscription, but has abolished it.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdommarker 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 received relatively harsh treatment in the 1914-18 war. Most had to do war-related work of a non-military sort. Some went to jail.

Irelandmarker was initially exempt from conscription in the First World War, but it was extended to Ireland on April 9, 1918. This led a Conscription Crisis in Ireland and was a decisive factor in pushing the country into seeking its independence. The poet W.B. Yeats wrote to Lord Haldane in protest: " seems to me a strangely wanton thing that England, for the sake of 50,000 Irish soldiers, is prepared to hollow another trench between the countries and fill it with blood." Also in protest, Lady Gregory declared "women and children will stand in front of their men and receive the bullets, rather than let them be taken to the front."

Conscription was reintroduced in 1939 at the start of World War II. Not only was conscription used for the three branches of the armed forces, it was also introduced to aid in coal mining with the Bevin Boys, and later in the war with the introduction of conscription of women into the Women's Land Army to help with agricultural production. Conscientious objectors were treated more tolerantly, but could still go to prison if they refused war-related work. Northern Irelandmarker 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 introduced National Service, which was abolished in 1963.

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


Albaniamarker has compulsory military service. Albania's conscription will end completely at the beginning of January 2010 and the forces will become all-professional.


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


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


Belarusmarker 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.


Bermudamarker, although an overseas territory of the United Kingdommarker, 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 Brazilmarker 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.

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 honoured 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.


Colombiamarker has compulsory military service for males.


Cyprusmarker 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-five 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.The Annan Plan for Cyprus that was rejected in the 2004 referendum mandated the demilitarisation of the island and the disbanding of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot forces.


As described in the Constitution of Denmark, § 81, Denmarkmarker 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 Redningsberedskabet (dealing with non-military disasters like fires, flood, pollution, etc.) or foreign aid work in a third world country.


Egyptmarker 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; highschool 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.


Finlandmarker has mandatory military service for men of a minimum duration of six months (180 days), depending on the assigned position: those trained as officers or NCOs serve for twelve months (362 days), specialist troops serve for nine (270 days) or twelve months, while rank and file serve for the minimum period. Unarmed service is also possible, and lasts eleven months (330 days). The obligation to enter into service begins at the age of 19, and may be postponed to the age of 29, when it becomes either mandatory, or the conscript is exempted.

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.

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 Ålandmarker 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 salary of 4.40 € (days 1 – 180), 7.30 € (days 181 – 270) and 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 fulfil most 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 diem. 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. Study, work or other civilian activity is not grounds for exemption nor automatic postponing. 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.

Over 80% of Finnish males serve in the military. Often there is great pressure from family members to do armed instead of civilian service. Finnish World War Two veterans are highly respected in Finland, and not undertaking military service may be considered an offence towards veterans in the family. There has also been a prevailing social assumption that masculinity can only be proved by army service, and, consequently, not doing so can lead to the stigmatisation of non-conscripts as not "real men". This has recently started waning as being considered an old-fashioned perspective, but it still holds in some more traditional occupations such as teaching. Additionally, the youth are often frightened that employers do not hire men who have performed civilian service.

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.


Germanymarker has mandatory military service of nine months for men. Women may volunteer and are allowed to perform similar jobs as men. A conscientious objector may petition for permission to do civilian alternative service, "civilian service" (Zivildienst) instead for nine months, which is usually accepted. A third option is to become a foreign development aide (Entwicklungshelfer) for at least eighteen months. Overall, however, during the past few years, the number of men being drafted has declined significantly.

Besides several exceptions, military service is compulsory for all men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years. Those who are engaged in educational or vocational training programs prior to their military assessment are allowed to postpone service until they have completed the programs and can be called upon to perform their national duty at any time thereafter. This, however, does not apply for students who want to take up courses at university.


, Greecemarker (Hellenic Republic) has mandatory military service of nine to twelve months for men. Although Greece is developing a professional army system, it continues to enforce the 12-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 nine euro per month for privates and twelve euro for the rank of draft corporal and draft sergeant. The minimum wage for an unskilled worker stands at around 650 euros per month in Greece, while professional soldiers are paid upwards of 800 euros. 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.


Iranmarker 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.

In recent years, Parliament approved a new law banning the selling of military service. Previously, individuals could, for a sum of 5 million rials (approx. $2500 US), buy the rights for conscription, making them exempt from a prolonged military service, serving only 2 weeks where critical military techniques (recruit training) are taught in a crash course, such a assault techniques, self defense and rifle training. Ex-pats purchasing their conscription rights are exempt from recruit training, but may voluntarily sign up for the 2 week course upon return. Iranians living abroad who do not purchase their conscription rights are required to complete their military service upon return to Iran with 2 exemptions:

  • If they are a full time student in a foreign academic institution
  • If their visit to Iran is under 3 months (Includes non-students).

The purchase of conscription rights was originally aimed at returning ex-pats, since the late 1980s open to everyone. Any ex-pats returning to Iran are advised to double check their conscription status with a local Iranian embassy as military service is required at the moment of arrival unless already exempt. Other 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).

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.


Israelmarker 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 2 years. 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" 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 Bankmarker and Gazamarker. 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 their period of regular army service, men are liable for up to 45 days 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 Koreamarker 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 military. The duration of service varies from branch to branch of the military, however, by July 14, 2014, it will be reduced to 18 months.


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 Batallón 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 Infantería 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.


Norwaymarker 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 Russiamarker by Dmitry Milyutin on 1 January 1874. As of 2008, the Russian Federationmarker 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


Serbiamarker has compulsory national service for all men aged between 19 and 35. In practice, men over 27 are seldom called up. Service is usually performed after University studies have been completed. The length of service was 9 months but has recently been reduced to 6 months (2006). There is also an alternative for conscientious objectors which lasts 9 months. Serbian nationals living outside of the country were still expected to complete national service, however, they may defer it if it will seriously impact their career in the country where they currently reside. This can be done by contacting the embassy in the country of residence (if under 27), or must be done by contacting the army directly (if over 27). It was previously announced that mandatory military service would be abolished by 2010; however, it seems this has been postponed for a while.


In Singaporemarker, 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 Forcemarker, 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 infamously regain this title again when South Korea reduces its conscription to 18 months in 2016 (see above).


Since 1902 military service is mandatory in Sweden. All Swedish men between age 18 and 47 can be called to serve with the armed forces. The number of drafted have changed over time, but during the Cold war it was about 90%. Today, less than one fifth of the country's eligible 19-year-olds are actually drafted each year. Military service used to comprise between 8 to 15 months of training, but recent reforms have changed this to 11 or 15 month taking the school terms into consideration.

Men may choose to do unarmed service, for instance as a firefighter. Generally, unarmed service is shorter than armed.

Since 1980 women are allowed to serve in the armed forces. As of 2002, Sweden's government asked the army to consider mandatory military service for women.

Sweden may abolish mandatory military service by mid-2010.


Switzerlandmarker has the largest militia army in the world (220,000 including reserves). 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. 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 Chinamarker 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 August 1, 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 subjucted 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 Turkeymarker, 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 not have 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 earthquakemarker, 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).

For Turkish men with multiple citizenship, military service performed in certain other countries may count towards military service in Turkey, thus effectively offering many individuals the possibility of legally avoiding or shortening their military service period in Turkey without facing a monetary burden. At this time, only a select number of countries with compulsory military service are in this list.


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 the Ukrainemarker, a person cannot be conscripted after he turns twenty-five. The Ukrainian army has had similar problems with dedovshchina as the Russian army did until very recently, but in the Ukrainemarker the problem is getting less severe compared to Russiamarker, 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 planned switching of the army into a full-time professional army) since the Minister of Defense announced that the last conscripts will be drafted at the end of 2010.

See also


For 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.

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