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UK: Rishi Sunak Promises Mandatory National Service For 18-Year-Olds If Elected

The UK had national service between 1947 and 1960, and several countries like South Korea, Brazil, Israel, and Sweden currently have similar programs.

AP
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak | Photo: AP
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If re-elected, the UK's Conservative Party plans to introduce mandatory national service for 18-year-olds, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced. The proposed scheme would offer young people a choice between a 12-month full-time placement in the armed forces or volunteering in their community for one weekend a month over a year. 

The armed forces placements would focus on skills like cyber security, logistics, procurement, or civil response operations. Non-military volunteering would involve 25 days with organisations like the fire service, police, and NHS.

Rishi Sunak said. “This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world.

"I will bring in a new model of national service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country."

The UK had national service between 1947 and 1960, and several countries like South Korea, Brazil, Israel, and Sweden currently have similar programs. The British Army has reduced in size from 100,000 in 2010 to nearly 73,000 as of January 2024,  the BBC reported.

The proposed scheme would not be conscription, but would legally require 18-year-olds to complete a community program or military training scheme.

While participants would have a choice, non-compliance would result in non-criminal sanctions, although the specific punishments have not been disclosed. The announcement comes as the Conservative Party gears up for elections and increases its attacks on the opposition Labour Party.

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