Military Service in France

Le Service Militaire en France - Phil Team

Will France really restore military service?

The French government has presented a plan to reinstate national service for all 16-year-olds.

This is an idea put forward by Emmanuel Macron during his presidential campaign, in order to promote a sense of civic duty and national unity among young French people.

But some are still unconvinced of its benefits.

The new national service will concern all 16-year-olds, girls and boys, and will be divided into two distinct phases.


What is going on ?

About 2,000 French teenagers are currently experimenting with the month-long Universal National Service (SNU) , which should be extended to all of France in the coming years and become a compulsory part of life for young people aged 15 and 16. years.

Is it really national military service?

Sort of, but it's not the same as military service . France abolished compulsory military service in 1997 and teenagers will be relieved to learn they aren't expected to spend ten months grid-lining, polishing their boots and running cross-country races under this new program.

On the contrary, this new national service is more civilian-oriented. It was the idea of ​​French President Emmanuel Macron, who surprised many when he announced it on the campaign ground, ahead of the 2017 presidential election.

He said he would introduce compulsory one-month national service, saying he wanted to give girls and boys "first-hand experience of military life".

The proposal received a cold response from the army, which balked at the prospect of having to put millions of teenagers on probation, prompting the government to come back with proposals for compulsory civic service in place.

military service

So what will the teenagers do?

They will essentially learn useful skills and engage in the community. The experimental cohort of 2,000 teenagers - who were chosen from 4,000 volunteers - will leave their homes for another region for two weeks, during which they will have to wear navy uniforms and sing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, every morning.

Described as an "integration phase", teenagers will learn first aid, map reading and other skills.

A second two-week phase, later this summer or in the next school year, will involve working on a "collective project", such as volunteering with a charity or local government.

Mr. Macron presented the service as a way to develop patriotism and social cohesion in a country plagued by deep divisions between left and right, rich and poor, religious and non-religious.

Is military service compulsory?

It is not at the moment, the teenagers doing it this summer are all volunteers, but Mr. Macron intends to enshrine the program in the Constitution and to roll it out over the next seven years, in targeting around 800,000 young people a year, eventually making it mandatory.

France already requires all citizens to take part in a one-day course called "Defense and Citizenship" at the age of 18, which includes an introduction to the country's military forces and a French language test.

Macron is himself the first French president not to be called up for service, having come of age after compulsory military service of ten months for school leavers was abolished by ex-president Jacques Chirac in 1997, the last conscripts having been released in 2001.

In North Korea, if you're a teenager, you risk having to perform compulsory military service for 11 years if you're a man and 7 years if you're a woman - the longest national service in the world.

Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Greece still have compulsory military service.

The last time men were called up for service by conscription in the UK was in 1960, while in the US it was in 1973.

National military service around the world


North Korea is the country with the longest compulsory military service, at 11 years for men and 7 years for women.

In Israel, compulsory military service is three years for men and two years for women.

The Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria and Greece are among the European countries that still have compulsory military service.

China only has military conscription in theory – it has never been enforced because volunteers already make its army the largest in the world.

India never had compulsory military service, even under British rule. It has the second largest army in the world, also made up of volunteers.

The last time men were called up for service by conscription in the UK was in 1960, while in the US it was in 1973.

In Iran, compulsory service for men lasts two years, but there are exceptions for only sons, doctors and firefighters, as well as for homosexuals and transsexuals.


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