Attrition: Taiwan Tries to Kick the Conscript Habit


March 25, 2007: Taiwan is moving towards an all volunteer force. Next January, conscription service will decline from 18 to 12 months. As recently as 2005, conscript service was 22 months. Men are eligible for the draft at age 19. Currently about 170,000 come of age each year. Considering all those exempted because of physical, mental and other problems, that leaves enough men to supply the 145,000 new recruits needed each year (assuming half the 290,000 troops are conscripts, who serve for one year.)

The military is also trying to recruit more volunteers, so it can become an all-volunteer force. By the end of the year, the military hopes to be 40 percent volunteers, and 50 percentvolunteers by 2009. Going all volunteer may take a decade or more, and depends a lot on whetherChina continues to threaten an invasion.

Currently, about five percent of military aged (19-35) men are in the military. The primary purpose of conscription is not just to provide troops automatically, and cheaply, but to train men for the reserves. At the moment, there are about three million veterans available for reserve units. Once the all volunteer force was achieved, all males would be require to undergo basic military training and serve in the reserves until they were 35.

Taiwans booming economy has made it difficult, in the last few decades, to attract had keep high quality men to serve as NCOs and junior officers. This, in turn, has led to low morale among the largely conscript troops. In the last decade, the military has made progress in dealing with these problems.


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