The big question: should the UK bring back National Service?
19 March 2012 16:20 | By Zoe and Steve Vaughan
National Service ended in the UK in 1960 but recently there have been calls to reinstate a compulsory military service programme.
These calls are largely a response to the growing unemployment problem, particularly the increase of disaffected, jobless young people who seem to view benefit entitlement as an unalienable right.
Those in favour say it will give young people as sense of purpose, responsibility and train them in a skill. Make them fit for work.
However, others argue that at best it will be a short-term solution that may keep people occupied for a year, maybe two, but will not in the longer term provide jobs – or even better manners. Those who take part will simply return to the lives they left behind.
Many countries still run compulsory military service programmes. More obviously, Iran, Russia and China. Perhaps less expected, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Austria.
So the big question: should the UK bring back National Service?
No: National Service will not solve the unemployment problem
Not all unemployed people are feckless. Not all unemployed people sit around drinking Special Brew and working out how to play the system as they watch football on their giant plasma screen televisions while stubbing out cigarettes on their pit bulls.
In fact of the 2.7m unemployed these are the minority. However, it is these people most of us want to see robbed of the benefits we pay for and be made to make a worthwhile contribution to society.
Conscription, National Service, call it what you will, is not going to solve that problem. It’s not going to solve the unemployment problem either.
Being forced to sign up is not going to stop the feckless and workshy being… feckless and workshy. Those who have become proficient in dodging work will likely be equally proficient in dodging conscription. The taxpayer will spend millions having to enforce service.
Military training also does not necessarily equip people for work although it might teach them some skills and better manners at least while they are in the army, navy or RAF. Most people leaving the forces retrain on the way out to make them fit for civilian life.
For those who do grasp the opportunity and make a decent fist of it, it’s not going to create jobs for them once their time is done. The economy governs that.
And it could lead to job losses in the military. A further increase in the cuts of less-skilled roles across the forces would by likely if the MoD was assured a steady supply of national service recruits.
Yes we have several generations of workshy, often criminal, unpleasant young men and women who think it is their right to live off benefits but giving them a taste of life in the military isn’t going to make them go away.
Yes: the country will get something for the money it dishes out to the unemployed
Forget your work programmes and your unpaid work – stacking shelves at Asda for nothing.If you’ve been out of work for months and are raking in more money in benefits than you would in a job, then join the army. Good prospects, learn a skill and do something with your life. Your country needs you.
Okay, a slight over-simplification of the topic but the idea of giving those young people who can’t find a job new opportunities and new challenges has some merit and should not be dismissed necessarily out of hand.
It has a whole host of benefits. Such a scheme would promote discipline, respect of themselves and others, basic life skills, economic management and maybe even a sense of community and something to be proud of. It could even create a less selfish generation who actually took some responsibility for their actions.
If the unemployed were forced to join the forces, the country would at least be getting something for the money it dishes out to the unemployed.
This isn’t necessarily about sending our feckless youth out to Afghanistan to become cannon fodder. The armed forces are active around the world, helping communities tackling natural disasters – floods, famine, aid distribution – and then at home, on non-urgent but equally valuable tasks in the local community.
Aside from the military aspect, this is not too far away from what the Government is considering with its citizen service scheme which has called for all children after they have completed their GCSEs to sign up to give something back to their neighbourhood so why not go a little bit further and really make a difference?