National service


National service

National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes (usually military service, also known as conscription). The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes. Compulsory military service typically requires all citizens, or all male citizens, to participate for a period of a year (or more in some countries) during their youth, usually at some point between the age of 18 and their late twenties.

Wartime national service in Britain required the whole population to register with the government's Ministry of Labour, which could then direct people where to work. Most men aged 18 to 51 were "called up" for military service, except for those in "reserved occupations" (farming, medicine, skilled tradesmen in war industries, firemen and policemen, etc.) and unmarried women under 30 could be directed into war industries. Coal shortages 1944-45 meant that thousands of the last wartime conscripts were drafted into coal mines (the "Bevin Boys", thus named for the wartime Minister of Labour). British national service ended with victory in 1945 but was reimposed (for men only) in 1947 to enlarge the armed forces, first for an 18-month term, then for two years. Compulsory military call-up ended in 1960 and national registration was discontinued (except as required for social insurance.)

National service is the usual term for compulsory military service programmes in countries including Austria, Denmark, Greece, Guyana, Israel, Iran, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Finland, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey. Conscription in the United States was called Selective Service and continued until 1973. Most NATO countries discontinued obligatory military service in the 1970s. Israel was the only country to conscript young women as well as young men for military service in the late 20th century.

India has a separate programme called the National Service Scheme (NSS) in which students from primary level to graduate level participate. In some Indian colleges (like IITs), it is a compulsory part of curricula.[citation needed]

See also