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About Switzerland: Swiss Military Draft

Updated on December 9, 2013
Swiss soldier
Swiss soldier | Source

Switzerland requires every male citizen to serve in the military or perform civilian service as a voluntary alternative. Military service is a voluntary option for all Swiss women. The Swiss military is controlled by The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation and the armed forces prevent war and maintain peace, while also safeguarding against threats to internal security and other exceptional circumstances. When Swiss men elect to work for the civil service they have to work a longer amount of time, to make up for not carrying out military service. Any male Swiss citizen who does not serve the required amounts of time in military or civil service is liable to punitive financial taxes.

All Swiss men have to serve in the military
All Swiss men have to serve in the military | Source

About Swiss Military Service

Basic military training in Switzerland lasts approximately 21 weeks, with around six more training periods lasting 19 days between the ages of 18 and 34. The total military service requirement is around 260 days. Conscientious objectors to armed warfare, and other men preferring to work within the country's administration, must serve a longer term of at least 390 days working with the Swiss civil service, legislation specifies this work should be at least one and a half times the length of military service. Twenty years ago the Swiss military forces numbered approximately 600,000 soldiers, in 2013, though, numbers have reduced to around one third of this size. All men serving in the armed forces are issued with an assault rifle or pistol which is kept in the home.

Alternatives to Military Service in Switzerland

Although Switzerland's young men are keen to serve their country, many believe working for the civil service is more meaningful than military service. The type of administration jobs available include working in health services, social services, agriculture, forestry or nature conservation, assisting with development or humanitarian aid or helping with national emergencies or catastrophes. In 2012 a total of 15,000 Swiss men performed community service instead of joining the armed forces. Men who do not conduct any form of voluntary service pay taxation of four percent of their salaries.

Value of Military Service

Many domestic Swiss companies traditionally fill executive vacancies with former army and military officers. It's felt military training provides great preparation for business management, although this assumption is strongly criticized by many modern soldiers. Many modern troops do not feel their military service offers any benefit to the country's security and 70 percent of soldiers would not recommend further military service to friends or acquaintances.

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Swiss Referendum to Keep Conscription

In the 20 years to 2013 the Swiss have voted three times on whether or not to keep military conscription. Militia service in Switzerland that's staffed by volunteers has been in place for the past 165 years and the latest proposal to end conscription (September 2013) was rejected by more than 73 percent of voters.

The Swiss Militia has a Long History


Swiss Military Quick Facts

Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2013)

Military service age and obligation: 19-26 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; every Swiss male has to serve at least 260 days in the armed forces; conscripts receive 18 weeks of mandatory training, followed by seven 3-week intermittent recalls for training during the next 10 years (2012)

Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 1,828,043 females age 16-49: 1,786,552 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,493,509 females age 16-49: 1,459,450 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 46,562 female: 42,585 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures: 1% of GDP (2005 est.)

Country comparison to the world: 128

All information sourced from The World Factbook, a CIA publication

Swiss Guard of the Vatican

The Vatican in Rome traditionally employs Swiss mercenary soldiers as guards and the history of the Pontifical Swiss Guards goes back to the 15th century. All recruits to the Pope's private Swiss military must be Swiss single males, practice the Catholic faith and must have served basic service with the Swiss military, which needs to be proved with certificates of good conduct.

Swiss Guard at Vatican City


Swiss Military Power from the Swiss Armed Forces Facebook Page Posted to YouTube


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