Record number of young men and women enter conscript service in Estonia

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Serviceman. Source: Liis Treimann/Postimees/Scanpix

Minister of Defense of Estonia Kalle Laanet (Reform) introduced a recent report on military service to the government, which shows that nearly all of the set national defense obligations were fulfilled last year.

Minister of Defence Laanet noted that last year was full of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the goal set in the National Defence Development Plan 2017–2026 – to call 3,500 people to conscript service per year – was exceeded.

"A total of 3,516 call-up selectees and young women entered conscript service. It is noteworthy that more than half of the call-up selectees entered conscript service voluntarily, including a record 54 women, which is more than ever before," Laanet said.

Laanet emphasized that the drop-out rate from conscript service also continues to decrease, falling from 7.8 percent in 2019 to 5.6 percent in 2020.

He added that the exceptionally high percentage of volunteers and the reduction in the number of drop-outs demonstrates the ability of young people to plan their conscript service and prepare for the future. "This is also evidenced by the record 17 classes who entered conscript service together," Laanet added.

The questionnaire survey conducted among conscripts clearly revealed that participation in national defense education programs in schools has a significant impact on raising awareness and eliminating fears in particular. Those who entered conscript service voluntarily included a majority who had completed national defense education in upper secondary school.

"There is a direct correlation in national defense education between the mind-set of conscripts and their ability to cope in conscript service," Laanet said.

Minister of Defence Laanet, the work organization of the medical committees of the Defence Resources Agency had to be reorganized due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly involving scheduling, which helped medical committees to work faster. "Improving the efficiency of work organization turned out to be so effective, being appreciated by call-up selectees in particular, that the changes will become permanent," Laanet noted.

The number of active servicemen is the highest in the last six years – at the end of 2020, there were 3,655 active servicemen, which is 145 more active service members than planned. A total of 7.51 percent of young people having completed conscript service entered active service.

In turn, 52 percent of the women having completed conscript service entered active service. "The participation of women in national defense is becoming more and more natural, and deciding in favor of a career as a service member is a well-thought-out and planned decision," Laanet added.

In 2020, two important legislative changes were initiated – the reforming of medical committees and the creation of a reserve system for alternative services. The implementation and enforcement of both will continue this year.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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