Holiday or boot camp? Youth braces for national service

30 Juin, 2018, 21:54 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

The French authorities plan to re-introduce mandatory service by 2019, thus fulfilling one of the President Emmanuel Macron's election promises.

Conscripts will be made to serve for one month, with a focus on civic service as well as military training, and the option of extending the placement of up to a year.

On Wednesday night most of the reforms President Macron fought for were finally signed into law.

That's now been softened and broadened into what's being called a Universal National Service - partly because of concerns that it would cost too much and overburden the country's armed forces.

The government started consultations to expand the program next year.

The BBC reports that the new national service, which will cover all 16-year-old girls and boys, will be divided into two distinct phases.

For the second part, the young people will be encouraged to a voluntarily commitment of at least three months.

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Restoring military service for some 600,000 youths each year would ensure France kept its "strategic autonomy" and was able to "act alone if needed" in light of the multiplication of crises around the world, he told voters.

The strike of the four main railroad trade unions against the reform of this sector driven by the French government ends today, after three long months of intensive mobilization throughout the country.

"Through a direct experience of the military life, its know-how and its requirements, every young French person will go to meet their fellow citizens, will experience social diversity, and republican cohesion for a month", he said.

First, participants will take part in a mandatory one-month placement when they will spend two weeks in collective housing to promote a "social mix" and "enable young people to create new relationships and develop their role in society". It could also include a stint with police, fire service or army. Critics also say there could be legal issues in having compulsory national service for teenagers.

The program is estimated to cost an estimated €1.6 billion (AU$2.5 billion) a year, with €1.75 billion (AU$2.76 billion) initial investment.

The plan has received public support, as a YouGov poll conducted in March found 60 percent of the population supported the new military service, although its approval was lower among young people. Prior to its announcement, 14 youth organizations protested the plan's "inconsistencies", arguing it deprived youth of the freedom choice.

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