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Taiwan military postpones full voluntary system to 2017
Publication Date : 13-09-2013
Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence (MND) yesterday announced that it would postpone the abolishment of the conscription system by two years to 2017 due to sluggish volunteer recruitment numbers.
The military originally expected to abolish the existing conscription system and replace it with a full voluntary one by Jan 1, 2015, according to a timetable previously announced by the MND.
However, the military has faced difficulties in convincing Taiwanese youths to join the armed forces. This has hindered the country's ultimate goal of creating an all-volunteer force on schedule, said Wang Tien-de, an MND official responsible for human resources, during a press conference yesterday.
The military and related government units have to postpone the all-volunteer military launch date to Jan 1, 2017, because they need more time to make preparations for the system change, he said.
“An abrupt change of the conscription system without enough volunteer soldiers could seriously affect national security,” he noted.
The latest announcement is expected to affect around 60,000 eligible Taiwanese conscripts born before Jan 1, 1994 in the next two years, he said.
Under the original plan, eligible males born before that date who are required to serve in the military but fail to do so prior to the start of their voluntary enlistment would serve their compulsory service not in the military but by completing alternative service for one year.
But now, with the postponement of the transformation, some of them will still have to serve in the military for one year, Wang said.
Wang, however, did not disclose further details about choosing who will be eligible for alternative service among those conscripts born before 1994, saying that related government units need to conduct further research.
The new policy will not affect eligible Taiwanese males born after Jan 1, 1994.
They no longer need to undergo compulsory military service. Instead, they will only need to conduct four months of military training, Wang said.
More incentives needed to boost recruitment
Wang noted that the MND will continue to ask for more funds to support a full voluntary military.
He also said that the government will come up with more incentives to boost voluntary recruitment, including setting the minimum salary of volunteer soldiers to no less than twice the basic wage protected by the Labour Standards Act and offering better benefits and subsidies to military personnel.
The military's voluntary recruitment drive has been facing difficulties over the past few years.
It was originally scheduled to recruit around 28,000 voluntary soldiers by the end of this year. But in the first seven months of this year, only 4,200 have reported to their military units, according to an MND report released last month.
The MND's announcement could mean a further setback to President Ma Ying-jeou.
The transformation to a fully voluntary system was a goal set by Ma during his 2008 presidential election campaign.