By Elin Joensson
The Swedish government could bring back compulsory military service, this time for both men and women, in order to reverse falling staff numbers in the armed services, say local media reports.
On Wednesday, major Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet broke the news that an inquiry by the Social Democrat-Green government wants to propose a return to conscription in 2019. The inquiry was spurred to find long-term solutions to Sweden’s need for new military recruits.
Under the proposal, all 17-year-olds, male and female, would have to fill out a form to determine their suitability for military service. Later when they reach 18, they would undergo assessment for possible recruitment, and those found suitable would start training at age 19.
Volunteering for military service would still be allowed.
Annika Nordgren Christensen, a former member of the Defense Committee in Sweden’s parliament, is leading the inquiry into reintroducing conscription, and said she had been given specific directives.
"The task is to find out how we can find a system that's based on free will but includes compulsory military service as they do in Norway and Denmark" – which never gave up the draft – she told Svenska Dagbladet.
The new policy would be a lighter version of Sweden's former conscription system, scrapped in 2010, as only 10,000 people or fewer from each round of applicants would be enrolled in compulsory service.
A survey earlier this year by major pollster Ipsos done for liberal Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter found that reintroducing conscription enjoys overwhelming public support, with 72 percent of Swedes in favor and 16 percent against.
According to Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish Armed Forces are now short of around 7,500 soldiers, sailors, and officers, despite running large recruitment campaigns over the past few years.
“It could be that many see conscription as a possible solution to the defense staffing problems that are constantly being reported in the media,” Ipsos head of public opinion David Ahlin told the newspaper.
Sweden currently has about 20,000 active duty personnel.
The final proposal to reintroduce the policy will be presented in late September.