Special Report

13 Countries With Required Military Service for Men and Women

The United States has not had an active military draft since the early 1970s, before many Americans were even born. However, for much of the 20th century, conscription was the norm. Throughout both World Wars, and again from 1948 until 1973, young American men were regularly drafted into the military – filling vacancies in the ranks, both in times of war and peace. 

Though half a century has passed since the last U.S. military draft, there are several countries that actively practice military conscription. In these places, young men and women can be called into service at any time, and in some, service is mandatory for all citizens of a certain age.

Using data compiled by the CIA World Factbook, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 13 countries with mandatory military service for both men and women. Countries are listed in alphabetical order. We also reviewed data on military spending in current U.S. dollars, military spending as a share of GDP, and population figures from the World Bank. All World Bank data is as of 2021. 

In many countries where both men and women are being conscripted, maintaining the ranks of the armed forces helps ensure preparedness in the case of conflict. Some of the countries on this list are also in the midst of violent conflict. Countries like Benin, Chad, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Sudan, for example, have been combating terrorist insurgencies for years. (Here is a look at the 29 countries currently at war.)

While each of these countries conscript citizens – regardless of gender – for military service, there are notable variations. In seven of the 13 countries on this list, conscription is selective, meaning that not all citizens end up serving. The terms of service also vary. In Chad and Niger, for example, women can reportedly opt for roles in health care or civil service in lieu of the military, and in Israel, only residents of the Jewish or Druze faith are required to serve. 

In most of the countries on this list, mandatory conscription only lasts for about one to two years for any individual. In North Korea, however, men are required to serve for seven years, and in Eritrea, conscription can reportedly be extended indefinitely. 

Though there are some democratic countries on this list, the majority of countries where all citizens of a certain age are subject to conscription are authoritarian regimes, most notably, North Korea. (Here is a look at the 25 different ships and submarines in North Korea’s Navy.) 

Click here to see 13 countries with required military service for men and women.

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