There are more countries with required military service in the world than most people realize.
In fact, a significant portion of the globe makes military service mandatory.
Nevertheless, compulsory service is managed differently depending on the country.
Accordingly, keep reading to discover 85 countries with required military service.
Related Article – Military Draft Explained: 7 Things You Need To Know
Map of Countries with Required Military Service
Military conscription, or mandatory military service, has been in considerable decline over the last several decades.
Nonetheless, most find it surprising how many countries continue to require military service.
Compulsory service varies depending on the country.
For example, some nations only make it mandatory for men to serve in the military, while other countries define it by age or have it open to both sexes.
In the United States, compulsory military service (otherwise known as “the draft”) has only been utilized during emergency war times.
As a result, the U.S. has only enacted mandatory military service during a handful of conflicts with the most infamous being the Vietnam War.
Officially, the draft in the United States ended in 1973 and hasn’t returned since.
Be that as it may, all males between 18-25 are required to register with the Selective Service System and could, therefore, be drafted into military service at a later date.
Still, that may change in the near future as House resolution H.R. 5492 would abolish the Selective Service for good.
In general, most countries have some type of required military service, including:
- Voluntary Enlistment
- Mandatory Service
- Conscription / Military Draft
- Selective Compulsory Service
- De jure Compulsory Service
Meanwhile, other countries may institute a form of required military service which combines multiple systems or philosophies of compulsory service.
For example, the United States features a combination of voluntary enlistment along with De jure compulsory service (the Selective Service).
Consequently, the mandatory age of enlistment, gender(s), and type of compulsory service varies widely depending on the country:
Algeria, in North Africa, is one of many countries with required military service.
The nation of 44 million requires all males to enroll in the national list of military service census by age 17.
From there, Algerian men are expected to serve 1-2 years of mandatory service.
Angola, another country in Africa, requires males to serve in the military.
The required length is 2 years for men ages 20-45.
Argentina utilizes a De jure compulsory system, like the United States.
Thus, the Argentinian government may institute it when necessary.
Currently, military conscription is suspended in the country.
Armenia, like Algeria, enforces a rather strict compulsory system.
Armenian men are required to serve at least 2 years in the military.
The rules apply to any male 18-27 years old.
And, the consequences for evading military service are severe, resulting in 3 years in prison.
Austria requires men to either serve in the military or perform humanitarian services.
As a result, men have the option of serving 6 months in the military or 9 months of civilian service.
These obligations are for individuals between the ages of 18-50.
The little known country of Azerbaijan exists at the boundary between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Here, military service is required for all able-bodied male civilians.
The mandatory service begins at 18.
Belarus is among the countries with required military service.
Men are required to spend 12-18 months in service between the ages 18-27.
Those that are seeking higher education only have to serve 12 months compared to 18 months for those that do not plan on going to college.
Belize features a De jure conscription system.
However, it has never been enforced.
Benin, a country in West Africa, makes military service compulsory for males and females.
Thus, all citizens are required to serve 18 months between the ages 18-35.
Bhutan – a mountainous country near China – has an interesting system.
It makes military training mandatory for all males between 20-25.
Nonetheless, full enlistment is completely voluntary.
Bolivia requires males (ages 18-22) to serve in the military.
The length of service varies between 1-2 years.
Brazil makes military service mandatory for men between 18-45.
Regardless, only a small percentage of men (5-10%) actually spend time serving the country.
All in all, military service is mandatory for 10-12 months for those that are selected.
Cambodia is another country with required military service.
Thus, males 18-30 years old must serve at least 18 months in the military.
#14. Cape Verde
Cape Verde, also known as Cabo Verde, is an island country located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the land being very remote, military service remains compulsory.
Consequently, men and woman (18-35) must spend 2 years in the military before fulfilling their obligations.
Chad has different military requirements for men and women.
Men, beginning at age 20, must serve 3 years in the military.
Meanwhile, woman are only obligated to fulfill 12 months, starting at age 21.
Females also have the option of bypassing the military for civic service.
Chile, in South America, features its own version of compulsory service.
Men between the ages of 18-45 may have to serve between 1-2 years.
Despite it, conscription is rarely needed or enforced.
China makes a lot of news for being an oppressive regime yet its military service is part of the De jure system.
As a result, military service is only necessary when made mandatory, which hasn’t yet occurred in the nation.
Conscription exists for males 18-22 with a 2 year obligation.
Colombia is a proponent of mandatory military service.
The South American nation requires males (18-24) to complete 18 months of service.
The Democratic Republic of Congo makes compulsory service part of its doctrine.
However, it’s unclear how much the large nation in Africa enforces the conscription.
Currently, citizens 18-45 are eligible for military service.
Cuba makes service mandatory for men.
Therefore, citizens must serve 2 years in the military between the ages 17-28.
The small nation of Cyprus encourages military involvement.
Accordingly, men between 18-50 must spend at least 14 months in Cyprus National Guard.
Denmark has a substantial military commitment.
Men are required to spend between 4 months to a year serving the military in some capacity.
Moreover, anyone under the age of 50 may be called at any time under the conscription guidelines.
Egypt has a lengthy commitment to military service.
Thus, males between the ages 18-30 have various requirements.
For some, the time spent varies between a year and a half to 3 years.
Meanwhile, those in the Reserves may have to serve nearly a decade before fulfilling their commitment.
#24. El Salvador
El Salvador mandates a year of selective service.
For this reason, men spend 11-12 months serving the nation beginning at age 18.
#25. Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea, a tiny country along the west coast of Central Africa, starts sending citizens to the military at age 18.
From there, individuals are expected to spend the next 2 years serving the country.
Eritrea requires men and women to join the military.
First, males and females aged 18-40, have a service obligation of 18 months.
Nonetheless, the obligation may get extended indefinitely.
Estonia takes military service seriously.
Thus, it’s mandatory that males (18-27) spend 8-11 months in military service.
The time spent in training is designed to provide the fundamentals in case of an emergency.
As a result, even Estonians that are living aboard are expected to return and complete compulsory service prior to turning 27.
Ethiopia honors a De jure compulsory system.
Be that as it may, the nation has never enforced conscription yet has the authority to instill a draft, if necessary.
Finland is another country that highly values military service.
In fact, the country has among the highest rate of military participation (nearly 80%).
Accordingly, Finland ranks among the leaders including Israel, Singapore, and North Korea.
Men are required to spend 6-12 months with the Finnish Defense Forces.
Or, they may serve the Finnish Reserves until the age of 60.
Meanwhile, woman are eligible to serve in the military yet not required.
Lastly, citizens may elect to perform some type of civic duty as opposed to joining the military.
Georgia requires men to serve in the military for a year.
The service is mandatory for all males between 18-27.
Greece has enforced military service since the beginning of the 20th century.
Accordingly, the length of service is 9 months in the Greece Army.
Meanwhile, members of the Air Force and Navy must serve for 12 months.
After being discharged from full-time service, citizens are still required to spend time in the reserves.
Thus, they may be called to duty at any time for 1-10 days.
Women may also serve in the military yet are not required by law, like males.
Guatemala may require males (17-21) to spend 1 or 2 years in the military.
However, conscription is rare so many citizens avoid this obligation.
Guinea-Bissau, a tiny country in West Africa, requires men and women to spend time in the Armed Forces.
Those that are between 18-25 years of age traditionally spend 2 years in the military.
Indonesia is another observer of De jure selective conscription.
Accordingly, men may have to spend between 18-24 months serving the military.
However, the mandatory military service is not currently enforced.
Iran, the notorious country in the Middle East, requires military service.
Thus, Iranian males after turning 18 spend 18-24 months in service.
Israel is notorious for its mandatory military / civic service.
As a result, men and women are both required to serve the country in some capacity.
Moreover, women may also now serve in combat roles after a 1994 lawsuit was filed by Alice Miller for not being allowed to become a pilot.
The mandatory service is excluded for certain individuals and religious affiliations.
All in all, most spend between 1-2 years starting on their 18th birthday.
In Israel, 1 to 2 years of service is mandatory, starting from 18 year old for both males and females. Pilots need to commit to a minimum of 9 years.
#37. Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast mandates De jure selective conscription for males and females (18-25 years of age).
It’s authorized, but not currently utilized.
Jordan features a unique system for mandating military service.
Those that are unemployed and male are required to spend a year in the military.
In general, it occurs between the ages 25-29.
Kazakhstan requires military service for 1-2 years.
For now, the guidelines are for males between the ages 18-27.
However, the mandatory military service may soon get abolished.
Kuwait requires a year of service for men between the ages 18-35.
Thereafter, men are expected to remain in the Reserves until the age of 45.
Kuwait recently reintroduced compulsory service in 2015.
Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, requires males to serve 9-12 months in the military.
The obligation begins at 18 and must be fulfilled by 27.
Laos requires a year and a half of service starting at 18.
The requirement is only necessary for men in the country.
Lithuania features a couple policies regarding military service.
First, males (19-26) are required to spend 9 months in the military.
And, unlike other countries, those with dual citizenship are not exempt.
Thus, they must also return to Lithuania in order to fulfill their obligation.
Mali, another little known country in Africa, requires service for men and women.
The obligation begins at age 18 and citizens are required to spend 2 years in the military.
Mexico features a lottery system for determining which males will serve in the military.
If selected, the obligation lasts for 12 months yet service continues as a reserve until 40
Moldova, in Eastern Europe, is among the countries with required military service.
Therefore, citizens must spend at least a year meeting their obligation.
Currently, military service is open to men 18-27, but may become obsolete in the near future.
Mongolia requires men 18-27 to spend time serving the country.
Usually, the duration lasts between 1-2 years (active service) before transitioning into the reserves (until age 45).
Morocco recently reinforced mandatory military service in 2019.
Consequently, males are now required to complete a year of service at the age of 19.
Those that attempt to avoid military service are punished severely (including jail time).
Mozambique has compulsory service like many other small African nations.
For this reason, males and females must serve 2 years between the ages 18-35.
Myanmar observe De jure for military service.
The new system was recently passed in 2010 yet hasn’t yet been enforced.
In Niger, those that do not get married by age 18 have to join the military.
There, they are required to serve 24 months of service.
#52. North Korea
North Korea is one of the most demanding places for military service.
The communist country makes service mandatory for men and women.
Nevertheless, the length of time spent in the military varies drastically between genders.
It’s mandatory for men to spend 10 years in the military.
Meanwhile, women are obligated to serve from the time they graduate high school until the age of 23 (5 years of service).
North Korea recently instituted the new guidelines for women in 2015.
Due to the mandatory service beginning at age 17, North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world (6.4 million personnel).
Norway takes a military obligation very seriously.
For starters, men are required to enlist in the military from the age of 19-44.
During this time, they must serve an initial 12 month term along with 4-5 “refreshers” / revisits.
All in all, most men in Norway end up spending approximately 19 months in the military.
Meanwhile, gender equality, which has been a significant issue in the country – recently passed a bill allowing female involvement.
Consequently, women (ages 19-44) are also required to enlist yet a fair amount to do complete a full term.
Paraguay doesn’t wait long to introduce men to military service.
The obligation begins at 18 when men are required to spend 1-2 years in service.
However, new proposals may introduce an alternative to military service for those that do not wish to enlist.
Portugal honors a De jure compulsory service.
Therefore, it can be authorized but is not currently used.
Qatar makes men spend 4-12 months serving the country.
The service may take place between the ages 18-35.
Russia enforces a “universal military obligation” meaning all male citizens are required to serve.
For this reason, males between 18-27 must serve at least 1 year.
Moreover, the service obligation continues in the reserve until the age of 40.
Dodging the requirement is a major offense in Russia punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
Furthermore, Russia’s military obligation has recently been challenged by the decision to invade Ukraine.
#58. San Marino
San Marino, one of the smallest countries in the world, does not have an organized, mandatory military service.
Nonetheless, the country may draft citizens (ages 16-60) in the event of a national emergency.
#59. Sao Tome and Principe
The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe features a De jure system.
For this reason, citizens over the age of 18 may be called into service.
Senegal makes 2 years mandatory for all males in the country.
Furthermore, women may also be called to serve at the age of 20.
Singapore has a strong commitment to the military.
Accordingly, males spend 24 months learning the culture between the ages 18-21.
Meanwhile, those in the reserves are obligated to remain until the age of 40.
Slovakia suspended its mandatory military involvement in the early years of the 21st century.
And, thankfully, it has not found a reason to reinstate it despite still acting under the De jure system.
Somalia may call males and females to service.
Conscription is open to males (18-40) and females (18-30).
However, it’s not currently enforced by the country.
#64. South Korea
South Korea recently amended its compulsory conscription legislation.
Therefore, the length of service was reduced to 18-22 months compared to the previous 21-24 month obligation.
Moreover, certain high-profile individuals may defer their service until the age of 30.
#65. South Sudan
South Sudan, the most recent country to gain its independence as a sovereign state, requires service to build up its military.
Accordingly, all citizens must serve 1-2 years beginning at the age of 18.
Spain abolished conscription in 2001.
Nevertheless, the government may still draft citizens (ages 19-25) in the event of a national emergency.
The war torn country of Sudan makes military service mandatory for men and women.
Both sexes are requires to serve 1-2 years between the ages 18-33.
Sweden is another country with required military service.
And, it’s applied to both men and women.
The mandatory service begins at 18 and varies in length.
In general, most people spend 8-15 months in the military.
Additionally, Swedish citizens are eligible for the reserves until 47.
Despite the requirement only a portion of those that register for service are actually selected.
Switzerland features a unique form of mandatory service.
First, 245 days of training are mandatory for all males (ages 18-30).
Then, men must be available for 6 recalls within a 10 year time frame.
In general, the recalls last for less than 20 days.
Syria doesn’t mess around with its military obligations.
Men between the ages 18-42 must serve 18 months in the military.
Meanwhile, those that live outside the country must contribute exemption fees.
The amount of the fee depends on how long the citizen has lived out of the country.
Taiwan has a small commitment to the military.
Men are expected to serve 4 months of continuous service.
Then, must be available for reassignment 4 other times (each for a 20-day period).
The service commitment is for individuals between the ages 18-36.
Tajikistan, in Central Asia, requires military service for men.
The obligation, however, can get bypass by purchasing an exemption.
If an exemption is not purchased, men are expected to serve 2 years.
Tanzania usually allows public service as an alternative to military service.
In general, the commitment lasts for 1-2 years.
Thailand features a lottery system for citizens.
As a result, men may be selected at random, beginning at age 21.
#75. Timor Leste
The small island country of East Timor (or Timor-Leste) may authorize conscription for males and females.
However, the current degree of implementation is unknown.
Regardless, military service is currently open to males and females between the ages 18-30.
The traditional length of mandatory service is 18 months.
Tunisia has mandatory service for men that are physically fit (ages 20-35).
Those that are physically fit must serve 12 months.
Turkey is another country with required military service.
Males over the age of 20 must serve 6-12 months.
However, like Tajikistan, exemptions are available to expedite or bypass the process.
Turkmenistan, in Central Asia, utilizes mandatory service.
Thus, males ages 18-30 are required to serve 24-30 months.
Ukraine has been dealing with a major crisis since Russia invaded the country in February 2021.
In the past, military service was compulsory for citizens 20-27 years of age.
Now, most citizens that have remained behind have joined the cause to defend the nation against Russia.
#80. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates also requires military service.
The obligation is for males between the ages 18-30.
During that time, men must spend 16-24 months in service.
#81. United States
Did you know that the United States has far and away the highest defense budget in the world, despite less than 1% of its citizens actively serving in the military?
In general, the U.S. military depends on voluntary enlistment.
However, thanks to the De jure system, there have been episodes in its history in which military service was required (i.e. Vietnam).
Currently, military conscription is not active yet Selective Service retains the right to “draft” males (18-25 years of age) during a national emergency.
Uruguay currently does not require military service.
However, it’s government is authorized to enforce De jure when necessary.
Uzbekistan requires males (18-27) to serve in the military for at least a year.
Notwithstanding, like some nations, individuals that have the money can buy shorter terms.
Despite it, those that leave the military early must still remain a Reservist until the age of 27.
Venezuela does not mess around with military service despite not making it a requirement.
It mandates that anyone between the ages 18-50 register for possible enlistment, effectively a de jure enlistment.
And, those who refuse, may forfeit government benefits as a result.
Vietnam has a lengthy requirement of 2-3 years.
The mandatory service is only for males between the ages 18-27.
On the other hand, females are eligible for service but not part of the draft process.
Related Article – Military Age Limits
Countries that require military service generally have a reason.
In most situations, making military service mandatory is the best method for improving national security.
Consequently, nations that face significant security threats (and lack the enormous budget of the U.S. military) must maintain a large military force.
Therefore, requiring military service is usually preferred by countries compared to voluntary enlistment.
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