Conscription in Switzerland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Timetable of military duties, Switzerland.

Switzerland has mandatory military service (German: Militärdienst; French: service militaire; Italian: servizio militare) in the Swiss Army for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority,[1] though women may volunteer for any position.[2]

People determined unfit for service, where fitness is defined as "satisfying physically, intellectually and mentally requirements for military service or civil protection service and being capable of accomplishing these services without harming oneself or others",[3] are exempted from service but pay an additional 3% of annual income tax until the age of 30, unless they are affected by a disability.[4]

Almost 20% of all conscripts were found unfit for military or civilian service in 2008; the rate is generally higher in urban cantons such as Zurich and Geneva than in the rural ones.[5] Swiss citizens living abroad are generally exempted from conscription in time of peace,[6] while dual citizenship by itself does not grant such exemption.[7]

On September 22, 2013, a referendum was held that aimed to abolish conscription in Switzerland.[8] However, the referendum failed with over 73% of the electorate voting against it, showing the strong support for conscription in Switzerland.

Recruitment[edit]

Service record book

Service in the army or civil protection usually begins at the age of 20, but recruitment may commence as early as 16 for those interested in preparatory courses, which are a precondition for gaining access to some sectors of the armed forces.[9]

After the first written communications, all the male conscripts (for which attendance is mandatory)[10] and female volunteers are convoked for an information day (German: Orientierungstag; French: Journée d’information; Italian: Giornata informativa), usually taking place near the municipality of residence of the attendants. During this day they are given a presentation of the army, the civil protection, Switzerland's security policy, an overview of their rights and duties and administrative directives.[10]

On this occasion conscripts are issued a Service Record book, used to attest the fulfillment of military obligations.[10] As it is not possible to postpone service to continue studies, conscripts are advised to either carry out their service in a single long stretch or to fraction their time by undergoing recruit training first and serving in a later phase.[11]

Recruitment itself takes place over a period of two or three days in one of the six Recruitment Centres spread across Switzerland (Windisch, Lausanne, Sumiswald, Monte Ceneri, Rüti, Mels). Recruits are assigned different positions according to their physical fitness, intellectual capabilities and aptitude.[12]

Army service[edit]

A Swiss Army exercise near Glarus

Boot camp[edit]

Boot camp lasts 18 or 21 weeks. In the first seven weeks recruits receive the "general basic instructions"; after this period, some recruits leave boot camp as they are presented with an opportunity to advance to cadet school.

The second phase of six weeks is devoted to function-specific basic instructions, where recruits learn skills specific to their job. In the third phase, called "instruction in formation", battlegroups and battalions are formed.[13]

Every Swiss soldier used to be issued with a sealed box of ammunition, but following a Swiss Federal Parliament decision to discontinue the practice in 2007, ammunition have been withdrawn starting in early 2008.[14] Conscripts who are unwilling to carry a weapon on moral grounds may apply for weaponless service.[15]

Recruits seeking higher ranks will require further training:

  • the grade of corporal, assigned exclusively to specialists, requires 5 weeks of rank-specific instructions;[16]
  • the grade of sergeant requires 14 weeks of rank-specific instructions, 6 weeks of practical training and 8 weeks of practical service;[16]
  • the grade of sergeant-major requires 14 weeks of rank-specific instructions and 15 weeks of practical service;[16]
  • the grade of lieutenant requires 30 weeks of rank-specific instructions and 4 weeks of practical training.[16]

The age when military obligations end also varies with rank, ranging from 34 for enlisted men and NCOs to 50 for staff officers. Professional officers retire between 58 and 65.[17]

Long service[edit]

Conscripts choosing long service fulfill their entire military obligations in a continuous 300-day service, after which they are incorporated in the reserve for the following ten years. A maximum of 15% of conscripts of any age class has the possibility to choose this path.[18]

Compensation[edit]

All personnel are paid a basic salary ranging from 4 Swiss francs a day for a recruit to 30 for a corps commander.[19] This is further supplemented by an additional salary ranging from 5 to 80 Swiss francs for non-commissioned officers or officers undergoing training.

During military service, military personnel are further paid an income-loss insurance (German, EO, Erwerbsersatzordnung; French, APG, Allocation pour perte de gain). This "EO" is financed with social contributions levied on salaries.

For employees, the "EO" consists in a compensation of 80% of their regular salary. Most employers, however, continue to pay the full salary during military service. In this case, the compensation is paid to the employer. Employers cannot fire a person in service by law, although there is no specific provision preventing a conscript from being fired before or after a period of service, other than the catch-all law against wrongful termination.

Students, independents or unemployed persons receive a fixed compensation of CHF 62, although this compensation amounts to CHF 97 for non-commissioned and commissioned officers during undergoing training. This "EO" can be further improved to a maximum CHF 174 if one has children.[20]

Alternatives to military service[edit]

Since 1996, conscripts who are found to be sufficiently fit for regular military service, but who object for reasons of conscience, can apply for civilian service. This service consists of various kinds of social services, such as reconstructing cultural sites, helping the elderly and other activities removed from military connotations. Civilian service lasts 340 days, 50% longer than a soldier's regular army service.[21]

Conscripts found to be sufficiently unfit for regular military service, but not for exemption, take part in civil protection, where they may be called on to assist the police, fire or health departments, as well as natural disaster relief and crowd control during demonstrations or events with large attendances.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Conscrits et recrues" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  2. ^ "Femmes dans l'armée" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "Définition de l'aptitude au service" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  4. ^ "Ordonnance sur la taxe d’exemption de l’obligation de servir" (in French). Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "Les chiffres du recrutement en 2008" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  6. ^ "Les Suisses de l‘étranger" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  7. ^ "Doubles-nationaux" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  8. ^ Referendums on 22 September 2013 Swiss Parliament, 28 June 2013. Retrieved, March 4, 2013(German)
  9. ^ "Rekrutierung" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c "Orientierungstag" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  11. ^ "Comment puis-je concilier l’ER et les études?" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  12. ^ "Journées de recrutement" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "Déroulement de l'école" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  14. ^ "Retrait des munitions de poche" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  15. ^ "Service sans arme" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Carrière de cadre jusqu’au grade de lieutenant" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  17. ^ "Loi fédérale sur l’armée et l’administration militaire" (in French). Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "Qu'est-ce qu'un militaire en service long ?" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  19. ^ Soldansätze
  20. ^ Finanzielle Entschädigung
  21. ^ "Ziviler Ersatzdienst" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  22. ^ "Protection civile" (in French). Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • McPhee, John. La Place de la Concorde Suisse New York: Noonday Press (Farrar, Strraus & Giroux), 1984. ISBN 0-374-51932-3. A non-fiction narrative which goes inside the Swiss Army and explores the relationship between the militia and Swiss society.