In recent years, Israel has been facing a challenging problem. The younger Israelis do not seem to share their parents’ enthusiasm towards military conscription. According to TheMarker, only 58% percentage of Jewish men and 49% of Jewish women complete their full military service. Among all Israeli citizens, including the Arabs, only 40% of Israeli men and 33% of women serve in the army.
Although this lack of motivation raises issues of equality among citizens, the IDF doesn’t seem to mind so much, and getting an exemption is easier today than it has never been.
This “state of affairs” is unreconcilable with the idea of the People’s army. Conscription is now a burden carried by less than half of the country population.
This unfair situation could be easily solved by abandoning the draft and moving towards a professional army, a concept that a majority of Israeli support. Unfortunately, our State hungry politicians would prefer to extend conscription through a mandatory National Service requiring every citizen, including Ultra-orthodox, Arabs, and anyone who doesn’t want to serve in the military to “contribute” to the State in civilian positions.
In this program, the government will allocate civilian draftees to positions in private and public companies, NGOs, and government offices. It is undoubtedly a generous gift for the recipients of the free workforce, but is it really what the country needs?
The cost of this civilian draft is enormous and will lead to an economic loss much higher than its budgetary price. An accurate economic valuation needs to measure the opportunity costs of each recruit. Draftees have to delay productive activities such as work and education during the long months serving the country, leading to a loss in their current but also their future earnings.
It is doubtful that the government will succeed in efficiently allocating jobs among the recruits, and a lot of them will end up doing menial and uninteresting jobs. Our bureaucrats don’t have a good track record when it comes to training programs and job allocation. Israel still remembers the bizarre program to convert high-tech workers to agricultural professions following the 2008 economic crisis.
It is time for Israelis to face the fact that the dogma of the People Army is part of the past, and that replacing military servitude with a civil one is not a viable option.
A better option is to let the IDF gradually lead the way towards a professional army. By making military exemptions easier, the IDF is saving money on unnecessary jobs and is increasing the pay for the most valuable soldiers. Our High Tech nation needs more productive citizens participating in the economy, not slave laborers drafted in national service.
An article published in Hebrew by Easy Economy inspired this post.
Related post: “A third of Israelis are saying NO to the draft”