National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes (usually military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

, also known as conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

). The term became common British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes. Compulsory military service typically requires all citizens, or all male citizens, to participate for a period of a year (or more in some countries) during their youth, usually at some point between the age of 18 and their late twenties.

Wartime national service in Britain required the whole population to register with the government's Ministry of Labour
Ministry of Labour
The Ministry of Labour was a British civil service department established by the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916. It was renamed the Employment Department in 1988, and finally abolished in 1995...

, which could then direct people where to work. Most men aged 18 to 51 were "called up" for military service, except for those in "reserved occupations" (farming, medicine, skilled tradesmen in war industries, firemen and policemen, etc.) and unmarried women under 30 could be directed into war industries. Coal shortages 1944-45 meant that thousands of the last wartime conscripts were drafted into coal mines (the "Bevin Boys
Bevin Boys
Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, from December 1943 until 1948. Chosen at random from conscripts but also including volunteers, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital but largely unrecognised service in the mines, many of them...

", thus named for the wartime Minister of Labour). British national service ended with victory in 1945 but was reimposed (for men only) in 1947 to enlarge the armed forces, first for an 18-month term, then for two years. Compulsory military call-up ended in 1960 and national registration was discontinued (except as required for social insurance.)

National service is the usual term for compulsory military service programmes in countries including Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Malaysia
Malaysian National Service
The National Service Training Programme, or Program Latihan Khidmat Negara , is Malaysia's national service program. The conscripts are 18-year-old youths that are selectively drafted...

, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 (Taiwan), Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Singapore, South Korea
Military of South Korea
The Republic of Korea Armed Forces or ROK Armed Forces, is the armed forces of the Republic of Korea...

, Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 and Turkey
Conscription in Turkey
In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male citizens from twenty to forty one years of age. Those who are engaged in higher education or vocational training programs prior to their military drafting are allowed to delay service until they have completed the programs or reach a...

. Conscription in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 was called Selective Service and continued until 1973. Most NATO countries discontinued obligatory military service in the 1970s. Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 was the only country to conscript young women as well as young men for military service in the late 20th century.

India has a separate programme called the National Service Scheme
National Service Scheme
National Service Scheme ' is an Indian government-sponsored program under the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports of the Government of India. It was started in 1969.-History:...

 (NSS) in which students from primary level to graduate level participate. In some Indian colleges (like IITs), it is a compulsory part of curricula.

See also

  • Alternative service
    Alternative service
    Alternative service is a form of national service performed in lieu of conscription for various reasons, such as conscientious objection, inadequate health, or political reasons. See "labour battalion" for examples of the latter case...

  • Conscription in Australia
    Conscription in Australia
    Conscription in Australia, or mandatory military service also known as National Service, has a controversial history dating back to the first years of nationhood...

  • Conscription in the United Kingdom
    Conscription in the United Kingdom
    Conscription in the United Kingdom has existed for two periods in modern times. The first was from 1916 to 1919, the second was from 1939 to 1960, with the last conscripted soldiers leaving the service in 1963...

  • Conscription in Singapore
  • National service in the United States of America
    National service in the United States of America
    National service in the United States of America has a long tradition, extending to the founding of the country. National service takes multiple forms in the U.S.A., including community service, military service, and other forms.- Military national service :...

  • National Youth Service
    National Youth Service
    The National Youth Service was a heavily-criticized program implemented by the government of Seychelles. It was formerly compulsory and included traditional educational curriculum, political education and paramilitary training...

  • Sherut Leumi
    Sherut Leumi
    Sherut Leumi is an alternative voluntary national service in Israel for those that cannot or do not wish to serve in the Israel Defense Forces...

     (National Service in Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

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