This week, against the backdrop of war in Ukraine, Switzerland’s federal government set out a number of options for the reform of Switzerland’s military service.
By 2024, the government aims to have a reform plan, which might extend compulsory service to women. Work on the project began long before the war in Ukraine.
A key driver of the reform is a shortage of people in Switzerland’s military service. On 4 March 2022, the Federal Council set out a number of options for reforming the current system.
Currently, Swiss men are required to serve in Switzerland’s military. There are some exceptions, such as for those who are disabled, and the possibility in some cases to do civil service instead. The is no obligation for Swiss women to serve. Women can volunteer, however few do.
According to the government, by the end of the decade the current system will not deliver the 140,000 military personnel required to defend the nation should the need arise. As a consequence something needs to be done to ensure there are enough sufficiently trained people. The government thinks reducing departures will not be enough. Switzerland’s military requires more recruits, it says.
This week, the government put forward several reform variants entitled: obligatory national security service, obligatory service based on needs, obligatory citizens’ service, and obligatory citizens’ service with a choice of type of service.
The last three would involve making service compulsory for Swiss women. Citizens’ service would cover a broader range of services than the current system, allowing for better matching of needs and capabilities.
Political discussions on the subject are likely to be lively. Some are against obligating women to serve. Those against it are often those advocating for gender equality. In general they argue that the current discrimination against Swiss men regarding military service compensates for discrimination against women in other areas.