Resolution: Against the extension of forced service

Against the extension of forced service

This resolution was adopted by the GSoA General Assembly on October 3, 2021.

Resolution: Against the extension of forced service

This year, the “Service Citoyen” association plans to launch the popular initiative “For a Service Citoyen”, which calls for the introduction of a compulsory civic service for all. In contrast to the status quo, citizens of all genders should perform compulsory service. The option to serve outside of military service (“militia service”) would now be treated equally. The initiative text provides contradictory or no information on the freedom to choose the type of service and what would be classified as militia service.

According to the Service Citoyen association, the initiative aims to bring about solidarity in practice by ensuring that everyone contributes to society according to their strengths. It is also intended to promote equality. What sounds like a nice idea that aims to tackle several problems at once is unfortunately ultimately neither social progress nor does the initiative correspond to the goals and ideas of the GSoA.

The principle of “all according to their strengths” will hardly be feasible for several reasons. In 2020, 5,254 people were admitted to civilian service. Even today, finding suitable positions is a difficult task for many civilians. In 2030, around 80,000 young people will reach adulthood who would be called up for civilian service if the initiative is accepted. Finding a suitable service assignment for all these young people will not become any easier. As already mentioned, the text of the initiative also gives no indication of what counts as militia service and what does not. There is no clarity regarding freedom of choice: on the one hand, military service is to be treated in the same way as militia service, which would mean freedom of choice. On the other hand, the army and civil defense forces are to be secured, which means that the army can override the wishes of those obliged to serve. How can the principle of “all according to their strengths” be realized if the necessary framework for this is not defined?

Rather, the initiative would result in many young people being employed in the education or care sector, for example, which in turn would increase the already existing pressure on wages. Why would anyone hire someone at a fair wage in an area where there is a shortage of staff when they can get forced labour at lower cost? The initiative harbors the risk of increasing wage dumping.

The initiative implies that there is too little militia commitment in our society. However, Swiss people already do a great deal of work in associations, in the political sphere, in the fire department, in voluntary work for organizations, in the area of care work, etc. and spend a great deal of their free time on this. In 2016, a total of 664 million hours of voluntary work were carried out by Swiss people. Recognizing such commitment as militia work could actually enhance the value of a service. However, compulsory service is not suitable for this, on the contrary. Furthermore, it is rather unlikely in our bourgeois parliament that such a broad understanding of militia commitment would be applied when implementing this initiative.

The gender equality argument is also misplaced. As long as gender equality is not a fact, there is no justification for compulsory service for women. It is also completely wrong to assume that women do not provide a service to society just because they are currently exempt from compulsory service. The lion’s share of paid and unpaid care work is done by women. The total unpaid work of women has a monetary value of CHF 242 billion. Compulsory service extended to all people would not achieve greater equality. It would merely extend the disadvantageous situation of compulsory service for men to women. After all, you wouldn’t lower all men’s wages in order to achieve equal pay.

With or without the initiative, the DDPS has already considered the further development of the compulsory service system. Four models were presented, one of which comes very close to the citizen service. One problem, which the DDPS itself expresses, is not mentioned in “Service Citoyen”: the idea of compulsory civilian service violates the UN Human Rights Covenant, which Switzerland has co-signed and which stipulates a ban on forced labor. Consequently, the initiative would even have to be declared invalid.

As already indicated, the initiative also explicitly guarantees that the army’s numbers will be safeguarded and thus joins the narrative of the understaffed army. It should be noted that with a target number of 100,000 soldiers, the army has an effective number of over 140,000 soldiers (2020). This initiative would therefore ultimately strengthen the army even further. More people than before would be forced to serve in one of the most important phases of their lives. This in turn would leave less time for social commitment that is already being carried out voluntarily. The GSoA therefore rejects the popular initiative “Service Citoyen”.