Economic Implications of  Mandatory Military Service
Economy, Business And Markets

Economic Implications of Mandatory Military Service

The University of Tehran’s Faculty of Economics hosted a forum dubbed “Economic Aspects of Military Service” on Tuesday.
University professor and former MP, Hassan Sobhani, MP Abbasali Mansouri, and former economic advisor to the World Bank, Sadeq Alhosseini, were among the speakers at the event, which is the second of such forums after the “Military Service and Fair Solutions” held by Law Faculty in March.
“The mandatory aspect of military service in the past was believed to help the development of young adults, whereas today individuals think they will miss out on opportunities by spending two years of their lives doing the military service,” Sobhani was quoted as saying by the Persian daily Forsat-e Emrooz.
The professor noted that the motivation to do business is diverse, as it is driven by money or achievement.
“The draftees view military service as a mandatory, temporary period during which they suffer financial loss. On the other hand, officials cherish the idea that they will have a cheap workforce for as long as two years,” he said.
MP Mansouri told the forum that based on Article 147 of the constitution, during peacetime, the government must use soldiers in fields other than the armed forces, such as education and production.
Referring to the excessive number of draft-age men, he said, “Currently, Iranian armed forces do not need this workforce, as they are in excess of the military need. For instance, those with a degree in electronics have to gather soldiers’ data, which would make them feel useless.”
The MP further said imagine a Tehran-based soldier is dispatched to Bandar Abbas (capital of Hormozgan Province on the southern coast of Iran).
“With 600,000 rials ($17) a month and the current economic conditions, he has no way but to seek financial help from his family. One of the main reasons behind draft dodging is that they can’t even provide for themselves,” he said.
“Under the sixth five-year development plan, I have suggested that the private sector employ soldiers in the industrial and agricultural sectors.”
Alhosseini said three aspects should be considered when discussing military service.
“First, no one does military service of their own free will. Second, the free work the individual puts in for the military system. And third, the draftee cannot fulfil his responsibilities or follow his own interests during the service time,” he said.
“We also need to consider the fact that based on economic principles, goods will not be used optimally when provided freely. In case of free workforce, a unit that can be run by one soldier may employ four soldiers just because they are available and their labor is cheap.”
The economist noted that in the US, before the draft (mandatory military service) was abolished in 1973, some of its supporters argued that an all-volunteer force would be too expensive because the military would have to pay much higher wages to attract enlistees.
“But a research by two economists showed the costs of all-volunteer military force were one-fifths to one-sixths of the military draft. This is while the costs of army personnel decreased as well,” he said.
“Another point is that free workforce prevents the system from improving. In fact, instead of moving toward efficiency, we have to add to the jobs of little value to keep the soldiers busy.”
Alhosseini proposed the concept of an installment plan for buying the military service.
“Around 200,000 should be drafted for professional service a year and the rest can buy their service with delayed payments of up to three years,” he said.
Alhosseini also said mandatory military service fuels poverty and draft dodgers usually hail from humble backgrounds.

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