The percentage of people dropping out of conscript service in Estonia is falling, just as the percentage of people volunteering for conscription is increasing. The latter reached 43 percent in 2019.
While the conscription dropout rate stood at 11.4 percent in 2018, by 2019 that figure had dropped to 7.8 percent, according to a report drawn up by the Ministry of Defense on the fulfillment of Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) duties and organization of service in 2019.
“The reduction in the dropout rate demonstrates that the more personal and flexible training employed since 2017 is the right approach, which leads to positive results,” the report states.
Call-up selectee numbers declining
The number of call-up selectees, however, remains on the decline, which is the result of the number of young men turning 17 declining, and which will continue to decline in the years to come. Selectees living abroad also has an impact.
“According to population register data, 13.6 percent of call-up selectees live abroad (primarily in Finland), but in reality the percentage of call-up selectees living abroad is higher; they have not registered their place of residence with the population register,” the report noted.
Increasing number not meeting health requirements
The number of young men not ultimately called up for conscription has increased compared to previous years, the primary reason for which was their health not meeting requirements — in 15,041 cases last year.
According to decisions made by medical committees of the Defense Resources Agency last year, just 40.2 percent of call-up selectees met health requirements (down from 43 percent in 2018), 26.3 percent didn’t meet health requirements (up from 21 percent), and 33.5 percent temporarily did not meet requirements (down from 36 percent).
The Defense Resources Agency nonetheless fulfilled its goal of calling up 3,200 selectees for conscription, sending 3,298 male selectees and 38 volunteering women, or 3,336 people in total, into conscript service.
The number of women to enter conscript service increased on year as well, from 27 in 2018 to 38 in 2019.
Conscription volunteer numbers up
A total of 43 percent of selectees volunteered for conscription in 2019, a quarter more than during the previous two years, including 34 percent in 2018.
The number of active duty servicemembers increased by 86 over 2019, reaching 3,508 by the end of the year. This exceeded the goal for the year by 48 servicemembers.
The recruiting of active duty servicemembers reached a five-year high in 2019. A total of 4.95 percent of young people completing conscript service went on to join active service, including approximately 60 percent of women to complete conscript service.
The Defense Resources Agency has the right to permit alternative service to call-up selectees who have applied for conscientious objection on religious or moral grounds.
Interest in alternative service remained high in 2019, with 170 applications for alternative service received. In 2018,the agency received 174 such applications.
As of January 1, 2020, 40 people were serving alternative service, or 35 fewer than during the same period in 2018.