Getting women to do NS, European style

SINGAPORE - As defence policymakers here consider roping in more female volunteers, Singapore is looking at its European counterparts to learn how they get women to do their part for defence.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is leading a delegation on a visit to Finland and Switzerland to study their conscription system.

On the team are senior Defence Ministry officials and members of the high-level Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS), including Minister of State for Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman and MP for Nee Soon GRC Lim Wee Kiak.

On his visit to Finland which began on Wednesday, Dr Ng called on his counterpart, Mr Carl Haglund and other top-level defence officials, including the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces General Ari Puheloinen.

Mindef said in a statement on Friday that the delegation was briefed on Finland's defence policy and conscription system, including the Finnish voluntary military service for women.

Since the volunteer scheme started in 1995, about 400 Finnish women are drafted each year.

A 2012 survey showed more than 70 per cent of Finns support compulsory national service.

During its visit to the Finnish Armoured Brigade, the delegation saw how soldiers were trained and was briefed on how the military matched their aptitudes and preferences to their vocations.

The visit is part of efforts by the CSNS to canvass feedback on its area of concern. Proposals will be submitted to the Government early next year.

Dr Ng said it was useful to learn from Finland's experience, as it, like Singapore, "guards its independence and sovereignty fiercely, having been colonised and occupied in its past". "Even after nearly a century, it has still kept its commitment to conscription for this primary purpose."

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