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How Common Is Conscription?

Official conscription is becoming increasingly less common, with only about 45 percent of the world's governments requiring compulsory military service. This is a decrease of almost half since 1970, when about 80 percent of the world's governments used conscription. A major turning point in the trend away from conscription was United States President Richard Nixon's abolishing of the draft in the U.S. in 1973.

More facts about conscription:

  • The practice of conscription has been going on since at least 1700 B.C., when the Babylonian empire instituted a conscription system. The Qin dynasty in China also required universal military service around 300 B.C., but the modern conscription system really took off in the West in 1793 A.D., when Napoleon implemented the first modern conscription system in France. His success and the success of his conscripted soldiers led other countries to do the same.

  • As of 2010, women were included in conscription in more than a dozen countries, including Israel, Cuba and the People's Republic of China, which has the power to conscript but has never had to do so because of an abundance of volunteers.

  • Statistics on conscription do not include forced or unofficial conscription, such as that of child soldiers. As of 2007, 50 countries were officially recruiting children younger than age 18 into their armies, and more than 18 million children were serving in official and unofficial armies worldwide.

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