British army targets youngest and poorest for riskiest roles

The British army is intentionally targeting young people from deprived backgrounds for the roles carrying the greatest risks in war, according to a report launched today by the Child Rights International Network (CRIN).

The new study, Conscription by poverty? Deprivation and army recruitment in the UKstates that the UK is the only country in Europe to recruit from age 16; more soldiers are recruited at 16 than any other age.(1) Teenagers from the poorest areas are targeted despite evidence that enlistment at a young age is detrimental to mental health and social mobility.

As teenagers in England and Wales receive their GCSE results, the report concludes that remaining in education is better for their welfare and prospects than enlisting at 16.

According to the report:

  • New research shows that in England from 2013 to 2018, army recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds was 57% higher in the poorest fifth of constituencies than the richest fifth.(2)
  • Army recruitment marketing is focused on the poorest towns and cities, particularly families with an annual income of around £10,000.(3)
  • Four-fifths of the most deprived young people in England now stay in full-time education after age 16, but marketing for the military encourages them to leave education for the army.(4)
  • A third of recruits who enlist aged under 18 drop out before completing training, leaving them out of education and work.(5)
  • Recruits aged under 18 are sought particularly for the frontline infantry; the army’s riskiest job.
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