resources: recruitment age

April 2013

This report published by Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch outlines the numerous ethical and legal concerns related to rhe recruitment of under-18s, including the disproportionately high level of risk they face and long-term consequences for their employability, as well as detailing how much more it costs than recruiting only adults.

recruitment age
15 March 2013

Men who have served in the UK Armed Forces are more likely to commit a violent offence during their lifetime than their civilian counterparts, according to new research by King's Centre for Military Health Research at King's College London.

July 2012

Published by Child Soldiers International

The minimum recruitment age for the British armed forces – 16 years – is one of the lowest in the world. The Ministry of Defence has traditionally justified recruiting from this age group by asserting that 16 years reflects the minimum statutory school leaving age.

This report concludes that the impact of recruitment below the age of 18 opens up a number of gaps that have long term significance, not only for the armed forces but also for the young people that they recruit. At a time of considerable downsizing of the army in particular, the large gap between the cost of training minors (who cannot be deployed operationally) and adults (who can) is difficult to sustain. But perhaps the most significant cost is in the detrimental impact that the gaps identified have on the future prospects of minors recruited by our armed forces.

recruitment age
March 2011

This report, published by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "challenges the status quo currently surrounding the situation of young people in the UK armed forces today. It questions the ethics and legality of the restrictions on young recruits’ rights of discharge, their minimum period of service, and their exposure to the risk of hostilities. The report also makes the case for a considered review and debate on the minimum recruitment age. It highlights the evidence that not only is the experience of recruits in the 16 – 18 age bracket adversely affected by their relative lack of maturity, but that their high drop-out rate results in millions of pounds in wasted expenditure."

recruitment age
February 2011

ForcesWatch's submission to the Armed Forces Bill committee raising concerns relating to the human rights of service personnel with the Armed Forces Bill Committee and making a number of recommendations to bring the UK into line with current international standards and improve terms of service.

October 2010

Ask your MP to sign the EDM on Under-18s in the Armed Forces

That this House notes that 16 to 18 year olds currently entering the armed forces commit themselves to a period of four years beyond their 18thbirthday; further notes that after a period of six months they are unable to leave as of right; further notes that no other country in mainland Europe recruits at the age of 16; welcomes the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report on children's rights that the UK adopts a plan of action for implementing the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and urges the Government to implement the Joint Committee's recommendations and raise the age of recruitment to 18.

November 2009

In their report on Children's Rights, the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended that the 'UK adopt a plan of action for implementing the Optional Protocol, including these recommendations, fully in the UK, together with a clear timetable for doing so.' The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommendations under the Optional Protocol were that the UK 'reconsider its active policy of recruitment of children into the armed forces' and a number of other measures.

October 2008

The UK remains the only EU country to recruit 16 year olds into the military and one of very few EU countries to recruit 17 year olds. The UK has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict yet there is evidence that the UK continues to target children from vulnerable groups and that safeguards to protect under-18s are not effective (see Child Soldiers Global Report 2008: United Kingdom).

The report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations on the UK (October 2008) asks that the UK “reconsider its active policy of recruitment of children into the armed forces and ensure that it does not occur in a manner which specifically targets ethnic minorities and children of low-income families”. It also recommends that the UK government review the limited discharge rights for child soldiers and “that parents are included from the outset and during the entire process of recruitment and enlistment.”

All these recommendations have been supported by the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in their report on Children's Rights in November 2009.

November 2007

An independent report by David Gee, published in 2007, highlighting the risks posed to young people through joining the military, how young people from disadvantaged communities are targeted, how information available to potential recruits is often misleading and how the terms of service are complicated, confusing and severely restricting. The research found that a large proportion join for negative reasons, including the lack of civilian career options.

Child Soldiers International is campaigning to stop the recruitment of under 18s into the British armed forces.They have published 'Catch 16-22: Recruitment and retention of minors in the British Armed Forces (2011) and Mind the Gap: Education for minors in the British armed forces (2012).