Cross-party committee recommends strengthening women's participation in national defence

The committee's report stated that the needs of military national defence do not justify conscription of the entire age group.

The committee had been tasked with evaluating Finland's current conscription model and the fulfilment of national defence obligations. Image: Kimmo Rauatmaa / Lehtikuva

A cross-party Parliamentary committee has recommended that information days at schools on conscription and voluntary military service for women should be extended to include all students within the age category.

"Information-based foundations for developing young people’s relationship with national defence should be created in the school system and the call-up system should be extended to the entire age class," the committee's report stated.

The committee had been tasked with evaluating Finland's current conscription model and the fulfilment of national defence obligations, and to recommend amendments.

"We wanted to see the invitation days as a strategic alternative, to bring together the entire age group and provide information, background and instructions to young people so that they have even more information and skills to fulfil their national defence obligations," the committee's chair Ilkka Kanerva (NCP) said.

Arranging information days for the entire age group would mean about 500 events per year, at an estimated cost of around four million euros.

The committee's report stated that the needs of military national defence do not justify the conscription of the entire age group, nor is it justified from the point of view of the national economy.

Committee member Hanna Holopainen (Green) said that the committee's proposal is a step in the right direction, but that the goal for the future must be a fully equal system.

"It is worth remembering that the current system will only work as long as it remains acceptable, especially among young people," Holopainen said.

Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) thanked the committee for its work and said that some of the proposed reforms can be set in motion during the current government's term of office.

"I think it is important that we start moving on this matter so that the reform can take place within the next few years," Kaikkonen said.

Committee recommends new non-combat service

Finland's aim should be to increase the number of people starting their military service from the current level, with fewer people discontinuing their service.

"Invitations to all is a step towards a more equal and parity-based model to ensure a sustainable future for the system," said committee member Joonas Könttä (Cen).

The committee also called for consideration to be given to the creation of a new category of service, which could allow for non-combat tasks. This could enable people with diabetes to apply for service, Könttä cited as an example.

The proportion of men who have completed military service has fallen from around 74 percent to around 65 percent over the last five years.

Some 3,500 to 4,000 people discontinue their service every year, with mental health issues the number one reason for discontinuation.

"Invitations for the whole age group provide an opportunity to review the well-being of both young men and women and to share information that has a positive effect on the will to defend the country," committee member Päivi Räsänen (CD) said.

Civil service changes

The committee further noted that the non-combat, civilian service element of national defence obligations should be seen more clearly as being based on the needs of the state, with the option to take civilian service needing to be more closely linked to the nation's overall security.

"We are making every effort to promote this form of service because, for the first time, we are opening up this opportunity to women as well," committee chair Kanerva said.

The Left Alliance party disagreed with the committee's report because the committee did not propose a reduction in civilian service.

Based on the report's projected schedule, the proposed reforms would fully enter into force during the term of the next government, or in 2023 at the earliest. The final decision on the proposed amendments will be made by the government.