Incentivizing Military Service

I asked my Turkish teaching assistant, a first-year Ph.D. student, what he’s doing about compulsory military service. To simplify, he is only liable for six months of service as a university graduate, instead of the usual one year; and if he stays here for three years or more, he can further delay service. When he, or anyone else who lived abroad for three years or more, returns to Turkey, he only has to serve one month as long as he pays the government $7000! Even ignoring the possible disutility of serving the five extra months, all he needs to do is earn $1400/month when he returns to make paying this indemnity worthwhile.

Is this system equitable? Probably not. Does it give the right incentives-steer people into the best uses of their time? Probably. It also avoids discouraging Turks from returning home. But it does create some strange incentives; the lower requirement for university grads has created a tremendous demand for online university degrees. The Turkish equivalents of the University of Phoenix are thriving!

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  1. Eric M. Jones says:

    You have to ask the obvious question: Should societies discourage smart people to avoid the draft so that the less intelligent can be put into harms way?

    I opine that the draft should take everybody equally. Perhaps then we can end this war madness.

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  2. MRB says:

    Your math only makes sense if your assistant can afford to pay AN ADDITIONAL 1400 Euro’s a month. That’s more than $1,800 US dollars a month, plus the regular living amount. To put things in perspective, fresh out of grad school, I take home (after taxes) about $2,300 a month; of which at least half goes to living expenses, and I have what is considered a good job.

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  3. Eric M. Jones says:

    …you know what I mean. Need more coffee.

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  4. Richard May says:

    Presumably there are cost benefits to serving rather than not – food, accomodation- that should be taken into account for that figure.

    So $1400 + additional costs of not serving – disutility of serving a month.

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  5. Kamal says:

    Wonder if online universities in Turkey advertise delayed military service as a reason to enroll. Additionally, the price of tuition should probably fall or rise to the cost of a month of service…

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  6. Ezel KARA says:

    there are some misinformation in the article. the fee is not 7000 euros but something around $7000.

    also,I don’t think that the system discourages you returning home. once you live abroad for 3 years and then pay USD 7000, then you have the right to serve for 3 weeks only (not one month as mentioned in the article) and then you dont need to live abroad anymore.

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  7. Christopher Browne says:

    I find it mighty interesting that the “price for service avoidance” is 1400 euros/month, for university graduates, and about 650 euros/month for others, as opposed to values either much higher or much lower.

    I’ll note MRB mayn’t quite be counting it right; those doing this don’t need to earn an extra 1400 euros per month (or 636, sans degree); it is more realistic to divide the 7000 euros across the at-least-36 months spent away, so the cost is likely to look more like 194 euros/month.

    In any case, the issue isn’t about what grad students might earn – it’s about how unattractive 5/11 months of military service are. If Turks are flocking to this, in droves, then there are two interesting conclusions:

    1. Turkish military service must be reasonably unpleasant, thereby making it seem worthwhile to spend the sums described to avoid it.

    2. The sums being collected seem likely to be “economically efficient,” in that it seems pretty reasonable to expect that if the Turkish government charged much more, fewer would make use of this policy.

    Very, very interesting.

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  8. Raymond says:

    Does this apply to both men and women?

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