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. AaronS says:

    I have long wondered why the United States doesn’t permit “civilians” to serve in the “back offices” of the Army. I mean, why do you have to with certain weight, height, and age guidelines in order to cook dinner for the troops, or run a computer database?

    I would LOVE to serve in the military, but am now too old, to big, to slow to every hope to meet the physical requirements. But I can guarantee you that I’m smart enough to do most of the non-combat jobs, and probably plenty of the combat tasks. I mean, figuring the trajectory of artillery rounds requires more mental prowess than physical skills.

    OK, that said, my POINT is that our current economy is a GREAT INCENTIVE for many people to join the military. No, most wouldn’t want to go to the front lines, but they could help our country by serving in plenty of other capacities that do not require having to carry a rifle. Besides, when it comes right down to an emergency situation, I imagine most of us can point and fire pretty effectively.

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  2. Mickey says:

    “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.”

    Thats likes saying all i need to do is earny $x/month while working to make any level of US taxes worthwhile. The requirement that all citizens participate in the armed forces, then exempting citizens if they pay in no way makes it ‘worthwhile’

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  3. CL says:

    Gotta consider the long-term payoff, not just short-term accounting. The longer one studies overseas, the more valuable that person is perceived to be to the success of society. An overseas education exposes one to ideas outside the culture, and expand the discussion about what might be beneficial for a society. And those who can get a good job and afford the buy out are contributing to social stability and to the GNP. On the other hand, those who can’t hack it academically are throw-aways and worker bees, and end up in harm’s way. Sounds like there are countries that actually value an educated populace.

    One of my Korean students was not particularly gifted academically, but was absolutely committed to completing a graduate degree that he would finish after age 24. At 24 he would be excused completely from military service in the DMZ.

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  4. Eric M. Jones says:

    During WWII in Japan, science and math majors were exempt from becoming kamikaze pilots. Everyone else was drafted.

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  5. m.onur says:

    acually parents in turkey , sent their children to military with honour and its like a tradition.

    fior abroad students and workers it changes because when you return to your country you are close to age of 30 and its hard to be in military because of physical condition. i think it is creating option for abroad citizens.

    thats my opinion


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  6. Lisa says:

    AaronS – The military does hire civilians. I used to be a civilian employee of the Navy. They hire civilians to do things like quality testing weapons before they are installed on ships, designing communications systems, ship design…

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  7. aaron says:

    He needs to make $1400 a month above his cost of living and any pay he’d receive for his service.

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  8. NonameLndn says:

    Interesting Example. When I mentioned this system to a friend of mine, who is a french nationalist, she strongly opposed (as a socialist), and said what about the people who have no money? In the meantime, a Korean friend of mine, who had to do his military service for 2 years – compulsory- found this system amazing as it gives you different options.

    Let’s have a look at this system;

    1- Being a university graduate in Turkey, is not that difficult, as there are both private and public schools, whether you are rich or poor. However,It’s a basic fact that, due to huge population,doing your dream degree in a dream university might be difficult but again, just to avoid 1 year military service you can basically enroll at any degree and do your service just for 6 months.

    2- Let’s say you finished your undergrad and you kept studying a postgraduate degree whether in Turkey or somewhere else, with this option, you can keep postpone your service until you reach 34 years old.(Again,there is a slight chance that you can still be exempted from military until you reach that age, as being a EU Candidate, Turkey’s been doing several reforms quite rapidly, whether its Army or constitution)

    3-Let’s say you have a dual citizenship, living somewhere else, or you have been appointed as an immigrant worker/profesional or even academic in another country, After having worked 3 years(full-time, holidays except), you can pay 7000 euros and do your military service for 20 days. There are also several ways to pay this amount, monthly, yearly or quarterly, to make it easy for the individuals.

    this all make sense so far isn’t it?

    well’ lets have a deeper look at the third section.

    As an immigrant worker, If you already worked in any country more than 3 years, you will be probably gain a citizenship in that country, most likely anyway. And having spending your youth, lets say mid twenties or early thirties, you would be most likely again establishing your life in that country and whether its an option or not, you wouldn’t want to change this again by moving back?(not to consider just to pay 7000 Euros!!)

    So basically, (without having data), Any Turkish individual who had a good educational background and highly skills who spent his mid twenties or early thirties in a foreign country, would most likely stay there and gain their citizenship instead of coming back to Turkey, as a strong skilled individual (with most probably having more than 2 foreign language skills as well).

    So overall, Is Turkey really creating strong/skilled individuals with this system and at the same time losing them to another countries? or do they come back to their homeland eventually? One wonders what the real data is.

    Many people might remember late 80s and early 90s, several German engineers and architects whoever involved in construction industry, immigrated to Australia and later United Kingdom(Blair times) due to the less Construction work in Germany and again to avoid compulsory military/social service duties.

    So are the compulsory military service regulations one of the factors behind Brain Drain?

    If it is, how about Swiss citizens? as we all know, Switzerland has one of the strongest and strict military regulations among other countries. But as it has been discussed many times, Swiss never avoid civic duties like voting or doing their military service and try not to immigrate or settle in another countries(even though they have right to work in many EU countries)

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