File photo: Sergeant Johan Lundahl, Swedish Armed Forces/TT

Dropouts pose a challenge for Armed Forces

At least seven out of 10 army recruits in Sweden drop out before the end of their contracts, a new survey published by newspaper Svenska Dagbladet shows.

The survey is based on figures provided by the Swedish Armed Forces and it shows that in order to fill all its positions, the Army would need as many volunteers as there were recruits before the draft was abolished in 2010. Not even the United States would be able to recruit such a large share of young people to its army.

Peter Nordlund, an economist at defence and national security research organisation FOI, told Svenska Dagbladet that the results are worse than any predictions made when the new system was introduced.

Sweden was the first Nordic country to abolish mandatory military service. Since then, the Armed Forces and many politicians have stated that the recruitment of volunteer soldiers and marines has gone well, . Minister of Defence Karin Enström is the latest politician to make that claim, in a January speech.

In order to fill all of the Swedish Armed Forces' units, 4,000 people must be recruited annually. The recruits first go through basic training and it has been known for some time that two out of 10 recruits do not finish the basic training. However, until now it was not clear how many of those who do complete their basic training end up quitting in later stage of their service.

Figures from 2011 to 2013 show that more people than expected quit early in every step of the military's recruitment and training.

Lieutenant General Jan Salestrand, who is staff director at the Armed Forces, told news agency TT that there is no recruitment crisis within the organisation.

"We see a positive development even if we do not deny that we have problems with the initial basic training. There are too many who do not complete it or who do not remain after finishing the training."

One person interviewed by Svenska Dagbladet listed the wage-rate as a reason for dropping out - that person received SEK 18,000 per month after several years of service in the army.

Salestrand said the basic wage rate has increased recently but admitted that the army does not offer high salaries. However, he added that "while wages are important, they are not the primary reason why people come to us".

Other recruits said that volunteers are treated in the same why as conscripts. Asked whether the Armed Forces has an "attitude problem", Salestrand said: "We work a lot on that and it is important that we regard them as colleagues. It is probably possible to find people who are disappointed but my understanding is that a great majority are satisfied."

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