The British armed forces enlist around 22,000 people each year to replace personnel who leave; of these, around 4,700 are under 18 years of age.
This report shows that recruiting minors is highly costly and, due to the legal requirements governing their recruitment and deployment, leads to operational pressures. The report also argues that raising the minimum age of recruitment to 18 would better serve young people’s interests.
This report argues that the case for change encompasses compelling financial, operational and duty of care concerns. It also shows how the change could be achieved without detriment to the trained staff requirement in the armed forces.
Although Parliamentary and UN committees have called on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to reconsider the recruitment of minors, it has yet to conduct a feasibility study of an all-adult force. In the interests of the armed forces, the Exchequer and especially young people, this paper concludes by calling on the MoD to commission this work at the earliest opportunity.
The report focuses entirely on recruitment by enlistment (i.e. of non-officer personnel). Official sources are used throughout, wherever possible.