Huge cost of ‘out of date’ recruitment of minors

The Ministry of Defence wastes up to £94 million every year training minors for army roles which could be filled more cost-effectively by adult recruits, according to a new report launched today by human rights groups Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch.

It costs the MoD twice as much to train a recruit at age 16 as it does at 18, says the report, due to the longer training for minors and their higher drop-out rate. Using MoD figures, One Step Forward: The case for ending recruitment of minors by the British armed forces found that, in 2010-11:

• It cost an estimated minimum of £88,985 to recruit and train each new soldier aged 16-17½, compared with £42,818 for each adult recruit (includes salary costs).
• The taxpayer would have saved an estimated £81.5 million - £94 million had only adults been recruited.
• 37% of minors dropped out during training, compared with 28% of adult recruits.

The report’s authors also underline the numerous ethical and legal concerns related to the recruitment of minors, including the disproportionately high level of risk they face and long-term consequences for their employability.

The large majority of countries worldwide now recruit only adults aged 18 or above into their armed forces. The UK is the only member of the European Union and only permanent member of the UN Security Council still recruiting from age 16. A recent national ICM poll found that 70 per cent of respondents who expressed a view thought the minimum army recruitment age should be at least 18.

The report illustrates how projected staffing levels could be filled and costs reduced by recruiting adults only, resulting in a more efficient and easier to manage personnel structure. It calls on the MoD to commission a review as a matter of urgency and take action to implement the repeated recommendations from parliamentary and UN committees to raise the army recruitment age to 18.

“Why is the MoD wasting tens of millions of pounds every year on inefficient and ethically questionable recruitment policies when experienced soldiers are being made redundant due to budget cuts?” asked Richard Clarke, Director of Child Soldiers International.

“Recruiting minors into the army is a practice from a bygone era. It’s not just young recruits who pay the price for outdated MoD policies – taxpayers do too. And so does the Army, when it finds itself undermanned on the frontline because so many minors have dropped out of training”, said David Gee of ForcesWatch.