Austria votes to keep conscription
In January, in a referendum on compulsory military service, nearly 60 percent of Austrians voted to maintain the status quo and maintain conscription, where men have to serve in the army for six months or in the civilian service for nine months when they reach the age of 18. Turnout in the referendum was slightly more than 50%.
Deutsche Welle reported that in the referendum last month, many voted to keep conscription because they feared that organisations - such as the Red Cross - that benefit from the labour of those undertaking substitute service would suffer if conscription was abolished. There are around 14,000 young men who opt to carry out this 'community service' instead of military service each year. This raises the interesting paradox that substitute 'civilian' service in Austria has actually served to maintain conscription to the military. This result makes Austria one of only a handful of European countries to maintain conscription. Around 22,000 young men are currently drafted into the military through conscription every year, part of a 55,000-strong Austrian Armed Forces (Bundesheer).
Sources: Deutsche Welle, Austria bucks trend with conscription vote, 21 January 2013; IHS Janes Austria rejects abolishing conscription, 22 January 2013; Atlantic Council, Austria bucks trend, votes to keep military conscription, 22 January 2013