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Civilian service victim of own popularity

The number of Swiss men choosing to perform social work instead of military service has greatly exceeded the expectations of the government.

The head of the Civilian Service, Samuel Werenfels, told Swiss public radio on Thursday that 7,000 applications had been submitted in 2009, nearly three times more than were expected.

Since April, conscientious objectors to military service are no longer screened, giving young Swiss men what amounts to a choice between becoming soldiers or doing work in hospitals, old age homes or other social institutions.

One in every sixth application received was submitted by an army recruit, and more than half came from men who had already completed their basic military training.

Werenfels said the government needed to analyse the data, to uncover why so many men were leaving the army.

Army chief André Blattmann has called for tougher rules to stop men from applying for civilian service after they have already entered the military.

In Switzerland all able-bodied men aged 20-30 are conscripted for around three months. After basic training they are required to do up to four weeks of army service a year until they have served 260 days or reached the age of 34.

Today, the Swiss army has around 200,000 men, including about 24,000 recruits annually.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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