Military raises wages to lure recruits

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporters

Fri, Dec 27, 2013 - Page 1

The government is to raise the salaries of volunteer soldiers and give additional subsidies to soldiers stationed on outlying islands starting next year, as an incentive to encourage more young people to sign up for a career in the military, according to a proposal approved by the Executive Yuan yesterday.

Under the proposal, volunteers will see a salary increase of between NT$2,000 and NT$4,000, depending on their rank.

Additional subsidies will be raised to NT$20,000 from the current NT$12,360 for soldiers assigned to the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) and to NT$12,000 from NT$9,790 for those assigned to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea.

Soldiers stationed on Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) islets — two of the islets which surround the main island of Kinmen — will also get a pay raise of between NT$9,790 and NT$12,000 in additional subsidies, according to the proposal.

With the adjustment, a private — a soldier of the lowest military rank — whose current salary is NT$29,625 will earn a salary of NT$33,625, or NT$53,625 if the soldier serves on the Spratly Islands, the Executive Yuan said.

The number of volunteers enlisting in the army since the government began recruiting soldiers to replace the existing conscription-based system was much less than expected, but the government has vowed to stick to its goal to have an all-volunteer force by 2017.

Whether a military paycheck is comparable to salaries in the civilian sector is a crucial factor determining the success or failure of the transition policy, the Executive Yuan said in a statement, adding that it would continue to review the salary structure of the military to boost recruitment and help retain personnel.

Separately yesterday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the government would continue its efforts to replace compulsory military service with an all-volunteer system, dismissing concerns about the difficulty enlisting sufficient volunteers.

The all-volunteer system, a major campaign promise of Ma during his presidential campaign in 2007, was originally scheduled for 2015. However, the plan was postponed for two years by the Ministry of National Defense in September this year because of low recruitment numbers.

Ma, while presiding over a rank conferral ceremony for military officials in Taipei, insisted that the two-year extension is an adjustment period to execute and examine the new mechanism.

“The system of compulsory military service has its merits, but the one-year military training has presented a challenge for the military to maintain its strength. The new system aims to establish a high-quality military force and quantity is not what we are aiming for,” he said.

Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) said the ministry is determined to establish the all-volunteer military system, adding that it would strengthen recruitment measures to attract more people to the military.

“We will not accept a failure of the all-volunteer system, and the ministry will eliminate obstacles hindering the new system,” he said.

The Ma administration’s defense of the all-volunteer system came after a Control Yuan report suggested that a majority of military experts are pessimistic about the transition to an all-volunteer force due to the difficulties of enlisting sufficient volunteers.

Ma yesterday said the ministry has recruited 8,000 personnel this year and there would still be 280,000 conscripts by the end of 2016. Starting in 2017, the military would be able to maintain its force strength by recruiting 7,000 people a year, he added.