The Ministry of National Defense is thinking about providing overtime for the armed forces and military agencies that require around-the-clock shifts in an effort to increase enlistment incentives for volunteer soldiers and pave the way for the future implementation of an all-volunteer military service.
Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) made the remark at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee yesterday when asked by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) whether the ministry was mulling such a scheme.
The meeting was held to review amendments to articles 16 and 16-1 of the Act of the Military Service System (兵役法) and some other amendments to the Act of Military Service for Volunteer Enlisted Soldiers (志願士兵服役條例). The proposed amendments are to lay the groundwork for the nation to transfer its compulsory military service system into an all-volunteer system.
The MND and the Ministry of the Interior had said the new voluntary system would be implemented on Jan. 1, after which male citizens born after 1994 will only need to complete four months of military training.
Under the new system, the deduction of training hours for regular servicemen and four-month draftees based on their participation in military training courses during secondary education is to be reduced to no more than 30 days for the former and 15 days for the latter.
Asked by opposition lawmakers in a question-and-answer session whether the implementation of the new military system might be postponed or scrapped due to the country’s dire financial situation, Yang said the Executive Yuan-initiated system was irreversible.
Turning to the ministry’s current voluntary service, which looks set to fall short of its annual enlistment goal this year, Tsai and DPP legislators Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) questioned if the underachievement was the result of the ministry’s lack of incentives.
“The ministry is scheduled to recruit 15,000 volunteer-enlisted soldiers this year, but as of last month, we only have 8,600 recruits,” Yang said, adding that the monthly wage for a volunteer recruit was about NT$34,000 (US$1,170), or a starting salary of NT$29,625 plus benefits.
“There is a huge difference between the starting salary of a volunteer private and what the ministry had pledged to pay them, which is double the minimum monthly wage [of NT$18,780],” Tsai said.
Yang said it would cost NT$5 billion a year if the starting salary is hiked to twice the minimum wage.