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    Sweden's Costly Military Ads Fail to Attract Volunteers

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    The Swedish Armed Forces have been spending a lot of money on recruitment campaigns. Despite costly ads, the Swedish army still lacks a large number of soldiers, which is why the Swedish government recently started to warm up to reintroducing conscription.

    Since Sweden became the first Nordic country to abolish conscription six years ago, a total of 437 million SEK ($51 million) has been spent on advertising, Swedish trade magazine Resumé reported. Nevertheless, the Swedish Armed Forces currently lack over 7,400 soldiers, which constitutes roughly a third of the total number of active soldiers.

    In the first year after conscription was abolished, the Swedish Defense maintained an advertising budget of a whopping 100 million SEK ($12 million). Subsequently, the budget for advertising was cut down somewhat, yet hovered nevertheless at around SEK 60 million in recent years ($7 million).

    Despite the obvious lack of personnel, the Armed Forces marketing boss Robert Forss believes the advertising has still been effective.

    "Advertising has worked very well when it comes to recruiting young people who want to work in the Armed Forces full-time. Our continuing challenge is to bring home our offer of part-time service," Forss told Swedish Radio.

    Last week, government investigator Annika Nordgren Christensen presented a proposal to reintroduce some form of conscription. The new model was described as a mixture of goodwill and duty, where the number of people obliged to serve would depend on the volume of standard recruits available. Accordingly, motivation is seen as a key factor to arouse interest among Swedish citizens in military service.

    In recent years, the Swedish Armed Forces have been blamed for failure to offer adequate incentives for military service. Today, there is widespread dissatisfaction among Swedish soldiers with the starting salary of 18,000 SEK ($2,000) per month, which is 2,000 SEK ($200) lower than that of a supermarket cashier.

    "The pay is very bad. Looking at our wages and comparing them with other professions in the country, we are almost at the bottom," soldier Jimmy Olsson told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

    As a guard and shop supervisor, Jimmy Olsson earned 28,000 SEK per month ($3,200). When he chose to become professional soldier, he had to accept a markedly lower wage. According to Dagens Nyheter, there is a wide demand for soldiers in civil service. A soldier who had permission to drive a tank gets his pay doubled compared with an ordinary truck driver.

    Another problem for professional soldiers in Sweden is that employment contracts are limited to eight years, in a bid to prevent "isolation from society." This makes Swedish servicemen look for employment elsewhere before long, Jimmy Olson noted.

    The Armed Forces marketing department is so far cautious not to draw any conclusions about what the comeback of the draft could possibly imply.

    "Whether or not our media presence will increase or decrease we do not know in the current situation," Forss said. "Basically, the Armed Forces still primarily focuses on volunteerism. The draft may come as an addition, while the need for volunteers will remain," he said.

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    Tags:
    volunteer forces, conscription, armed forces, Dagens Nyheter, Sveriges Radio, Scandinavia, Sweden
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