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Conscription is a general term for involuntary labor demanded by some established authority. It is most often used in the specific sense of government policies that require citizens (often just males) to serve in the armed forces. It is known by various names — for example, the most recent conscription program in the United States was known colloquially as "'the draft.'" Many nations do not maintain conscription forces, instead relying on a volunteer or professional military most of the time, although many of these countries still reserve the possibility of conscription for wartime and during times of crises.

"Conscription" has also sometimes been used as a general term for non-military involuntary labour demanded by some established authority; for example, some translators of Old Testament commentaries use the term to describe the levies of labour used to build the Temple of Solomon. In Japan during World War II, Japanese women and children were conscripted to work in factories.

Referring to compulsory service in the armed forces, the term "conscription" has two main meanings:

compulsory service, usually of young men of a given age, e.g. 17 – 18, for a set period of time, commonly 1 – 2 years. In the United Kingdom and Singapore this was commonly known as "national service"; in New Zealand, at first compulsory military training and later national service; in Norway, Safeguard Duty/1st time service.

compulsory service, for an indefinite period of time, in the context of a widespread mobilisation of forces for fighting war, including on the home territory, usually imposed on men in a much wider age group (e.g. 18 – 55). (In the United Kingdom this was commonly known as "call-up").


The term "conscription" refers only to the mandatory service; thus, those undergoing conscription are known as "conscripts" or "selectee" in the United States (from the Selective Service System or the Selective Service Initiative announced in 2004).

In the U.S. the term "enlisted" is often used to refer only to those who have volunteered for service in roles other than as commissioned officers.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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