In an effort to promote civic duty and national pride among the nation’s young people, the French government has put forward a plan to reinstate compulsory national service for all 16-year-olds.
Originally proposed during French President Emmanuel Macron‘s election campaign, the Universal National Service plan applies to both boys and girls and will work in two phases, the BBC reports.
The first part will be a mandatory one-month placement which emphasizes civic culture, which the government said is a way to “enable young people to create new relationships and develop their role in society.” This includes activities such as charity work, voluntary teaching, or military instruction with the police, fire service or army.
Then, young people will be able to choose whether they want to complete a voluntary placement of three months to a year, “in an area linked to defense and security.” They will also have the option to pursue volunteer work in heritage, the environment or social care.
The program is estimated to cost $1.8 billion to run annually, with an initial government investment of $2.5 billion.
When Macron floated the idea during his 2017 campaign, the program was more geared toward a “direct experience of military life” for youth between the ages of 18 and 21.
France ended the post-war draft in 1997, when Macron was 18 years old, making him the the first French president not to have completed military service.
Compulsory service has mixed popularity in France. According to a YouGov poll, 60% of the population approves of the idea. But that number drops below half when young people’s opinions are taken into account, BBC reports. Prior to its announcement, 14 youth organizations protested the plan’s “inconsistencies,” arguing it deprived youth of the freedom choice.
National military service is not uncommon around the world. In Israel, men and women must serve in the military for three and two years respectively. In Singapore, all male citizens must partake in national service for two years.