France to bring back compulsory national service for young people

Prime minister says restoring national service will inspire patriotism and social cohesion

The French government has begun putting into action its promise to reintroduce national service for all 16-year-olds.

During his election campaign Emmanuel Macron, France's prime minister, said restoring national service would inspire patriotism and social cohesion.

Both girls and boys will serve in the two-stage programme.

The first stage will be a compulsory month-long placement with a focus on civic culture, according to the BBC.

The options being looked at include voluntary teaching and working with charities, alongside traditional military training with the army, police or fire service.

This would largely take place during France's school holidays.

A second, voluntary stage of at least three months and up to a year would also be available.

In this phase, young people would be encouraged to serve "in an area linked to defence and security", the broadcaster said. 

However, they would also be able to volunteer for work in social care, culture or the environment.

The French government has begun a series of consultations with French youth, parents, teachers' unions and local government ahead of starting the programme, The Daily Telegraph reports.

A YouGov poll reportedly found 60 per cent of the adult population approves of national service. 

However, that number fell below 50 per cent when younger people's opinions were taken into account.

The plan represents a watered-down version of the "direct experience of military life" Mr Macron promised during his election campaign.

Between 600,000 and 800,000 young people would have faced military training and spent at least a month with the armed forces, at a potentially great cost to the French state.

Mr Macron is the first French president not to have done military service, as he came of age after the practice was scrapped.

National service ended in Britain in 1957, though military service remains compulsory in Greece, Russia and Finland. – Independent UK