Photo: Taiwan's defence ministry Facebook page

It was reported on Tuesday (27 Dec) that Tsai Ing-wen, the President of ROC Taiwan, announced the decision to extend Taiwanese military conscriptions from the present four months to one year starting from January 2024.
“I must admit that this is a hard decision,” President Tsai said, “but as a President and Commander in chief, it is my obligation to ensure Taiwan’s safety and interest, our perpetual survival and assurance to our free and democratic way of life for generations.”

“China’s threat on Taiwan became obvious especially after military exercise in August,” she said and added that Taiwan is at frontline of “defending global democracy”.

Technically, the ROC troops and the PRC troops are still at war with each other, since the nationalist troops retreated to Taiwan island in 1949.

Tsai also promised to increase the monthly salary of conscripts, from the current starting salary of NT$6,510 (US$212) to NT$20,320 (US$660), to ensure they earn enough to cover their basic daily expenses.

Taiwan’s  Ministry of Labor announced on 14 September, following a recommendation made by the ministry’s Minimum Wage Review Committee on 1 September, raised the minimum monthly wage from the current NT$25,250 (US$812) to NT$26,400 with effect on 1 Jan 2023.

Those Taiwanese males born after January 2005 will be required to perform one year of military service under the new conscription rules.

Singaporeans require to serve two years of NS

In contrast, all male Singapore citizens are required to serve two years as full-time national servicemen (NSFs) even though Singapore is not at war with any other country.

All males have to serve their National Service (NS) before they enrol in university unless they are granted deferment like Dr Tony Tan’s son.

For monthly salary, NSFs can receive a payout of S$1,680 (US$1,247) if one is an officer of the rank of a Lieutenant working in the vocation of a naval diver or commando.

But if one is stuck at the lowest of ranks, a private without a vocation, he can receive a monthly pay of as low as S$580 (US$430). Those who have to stay out of camp due to lack of in-camp accommodation and stay at the opposite end of where their camp is situated, have it the worst. They would have to spend at least $90.50 to get a concession card and spend at least four hours in commute each working day.

There is no minimum wage in Singapore, but according to Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, the 20th percentile of the population earns a monthly salary of S$2,500 in 2021m.In addition, male Singaporeans who completed full-time NS are required to undergo NSmen in-camp (reservist) training for ten years, and their NS liability continued until the age of 40, whichever was later.

This requires one to be disrupted from work but with the military paying for their salary during the reservist, no matter what their appointment is. TOC knows of a CEO who draws a five-figure salary and is reimbursed for his time during his reservist as an NS driver.

NSmen also need to take the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) at least once a year to maintain their fitness. In the past, many NSmen would have to go for remedial training for failing their IPPT or get charged for failing to take their IPPT. However, things have improved over the years for NSmen as the scheme has allowed more flexibility for the NSmen on how to take the IPPT or to qualify as clearing their annual requirement.

Additionally, they are to participate in mobilisation exercises, to test and validate the operational readiness of NS units. Open mobilisations are broadcast through mass media, including television and radio, as well as in theatres and cinemas.

Males who receive citizenship as mature adults, typically in their 30s and 40s, are not enlisted for NS, as they are not suitable for full-time National Service (NS) at that age and did not enjoy any benefits prior to their citizenship, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a parliamentary reply.

Dr Ng also noted in a separate reply that Permanent Residents (PRs) formed about 1 per cent of all full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) enlisted every year in the early 2000s. This proportion has increased gradually over the years. In 2021, 9 per cent of NSFs enlisted were PRs.

While second-generation PRs are mandated to serve NS, PRs are still able to escape serving NS if they renounce their PR status. The government has warned that people who renounce their PR status to avoid NS may not be allowed to study or work in Singapore later.

Since then, many foreigners who do not want their sons to serve NS have stopped applying for PR status for their sons. The parents typically may be PRs but their sons are non-PRs on student pass studying in Singapore.

That way, they can still work in Singapore later as “foreign talent” without running up and down the hills in the jungles.

Former NSF highlights why financially strapped soldiers go AWOL in order to moonlight for extra cash

A former full-time national serviceman (NSF) who was a clerk in a Camp Commandant’s Office (CCO) rebutted Minister Josephine Teo’s remark that NSmen’s service for the nation cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Ms Teo said this in 2015 when she was Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport. Channel News Asia (CNA) has reported, “While she noted the importance of giving NSmen recognition, Mrs Teo said service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents.”

The article was later deleted without comment from CNA following a public uproar over the remark.

The former NSF, Micheal Tan, said in a Facebook post on 3 August 2020, that in his 2.5 years serving as a clerk in the CCO, he witnessed at least 20 soldiers who served time in detention for being Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL). His job required him to prepare charge sheets, statements, and coordinate with the Regimental Police to prepare those soldiers to face charges in the presence of a Senior Disciplinary Officer.

He went on, “I can confirm that the root cause of more than 70% of the AWOL cases was related to financial problems. These AWOLees came from complicated family and detested SAF because the allowances as a Private was pathetic.”

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