The drop in recruitment for Japan’s Self-Defense Force has sparked growing apprehensions about the nation’s national security. This decline, coupled with its consistent failure to meet annual recruitment targets, could potentially pose a significant challenge to the country’s military capabilities and overall national security over the next three decades. This issue assumes even greater significance given the escalating regional tensions Japan is currently facing.
Several factors have contributed to this growing concern in Japan – population decline, increasing employment, and the perception that SDF is a dangerous and demanding job with poor salaries, increments, and facilities.
Japan has seen a steady decline in its recruitment since 1990. The last time Japan reached its recruitment mark was in the year 2013. In the year 2022, less than 4000 people enlisted for recruitment. The demography plays a vital role in affecting the recruitment numbers. The population or the age category that falls into the recruitment category for SDF is 18 to 26 years of age. In 1994, 17 million people of this age group were present in Japan; the number has now shrunk to 11 million and is predicted to further decline to 7.5 million in the next 30 years.
People are opting for careers other than joining the SDF. Some citizens volunteer to help during natural disasters but do not see themselves working or enlisting in the armed forces. The belief that SDF is a dangerous and demanding job due to low morale among the troops, poor pay, and lack of ambition among the Armed forces is another factor adding to the decline in recruitment.
The most concerning reason adding to the crisis is the bullying and sexual harassment that female recruits face in the SDF, this has instilled the fear that the SDF is not safe for women and therefore, caused a decline in female recruits.
Experts are cautioning Japan about the significant risk it faces due to an ongoing crisis that could potentially undermine its security and military capabilities. Japan is already grappling with the challenge of keeping pace with rapidly advancing military technology, exacerbated by a shortage of personnel. This shortage makes the nation susceptible to threats from both China and North Korea, further undermining its capacity to respond to potential threats and natural disasters, as well as to participate effectively in global peacekeeping initiatives.
Japan should pay close attention to the situation and implement appropriate measures to address the crisis. Initiatives such as improving facilities for recruits and female officers, along with offering better compensation, could be the initial steps to draw in more recruits. Failure to address the declining recruitment trend may result in compromised national security for the country.