National Service (NS) Allowance vs Other Countries: Is The Recent Increase Good Enough?
Recently, Singapore announced that all full-time national servicemen (NSF) would receive a $125 to $200 increase in their National Service (NS) allowance.
I know what some of us might be thinking:
“Only $125 to $200? NS allowance is already so little and we waste two years of our time!”
As a disclaimer, I lean towards being for national service but always thought that our pay was simply too little.
Less than $1,000 a month? Come on!
But of course, I had yet to do my research to form a proper opinion.
So, putting aside whether you are for or against national service, how does Singapore fare when it comes to our NS allowance?
National Service Allowance vs Other Countries
To set some context about national service internationally, there are fewer than 30 countries out of 195 countries with compulsory military conscription.
While it is written in the law, some countries may not enforce conscription in practice. One example would be China as they simply have more than enough volunteer conscripts to fill their ranks.
The length of service also varies depending on the country:
Before I went out to obtain the data, I was of the opinion that we were getting far lesser than what Western countries would give. I mean, after writing about how our nurses were paid compared to the rest of the world, you can’t really blame me for thinking so right?
But boy oh boy was I proven wrong:
|Country/Region||Allowance per month||Compulsory Length of Service|
|Ukraine||Combat Personnel: $3,686.29|
Non-combat Personnel: $1,105.98
|Men: 12 to 18 months|
|Men: 24 months|
|South Korea||PTE: $614.43|
(600,000 South Korean won)
PTE 1st Class: $696.36
(680,000 South Korean won)
(800,000 South Korean won)
(1,000,000 South Korean won)
|Men: 18 to 24 months|
|Israel||Admin Soldiers: $447.91|
(1,235 Israeli New Shekel)
(1,793 Israeli New Shekel)
Combat Troops: $893.08
(2,463 Israeli New Shekel)
Frontline Troops: $1,105.28
(3,048 Israeli New Shekel)
|Men: 32 months
Women: 24 months
|Finland||1–165 days: ~$234.77 |
(5.40 Euros per day)
166–255 days: ~$391.34
(9 Euros per day)
256–347 days: ~$543.42
(12.50 Euros per day)
|Men: 165, 255 or 347 days|
(6 Swiss Franc per day)
(7.5 Swiss Franc per day)
|Men: 18 weeks|
(6,510 New Taiwan dollar)
From 2024: $1,163.02
(26,307 New Taiwan dollar)
|Men: 4 months (12 months from 2024 onwards)|
(559 Ghanaian Cedi)
|Men and Women: 12 months|
|Egypt||$10.95 to $13.15|
(250 to 300 Egyptian Pound)
|Men: 12 to 36 months|
Only select countries with data readily available are shown.
To my pleasant surprise, Singapore has one of the highest NS allowances despite not being at war!
What’s more surprising to me is that we get more allowance than South Koreans and Israelis, the former having a looming threat on its borders while the latter has been in conflict for decades.
The one country with a significantly higher allowance is Ukraine, which raised its allowances from $515.92 (14,000 hryvnias) to $3,686.29 (100,000 hryvnias) for combat personnel since the start of the Russian invasion.
While one might say that it’s justifiable given the risk of losing your life, there is a drawback: financing the Ukrainian military and security agencies costs half of the country’s entire budget.
Is The Increase in Allowance Enough?
Then again, there are simply too many factors at play to do a direct comparison between countries and say who is giving enough allowance.
Many detractors will say that our NS allowance is a joke and that it is too little to survive on.
Some may also say that such increases can’t keep up with inflation, but we at Seedly have done the math:
|Year||Headline Overall Inflation / Core Inflation||MAS core Inflation||NSF Recruit Allowance Percentage Change Only|
|2017||0.6%||1.5%||$560 to $630
|2020||‐0.2%||‐0.2%||$630 to $755
|2023 (Apr 2023)||5.7%||5.0%|
That said, we have to consider that we have access to free lodging and meals, which is why it is called an allowance rather than a salary.
Our government has been doing pretty well when it comes to our NS allowances with increases beating that of inflation and the amount beating most other countries.
In the grand scheme of things, those who complain about NS allowance are probably missing the point, I was guilty of this too. If war ever breaks out, our personal finances would be the least of our worries.
As seen in countries like Ukraine, many Ukrainians, including women, volunteered to fight for their country. I’m sure they didn’t do so just for a ~$3,600 allowance.
While it is interesting to do such comparisons and good to see that our government is taking care of our NSFs well, the more important thing is to focus on why we should have national service.