Sweden's left-leaning government introduced a military draft for both men and women Thursday because of what its defense minister called a deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden, the AP reports. Sweden abolished compulsory military service for men in 2010 because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs. It has never had a military draft for women. The government said "the all-volunteer recruitment hasn't provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of conscription is needed for military readiness." About 20,000 people now work for the Swedish armed forces, 84% of them men and 16% women, according to the forces' website. But the armed forces lack 1,000 active troops as well as 7,000 reservists, according to Sweden's coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens.
Under the plan approved Thursday, at least 4,000 18-year-olds could be called up each year. Enrollment should be made possible from July 1, and basic military training with compulsory service from Jan. 1. Swedes will still be able to volunteer for military service. Sweden expects eventually that 13,000 young people will be called upon and 4,000 will be enrolled. The Swedish government, which often has described itself as "feminist," said "modern conscription is gender neutral and will include both women and men. " Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said he had been inspired by neighboring Norway, which in 2013 introduced a law applying military conscription to both sexes. That made Norway the first NATO member to draft both men and women, joining a tiny group of countries around the world, including Israel. (Read more Sweden stories.)