Singapore-The death of Aloysius Pang and other recent fatalities has given rise to safety concerns in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) when it comes to military training in camps.
How does Singapore compare to countries like Taiwan and South Korea in this respect and is there really cause for concern?
In Singapore, boys reaching the age of 18 have to go through national service for 24 months. During that time, Singaporean soldiers are given 28 vacation days. In addition, barring training exercises and special circumstances, most soldiers are allowed to go home during the weekends.
On the other hand, Korean soldiers receive 21 vacation days for 21 months of service and are mandated to stay at their respective bases even on weekends.
However, in July 2018, the country decided to reduce the service period for army and marine corps draftees, from 21 months to 18 months by 2022.
Those serving in the navy will have their service reduced from 23 months to 20 months, while those in the air force will have their term shortened from 24 months to 22 months.
Taiwanese soldiers on the other hand do not get time off except on weekends but the duration of their military service is the shortest at only 4 months. Essentially, Singapore’s national service provides the most vacation days.
Also, although the safety of the Singaporean soldiers has been in the limelight for the wrong reasons recently, the Singapore National Service is considered fairly safe.
According to an article from ValueChampion, in 2018, the Singaporean mortality rate stood at 0.01 per cent (7 deaths out of 72,000 active personnel), which is significantly lower than that of Korea (0.014 per cent or 86 deaths out of 599,000).
However, it is a bit higher than Taiwan’s, which is 0.008 per cent or 15 deaths of out 186,000.
It should not be forgotten that Singapore’s neutral stance in international diplomatics has shielded itself from direct military tensions with other countries, in this case, North Korea and China. Singaporean soldiers thus face a lower risk compared to South Korea and Taiwan’s soldiers as these soldiers may need to fight a war at anytime. National service in Singapore is purely defensive.
Additionally, Korea’s high suicide rates are a cause of greater worry as it accounts for the majority of total deaths whereas training accidents are the main cause of fatalities in Singapore’s army.
Even though the Singaporean soliders seem to have more ‘holidays’, their monthly allowance may not suggest a similar advantage. On the surface, Singapore’s monthly allowance is the highest, with Corporal First Class, the highest rank for enlistees, receiving S$670 a month.
In comparison, in Korea and Taiwan, equivalent ranks receive S$487 and S$317 respectively.
When comparing the monthly allowance to the ratio, it becomes evident that Singapore’s salary structure is relatively lower to its average income. For example, relative to its GDP, Singapore’s ratio stands at 9.56 per cent, which is significantly lower than Korea’s 12.99 per cent and Taiwan’s 12.37 per cent.
In other words, Singaporean soldiers have less purchasing power compared to their counterparts in Korea and Taiwan.
Despite this, the quality of soliders’ lives in Singapore is generally more favourable than South Korea’s and Taiwan’s. Yet, individual experiences may vary between each programme.