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Swiss army chief wants more women in military

Switzerland’s head of the army Thomas Süssli has said that he wants to increase the number of women in military roles from the present 0.8% to 10% by 2030.

The army already does a lot to integrate women but does not have an overall strategy. This is currently being drawn up, he said in an interview with Tamedia newspapers on Friday.

But it would be wrong to see women as the solution to the current worrying lack of army recruits, he added. “In our experience, women in the military are especially motivated and involved. They often bring in fresh ways of thinking,” Süssli said.

The gender issue is only one aspect. “My aim is to have a Swiss army that is open for everyone,” Süssli said. There should be a place in the army for anyone who wants to help protect Switzerland’s security, no matter which faith, language or gender, he continued.

Süssli did not rule out having foreigners serve eventually. At present the Swiss constitution rules out foreigners as you need Swiss citizenship for military service. But he this may be reviewed in the future, he said.

Recruitment problem

The army chief, a cyber-defence specialist who took up his post at the beginning of the year, recently warned that the service would be down by around 30,000 soldiers – a quarter of its size – by 2030. Parliament’s rejection of the civilian service law has made the situation a bit more difficult, he said. This would have made access to civilian service – the alternative to military service – more difficult. The aim of the reform had been to boost dwindling army numbers.

The government is planning to issue a report later this year on the role of the army and civilian service.

All able-bodied Swiss men are called up to do military service from the age of 19. If declared fit for military service – as on average two-thirds of conscripts are –-the only way out is to opt for civilian community service on ethical grounds. 

The Swiss army was deployed to support healthcare workers during height of the coronavirus outbreak in Switzerland.