Damning figures for UK military recruitment

Damning figures for UK military recruitment with 54% giving up on the process last year

Fewer than one in 10 applicants reportedly ended up joining the British Armed Forces last year due to long delays in the recruitment process –  although the MOD insists recruitment is seeing positive results.

According to figures unveiled by Labour, 74,000 potential recruits of the 137,000 people who applied to join the Navy, Army and RAF last year gave up because the overall process took too long.

It was also reported that the British Army, whose recruitment has been managed by Capita since 2012, had the worst problems and lost 70% of its potential recruits.

“While it does take time to recruit the right people to the military, we have sped up Army recruitment by 9% in the last year and the vast majority of the time it takes for a regular soldier to join is less than 140 days,” the Ministry of Defence responded.

“Recruitment and retention are absolute priorities and we have introduced a range of measures to respond to the current recruitment challenge, which is affecting many other militaries across the world,” said a spokesperson for the MOD in response to the article.

According to the figures, 8,400 of the 54,128 people who withdrew their applications to join the British Army waited at least six months before quitting.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “These figures lay bare the Government’s total failure in Armed Forces recruitment. Hundreds of thousands of people willing to serve and defend their country have simply given up on their ambitions, while ministers have failed to get to grips with the problems.

“The Conservatives have presided over 14 years of failure in defence — missing their recruitment targets every year, hollowing out our Armed Forces, and reducing the British Army to its smallest size since Napoleon.

“Labour will ensure Britain is better defended. In Government, we will overhaul military recruitment, tackle the shameful state of military housing and establish an Armed Forces Commissioner as a strong independent voice to improve service life for our Forces and their Families.”

Currently, the UK’s Armed Forces have experienced a lack of recruitment since 2000. Ministers have even been told that the current levels of recruitment were a “profound national security risk“. As of 2024, 183,130 personnel are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, with 130,660 of them being fully trained and full-time. In the last 12 months, only 10,680 joined the UK Regular Armed Forces, while 16,140 left.

The MOD stated: “Recruitment is a top priority as set out in the Haythornthwaite Review and Defence Command Paper.

“A number of trials and pilots are under way to support Armed Forces careers, backed by investment to increase recruitment and retention. 

“All services continue to implement the recommendations from the Haythornthwaite Review of Armed Forces Incentivisation (HRAFI) to drive retention of experienced personnel within the service.

“Investing in our people matters and this is why we have funded a number of trials to increase recruitment and retention, awarded the largest pay increase in over 20 years and committed to spend more than £4bn to improve service personnel accommodation.

“In the summer we laid out pay increases for Armed Forces personnel, which will see the highest pay increase targeted towards junior service personnel, providing between 9.7% for junior ranks and 5.8% for officers.”

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