Last year the number of soldiers in the German army who were not yet of legal age rose to 2,128, the newspaper Rheinische Post (RP) reported, referring to numbers provided by the Defence Ministry.
The previous record level in 2016 was 1,907 underaged soldiers. Back in 2011, this figure was just 689. But now, juveniles are signing up to the armed forces more than ever before as this figure has tripled.
Of the 2,128 recruits, 448 are young women – an eightfold increase since 2011, when there were only 57 underage female soldiers.
Even after completing their six-month probationary period, dozens of soldiers had not yet reached the age of maturity last year, according to the report. A person is considered an adult in Germany at the age of 18.
In 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of Children told Germany that it should raise its recruitment age.
“Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen apparently has no qualms about moving forward with the recruitment of junior staff,” Evrim Sommer from the Left Party told the RP.
As long as Germany itself recruits juveniles for military purposes, it can’t criticize others for doing it, Sommer added.
“The federal government is compromising its own efforts to stop the deployment of underaged soldiers on an international scale.”
Compulsory military service ended in Germany for male citizens in 2011. During the last year when conscription was active, males either had to serve six months in the military or engage in civilian or honorary service.