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Civil conscription is the obligation of civilians to perform mandatory labour for the government. The purpose is to ensure necessary services and workforce in wartimes and other times of emergency, to provide basic services to the population. These include, but are not limited to, medical care, food supplies or defense industry supplies for the duration of the emergency situation. Therefore, it generally makes striking illegal for the duration of the civil mobilization.[1]

Legal situation

Civil conscription is an exception of the Forced Labour Convention of 1930 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and therefore unfree labour shall not include:[2]

History of civil conscription

To prevent a doctors strike the Belgium government, in April 1964, issued a civil mobilization order for hospital doctors and military doctors.[3]

During the communist rule in Czechoslovakia the government announced a non-remunerated activity programm called Action Z (in Czech: Akce Z) for the population. Officially, it was a voluntary work, but in fact it was mandatory. The participation at the Action Z programm was documented and citizens who did not participate or whose participation was unsatisfactory, were threatened with consequences at their regular work.

In East Germany the officially volunteer Subbotnik service was de facto obligatory the population. With this service, the local communities had to countervail the deficits of the planned economy by forcing the citizens to maintain the local infrastructure.

Apart from the use of forced labour under German rule during World War II, the compulsory use of the Nazi German civilian population in the Reich Labour Service as early as 1935 was a appliance of the Nazi labor market policy.

During the during Greek debt crisis the Greek government decreed civil conscription orders for different occupational groups, that where necessary to maintain basic services for the population.[4][5][6]

Due to a labour shortage between December 1943 and March 1948, because of World War II and the aftermath, the British government started to draft civil conscripts, the so-called Bevin Boys, for the work in coal mines.[12]

Current examples of Civil Conscription

French President Emmanuel Macron introduced a compulsory service, the Service national universel, SNU ("Universal National Service") in 2019, which will be mandatory for all citizens aged 16–25 from 2021 onwards. It lasts for the therm of a month the service can be done in both civilian and military institutions. The aim of this general civil conscription is to communicate French values, to strengthen social cohesion and to promote social engagement.[13]

Beside the draft of male citizens for the military service, which is supended for peacetime, the German constitution allows civil conscription as well. In addition to the military service in the case of the "State of Defence", female citizens between the ages of 18 and 55 could be called to perform medical duties, male citizens could be drafted for a mandatory service in the border guard or in a civil protection force. If required, the freedom to practice one's profession in the event of tension and defense may be limited.

A civil conscription for general (social) services of all citizens, which is discussed from time to time, is considered to be legally problematic and could violate not only international agreements and the regulations of the German constitutionas well, without a constitutional amendment.[14][15][16]

Depending on the respective state´s legislations and in addition to the - in theory possible - mandatory civil service obligations at the federal legislation level, there are two more civil conscription services possible, that allow communities to draft citizens:

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