New report finds young people from deprived backgrounds are disproportionally targeted for recruitment by UK armed forces

Date: 26th August 2019
Category: Education, including vocational education, Child poverty


The report, published by CRIN, looks at the link between the recruitment of young people in the UK and socioeconomic deprivation.

It highlights evidence that the British army targets young people from deprived backgrounds for roles carrying greater risks. The report also presents evidence to refute claims that enlisting is good for young people's social mobility - the study suggests that enlisting is more likely to be harmful to their prospects, and that younger recruits who have experienced adversity are the most vulnerable to the risks of a military career.

According to the report: 

  • in England from 2013 to 2018, army recruitment of 16- and 17-year-olds was 57% higher in the poorest fifth of constituencies than the richest fifth
  • army recruitment marketing is focused on the poorest towns and cities, particularly families with an annual income of around £10,000
  • four-fifths of the most deprived young people in England now stay in full-time education after age 16, but marketing for the military encourages them to leave education for the army
  • a third of recruits who enlist aged under 18 drop out before completing training, leaving them out of education and work.
  • recruits aged under 18 are sought particularly for the frontline infantry - the army’s riskiest role.
  • the army’s youngest recruits, especially those from deprived backgrounds, are most susceptible to stress-related mental health and behaviour problems associated with military life.

The report concludes that remaining in education is better for young people’s welfare and prospects than enlisting at 16.

The UK remains the only European State allowing enlistment from age 16.