UAE National Service Effects in Peoples’ Behavior

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This paper seeks to discuss the mandatory military service law of the United Arab Emirates that requires male youths between 18 and 30 years of age to spend at least nine months in the military service and its effect on the behavior of people. The law allows women to volunteer in serving the military, while some people can be exempted from service, including the medically unfit individuals. The research utilized reliable secondary sources of data to draw conclusions and comparisons of the impact of mandatory military service on the behavior of people, particularly conscripts. The military program has an enormous impact on the causation of abnormal behavior that results in the manifestation of mental health disorders. For instance, adjusting to the military hierarchy and schedules involves great stress that can cause abnormal behaviors leading to conditions such as depression. The stigma in the military can also compel sick conscripts not to seek mental health services due to the adverse effects on health-seeking behaviors. Additionally, the service in the military affects education-seeking behavior among the youths because conscription leads to time waste that leads to the inability to pursue higher education, which among other factors can cause reduced motivation to pursue higher education. Additionally, the impact on criminal behaviors is outstanding. Although it results in the acquisition of social values among youths, this program can motivate others to engage in criminal behaviors.

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UAE National Service Effects in Peoples’ Behavior

Many countries have had a history of compelling their young people to provide mandatory military services for their nations for some defined period before continuing with their education or employment. According to Hjalmarsson and Lindquist (2016), youths face the prospect of mandatory military conscription in at least 60 countries of the world. However, many countries have begun abolishing this program. For instance, after facing immense criticism, France, Sweden, Italy, and Germany were among some of the countries on the globe to abandon this program (Hjalmarsson & Lindquist, 2016). Conversely, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has adopted the same program when other countries in the world abolish it because of enormous criticism. According to Daleure (2016), the UAE introduced mandatory military service program through the law in 2014 that required all 18 to 30-year old males from high school to serve in the military. Such a law demands that all the youths who shall fulfill its requirements in the UAE will automatically subscribe to the program and provide their services for the military.

Although the youths have an opportunity to serve their countries, they face some concerns that alter their behaviors in the community. However, these behaviors might affect their wellbeing or the wellbeing of society. This military program is criticized for its harmful effects on many youths. For instance, some argue that it compels the young population of the country to take up military duties, resulting in their wasting time that they could spend on either their academics or pursuing careers. As a result, youths become frustrated; thus, they might indulge in various behaviors to avoid it. Furthermore, the effects of the program itself can have a huge impact on them, and once they finish the program, their altered behavior may manifest to society. However, the program of mandatory military service equally has some benefits to conscripts, something that the country may consider to legalize. The purpose of this research paper is to discuss the mandatory military service law that requires the UAE youths to take military roles and its effects on their behaviors.

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Research Significance and Hypotheses

It is significant to research and find much evidence on the effect of this program in the UAE, which will add more information on military service to the already existing literature. Thus, conscripts in the army programs spend a substantial amount of time to serve their countries, but they can consequentially acquire new traits after meeting work challenges and opportunities in the system (Hubers & Webbink, 2015). Additionally, the compulsory military service might harm human capital because it is associated with stress that sometimes causes mental health conditions among the military personnel. Although the UAE introduced this program in 2014, there has been the inadequacy of research information to inform society on its negative and positive influence on the behaviors of youth conscripts. It is essential to conduct a research that can help understand its behavioral impact on the 18 to 30-year-old recruits. Therefore, this study hypothesizes that mandatory military service in the UAE has both negative and positive effects on the behavior of the youth conscripts.

Overview of the UAE Mandatory Military Service Law

The UAE National Service Law has all requirements for the male youths who must provide their services for their country by serving in the military. This law stipulates that all male youths, who are UAE nationals between 18 and 30 years of age, will be conscripted into the army (Salem, 2014). The eligible individuals must be medically fit and they need to obtain approval from the UAE National and Reserve Service Committee. However, the program is optional for the women of the same qualifications. Although this law has no provision to define who the nationals of the country are, the Armed Forces indicate that the requirements for military service are linked to the citizenship of individuals rather than their passports. From such an allegation, it is envisaged that any person with a UAE family, book who falls within the above criteria, must register for the national service as the law demands unless it is a female who has an option not to subscribe.

The law also has the requirements for those who can be exempted from the mandatory program. Thus, one can be exempted if he is the only son of the family, while those, who are deemed medically unfit, can receive permanent exemptions from the national service (Salem, 2014). Temporary exemptions are also available. For instance, the individuals, who are the sole providers for their families and the ones serving prison terms, can enjoy temporary exemptions from the service. The law further requires recruited people, who have completed their General Certificate of Secondary Education, to serve for nine months, while those, who have not done it, must serve for two years (Salem, 2014). Additionally, the women, who opt to provide their services for the military, should serve for nine months regardless of their level of education. In some cases, the national service can be postponed. For instance, it can be deferred for students with less than 29 years of age from universities, colleges, institutions and training centers who are enrolled in courses that last for a duration two or more years. Moreover, those students, who have obtained at least a 90% grade point average in their General Certificate of Secondary Education or who are yet to complete their secondary education, have the opportunity to postpone their military service.

Research Methods

This study utilized secondary sources of data to search for the literature that helped find the valuable information concerning both the UAE mandatory military service law and the effects of the compulsory military program on the behavior of conscripts. The use of secondary sources of data in gathering information on what other scholars have researched is one of the best methods that save time (Bergman, 2008). Although the majority of the literature found was not from the research studies done in the UAE, the results were utilized in making conclusive comparisons of the situation in the UAE and the effects of the mandatory program on its youth conscripts.

Time saving was one of the goals of this study, in which the researcher decided to use the internet to find reputable sources of data. The use of the internet was among the best options for gathering secondary information because it had helped achieve the goal of saving time. In the past years, the collection of data could consume much time because of the manual search of books, articles, and many other sources of literature from various libraries (Kruse & Thestrup, 2014). Furthermore, the use of internet resources results in the finding of the updated information that can portray the accurate picture of the situation concerning the area of study. Therefore, the internet was the sole source of reputable information.

The research has only used reliable articles and research studies that contain information concerning mandatory military service in the UAE and the world as a whole, and its effect on the behavior of conscripts. Google Scholar was the search engine that the researcher had used to access sources. Some of the keywords used in the search process were “mandatory military service”, “effect of the military on conscripts”, “military conscription and health”, military effect on crime”, and so forth. Thus, 10 articles showing research studies done within the past 10 years were analyzed, and the data concerning the research question was used to provide information on the research question.

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Results and Discussion

Impact of Military Service on Health Behaviors

During military service, youth conscripts meet stressful situations that cause behavioral changes and sometimes lead to the manifestation of mental problems. Although many countries do not give recruits an opportunity to take part in active military roles, such as fighting on the battlefields, the hierarchical structures of the military institutions are stressful to adapt to. In a research study conducted by Sasson-Levy (2007) that investigated the impact of the mandatory military program on women in Israel, the author found that the military environment was stressful to these female conscripts. The study had found that other than being forced to perform specific roles, recruits faced serious challenges when it came to observing military rules, including the performance of exercises at odd hours, scheduled meals, and so forth (Sasson-Levy, 2007). Such things caused frustrations that resulted in abnormal behaviors, which later led to severe mental health conditions, including depression. Although this study was conducted among the Israeli female conscripts, these problems are similar to what men encounter. In the UAE, such problems may manifest because the military rules, actions, and requirements are new to conscripts, and abiding by them may be a daunting task to perform because of the accompanying stresses. As a result, the stress accompanied by service functions and the rules are enough to cause abnormal behaviors among the UAE male youth conscripts.

Similarly, some other research studies have been carried to determine how the military service causes stress to youth recruits, resulting in their change of behavior and subsequent occurrence of mental health conditions. Most findings indicate that the interaction of military conscripts in camps with their senior officers is stressful, which leads to adverse effects in their normal behaviors. For instance, Amir, Morteza, Mohsen, and Jafar (2015) conducted a research study, in which they had found that despite having an opportunity to serve their country’s military services, conscripts experienced stress when they were compelled to take orders from their superiors. Other stresses come from the military requirements and daily habits, changes in eating habits, and the restriction of making choices because conscripts cannot make some choices. Instead, they must take orders. Nevertheless, youths are forced to participate in strenuous physical exercises as a requirement of the military, which sometimes occurs during odd hours. Such a thing denies the conscripts the freedom to make choices, and the adaptation to the new rules they have never had an experience with results in tremendous stresses. Furthermore, Crowley et al. (2015) also found that conscripts struggle with the abrupt entry into the physically and psychologically taxing military environments that cause abnormal behaviors, resulting in severe mental health diseases. For youths to adapt to these changes, they must alter their behaviors or be stressed, which results in abnormal and unhealthy behaviors.

Furthermore, the mental health seeking behaviors of conscripts change once they are exposed to the conditions of military service. According to Sharp et al. (2015), the military system has high levels of stigma against individuals who have mental health conditions, which adversely affects the mental health seeking behaviors of mentally ill officers. Since there is a high probability of mental health problems in the military, conscripts could suffer greatly because of the inability to seek health care due to this stigma. Thus, Sharp et al. (2015) explain that military service is an area of stress to many people because of the nature of military operations, which explains why military service registers a high prevalence of mental health disorders. Furthermore, the stigma and negative behaviors from the army personnel negatively affect health seeking behaviors of the sick. At the same time, Murphy and Busuttil (2014) reiterate that the military personnel seen to access mental health services are perceived to be weak to handle stressful situations by their peers and seniors, which compels the sick not to seek professional health services. Such a thing is a grave threat to the health seeking behaviors of the conscripts in the UAE as they might want to be seen as strong individuals who can withstand military pressures, which could interfere with their health seeking behaviors.

Impact of the Military Service on Educational Behaviors

The mandatory military service also has an adverse impact on the education seeking behaviors among conscripts, which can affect the education levels among the males in the UAE. Thus, Keller, Poutvaara, and Wagener (2010) explain that mandatory military service reduces the personal returns to human capital in addition to taking the conscripts more time to complete their higher education course than their non-conscript colleagues because of the time wasted in the military. As it has been mentioned, in the UAE, the law requires youths to serve in their country’s military for nine months to two years, the time that otherwise could be spent on education. Moreover, the academic knowledge and skills acquired by conscripts decrease when in the military, and their recovery would need an extra amount of time and education. Furthermore, Keller, Poutvaara, and Wagener (2010) report that an individual has less time for making choices concerning their jobs once some time is lost when serving in the military. All these factors reduce the youths’ enthusiasm to seek higher levels of education by altering their education seeking behaviors.

Such things show that without the mandatory military service, the behavior to seek higher education among youths will increase, resulting in the high number of college and university enrollments. Thus, in the United Kingdom, the abolition of this mandatory program resulted in the increase in school attendance for the men of 18 years old and above (Di Pietro, 2013). On the other hand, Keller, Poutvaara, and Wagener (2010) found that the number of university graduates was lower in the countries that conscripted their youths into the mandatory program as compared to those with an all-volunteer force. These results were achieved after adjusting for all other factors, which could influence the decision to seek a university education among youths. Thus reveals that it is true that education seeking behaviors are affected by this program. The UAE already has low male representation in higher education, and this will further worsen the situation.

Impact of Military Service on Criminal Behaviors

There are many ways, through which mandatory military conscription can cause or exacerbate criminal behaviors among youths in the UAE. For instance, in Vietnam and Australia, military conscripts have described their military training experience as intense hard work with verbal abuse and sexual innuendos full of xenophobic language (Siminski, Ville, & Paull, 2016). Such a thing causes many conscripts to withstand such stress that might cause them to develop behaviors that can perpetuate crime once they complete their term of service. Furthermore, the exposure of recruits to weapons and war-related training can be a conducive thing to mold the behavior of those who intend to engage in criminal activities in the future (Siminski, Ville, & Paull, 2016). Additionally, youth conscripts have an opportunity to interact with their peers, some of whom could influence them into committing crimes. For instance, youths may start using illegal drugs after being introduced by their peers in the military, which could cause a high probability of them engaging in criminal behaviors in the future. All these factors are similar to military services, and the UAE is not an exception.

However, the influence of this program on criminal behaviors among conscripts varies. Other than increasing the risk of developing criminal behaviors, the program reduces delinquent tendency in conscripts with a clean criminal record during the pre-service period. Thus, Hjalmarsson and Lindquist (2016) explain that military training, while also the subsequent engagement of youth conscripts, gives them an opportunity to acquire the desired social qualities, which, in turn, reduces their likelihood of committing a crime. Unfortunately, the military worsens the criminal records of the individuals who have had poor criminal records before joining the service. Further, Hjalmarsson and Lindquist (2016) reiterate that other than being under the influence of peers, who have poor criminal behaviors, the youths with pre-service criminal records have a high risk for committing post-service crimes by more than 9% during the pre-service period. Therefore, this program influences criminal behavior among youths because it reduces crime occurrence in those with clean pre-service criminal records while fueling criminal behaviors among those with a pre-service criminal history.


The mandatory military program in the UAE affects the behavior of young conscripts in many ways just like it does in many other countries with the same program. First, adjusting to the stressful military system that requires intense training and changing the normal routines of the youths, for instance, a scheduled process of taking meals can be difficult for many. Additionally, the hierarchical structures of the military and the need to take orders instead of independently making choices may contribute to worsening stress among youth conscripts. These stresses could lead to the manifestation of abnormal behaviors, which sometimes might worsen to cause mental health disorders such as depression. At the same time, the stigma in the military on individuals with such diseases can impair health-seeking behaviors among the youths who fear the effects of stigma. Nevertheless, the military reduces the motivation for seeking higher education among youths, which adversely impacts their education seeking behaviors. Criminal behavior is also influenced as exposure to peers with criminal behaviors, such as the use of illicit drugs, can cause the noncriminal conscripts to engage in criminal behaviors. However, the military also has positive impacts because it provides the necessary social values during the training periods.

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