The UK is one of a handful of states – fewer than 20 – which still recruit 16-year-olds into their Armed Forces. The UK is isolated amongst its traditional military allies in this practice – no other country in the European Union and no other UN Security Council permanent member state recruits from this age. The few other states which do recruit at 16 include Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Internationally, more than 130 states have set their minimum Armed Forces recruitment age at 18 or above, in line with the recommendations of expert international human rights bodies.
The Armed Forces recruitment age is also anomalous at the national level. In the UK, legal majority is reached at the age of 18. Persons below this age are legally defined as children and are subject to special rights and restrictions. Notably, they cannot enter into legally binding contracts and there are specific restrictions on their employment in ‘hazardous’ work. Children a