Author: George Block

Applications to join the military have shot up as Kiwis stare down the barrel of a bleak job market.

Between March and May, as coronavirus took hold in New Zealand and forced a nationwide lockdown, applications to join the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) rose by 400 compared to the same period last year - an increase of 21 per cent.

NZDF would not grant an interview on the rise, but a spokesman said in a statement the “marked increase” was being put down to the stability of a career in the armed forces, plus the development opportunities available.

Police also experienced a big jump in applications during lockdown, to the extent they had to halt recruitment.

It was highly unlikely the military would follow the lead of police and restrict application numbers, the NZDF spokesman said.

A Kiwi soldier training

“Unlike the NZ Police we have over 109 specific trades across the Navy, Army and Air Force with intakes running throughout the year, so we are always seeking the highest quality candidates to fill these positions.”

The biggest monthly volume of applications was the 1000 received in May, up 20 percent on May 2019.

The spokesman said NZDF was already experiencing a year-on-year increase in applications before the Covid-19 era.

Australian soldiers help deliver sandbags to Townsville residents on February 01, 2019. Applications to join the Australian Defence Force rose 40 percent in April year-on-year.

He said it was too early to tell whether coronavirus had played a part in the increase.

“We believe a stable career, and learning and development opportunities, are the top reasons for people seeking a career in the NZDF, which is what our latest market research tells us.”

The spike in applications to join the military is even more pronounced across the Tasman.

Year-on-year applications for the Australian Defence Force were up 40 percent in AprilThe Age reported.

The split of applications between the services in New Zealand was roughly half for the Army, 20 per cent each for the Navy and Air Force and 10 per cent for “any service,” the spokesman said.

No data was available on what specific trades were seeing the biggest increases.

A LCM (Landing Craft Medium) is unloaded by the Army at Okiwi Bay in the Marlborough Sounds in 2015 as part of Exercise Southern Katipo

The intake for officers falls later in the year and was not being actively promoted, according to the spokesman.

Enlisted soldiers earn $42,000, while recruits then earn between $44,000 and $103,000 annually depending on rank.

Pay is higher for officers.

One in five New Zealand Defence Force staff earn more than $100,000Stuff reported in 2019.

Fourteen per cent of those senior staff earn more than $200,000 annually, according to the Defence Force annual report released in 2019.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub previously said New Zealand might see another 100,000 job losses over the following two years.

More than 43,000 people have signed up to Jobseeker Support since March 20.


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