25 Countries Where the Most People Serve in the Military

The United States possesses one of the most powerful military forces on earth, exceeding all others in expenditure. Its defense spending surpasses the combined sum of the next eight countries. However, a significant portion of this outlay is directed towards “force multipliers,” utilizing cutting-edge technology to amplify the combat efficacy of individual soldiers. The United States is surpassed in total manpower by some more populous countries, notably China, but it still ranks fifth overall. Adjusted for population, the U.S., despite being the third most populous nation, doesn’t even rank in the top 25 for military enrollment.

The United States has one of the largest militaries on Earth. In terms of spending, no other nation even comes close — The United States spends more each year on defense than the next eight countries combined. But much of that spending has to do with what the military refers to as “force multipliers” meaning using the latest technology to increase the relative fighting power of each soldier. In terms of  raw manpower, the United States is surpassed by some more populous countries, notably China, but still ranks fifth overall in total manpower. But the United States is also the third most populous nation on Earth. (Here are the countries with the biggest armies in the world.) After adjusting for population, it isn’t even in the top 25 for military enrollment.

To identify the 25 nations with the most military personnel per capita, 24/7 Wall St. used annual armed forces and population data from the World Bank. The list consists of countries where armed forces personnel constitute at least 1% of the population. Many on this list have smaller populations, with seven having under 3 million people. Thirteen nations have populations less than 10 million. Russia, the ninth most populous nation, ranks 23rd, with almost 1.5 million, or 1%, of its population serving as armed forces personnel.

As of 2019, the most recent available data from the World Bank as of the time of this writing, Ukraine’s military encompassed 311,000 individuals, accounting for 0.7% of its population. To bolster troop numbers following the Russian invasion, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mandated conscription for reservists aged 18-60. Russia, too, added 134,500 conscripts into its army, with officials asserting this was part of the annual spring draft, unrelated to the ongoing conflict.

Both countries have suffered significant losses so far, though casualty figures are difficult to determine. There’s no doubt, however, that Russia has a much larger population to draw on for military service, since its population aged 15-64 is more than 96 million, compared to Ukraine’s less than 30 million. (here are the latest Ukrainian and Russian vehicle losses during the war, as of August.)

Click here to see the countries where the most people serve in the military
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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