Soon after Singapore’s independence in 1965, the first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, initiated the first “call-up” of 9,000 youths for the new nation on 21 Feb 1967. All 18-year-old male Singapore citizens and permanent residents would be called up for National Service (NS). As this was a conscript, allowances were paid instead of a full salary.

The starting NS allowance, for a recruit, in 1967 was S$40 per month.

Fast-forward 30 years to 1997. This was a special year as it marked the 30th anniversary of National Service in Singapore.  It was significant to me for another reason – I was drafted into National Service.

I remember receiving my first NS salary, as a recruit, of SGD240. That sure was not a lot. The money went towards paying for transport, food and perhaps a night at the cinema during the weekend, when we got to “book out” of the training camp. The rest would go into savings and I did not have to pay Income Tax.

Receiving the allowance was easy; it was paid by direct deposit into the Serviceman’s Post Office Saving Bank (POSB) account.

Over the years, adjustments were made to the NS allowance. Small increments were done, both to the starting allowance as well as to the vocational and rank pay.

A NS allowance review was completed in 2009. During this review, allowances were increased by S$20. In 2012, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of National Service in Singapore, S$50 vouchers were given to full-time NS man. As part of the 2012 allowance review, an S$60 increase was made across all ranks. This latest update for an NS recruit allowance is $480.  More recently, The Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) began reaching out to Singaporeans to gather feedback on National Service. Some of the suggestions heard were to provide a fortnightly allowance instead of a monthly allowance. The Committee is expected to take into account the suggestions from the focus-group discussions and issue a report to the government in 2014.

And if you ask me if there is one thing I still miss about the NS allowance, my reply would be, “Sure there is…I did not have to pay Income Tax”.