The concerns have been raised by PDForra, the association which represents 6,500 enlisted men in the Defence Forces, as a new round of recruitment has just been announced.
PDForra believes that poor pay and the opportunity for young men and women to earn a better wage in the rapidly improving private sector will hamper recruitment.
The first recruitment campaign last year was held in March, followed by another one in September.
In March, 5,210 applications were made, of which 4,838 were deemed eligible. However, 62% of applicants did not bother taking the psychometric (intelligence) tests.
That left 2,996 and after fitness/medical and interview processes were completed, 506 were inducted into the Defence Forces — 425 into the Army and 81 into the Naval Service.
By last September, the numbers applying for the year’s second recruitment drive were down significantly.
Just 2,954 applied, of which 2,451 were deemed eligible. In total, 1,373 of them didn’t bother to take the psychometric tests and were therefore knocked out of the induction process.
Some of those who failed the fitness test the first time were given a second opportunity to pass it and in the end, following the medical and interview process, 286 were deemed eligible for call-up.
It is widely believed by senior Defence Forces members that a number of young people are applying simply to ‘tick a box’ so they can tell the Department of Social Protection that they are actively seeking work —but in reality have no intention of joining up.
PDForra general secretary Gerard Guinan said that traditionally when the economy improves, a decline in the number of people who apply to join the Defence Forces is noted.
Mr Guinan said pay and conditions are a factor in the attractiveness of a career in the Defence Forces and as the economy improves young people are looking for better wages in other jobs in the private sector.
He said PDForra had highlighted the need for improved pay and conditions when the representative association made a recent submission to the Public Services Pay Commission.
Recent recruitment drives have barely kept pace with the number of people who are bailing out of the Defence Forces.
Both PDForra and RACO, which represents Defence Forces’ officers, have highlighted on a number of occasions the need for the Department of Defence to address the retention issue.
Many sections of the Defence Forces are critically short of specialist personnel, especially lacking engineers in the naval service, trained pilots in the air corps, and army bomb disposal experts.
Minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe recently announced the first round of recruitment for this year, which will close to applicants on Sunday, April 22.
The Defence Forces intend to recruit 480 personnel during this campaign.
Mr Kehoe said a special Air Corps apprentice technician recruitment drive has already had more than 460 applicants — an increase of 38% on last year.