More than 20 years after conscription to the army ended, the French government on Wednesday unveiled plans to require all young people to undergo a month of obligatory national service.
The move follows through on a commitment by President Emmanuel Macron, who during last year's election campaign said that national service would be "a school of fraternity."
At about the age of 16, all young people will have to spend 15 days in shared accommodation, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said.
The program will involve "a dimension of service, but also something useful for the young people themselves, necessary health checks, dealing with illiteracy," Blanquer said.
It would be a form of "social mixing," the minister said.
One criticism of the 1997 abolition of military service has been that young people are now less likely to come into close contact with their peers from different backgrounds.
Another 15 days would be "more personalized, organized by a tutor" and the details would be worked out in forthcoming consultations, Blanquer said.
Young people aged between 16 and 25 could then if they so wished do three to 12 months of voluntary work in fields such as defense, social care, mentoring or culture, Blanquer said.
Earlier this month, 15 youth and student organizations slammed Macron's plans, saying that young people in France were already deeply involved in voluntary work and it should not be turned into something compulsory.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said a constitutional amendment would be needed to make the program obligatory.