Armed forces personnel

What you should know about this indicator

Armed forces personnel are active duty military personnel, including paramilitary forces if the training, organization, equipment, and control suggest they may be used to support or replace regular military forces.

Limitations and exceptions: Data excludes personnel not on active duty, therefore it underestimates the share of the labor force working for the defense establishment. The cooperation of governments of all countries listed in “The Military Balance” has been sought by IISS and, in many cases, received. However, some data in “The Military Balance” is estimated.

Statistical concept and methodology: Military data on manpower represent quantitative assessment of the personnel strengths of the world's armed forces. The IISS collects the data from a wide variety of sources. The numbers are based on the most accurate data available to, or on the best estimate that can be made by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) at the time of its annual publication. The current WDI indicator includes active armed forces and active paramilitary (but not reservists). Armed forces personnel comprise all servicemen and women on full-time duty, including conscripts and long-term assignments from the Reserves (“Reserve” describes formations and units not fully manned or operational in peacetime, but which can be mobilized by recalling reservists in an emergency). The indicator includes paramilitary forces. The source of the data (IISS) reports armed forces and paramilitary forces separately, however these figures are added for the purpose of computing this series. Home Guard units are counted as paramilitary.

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
May 20, 2024
Next expected update
May 2025
Date range

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially-recognized international sources. It presents the most current and accurate global development data available, and includes national, regional and global estimates.

Retrieved on
May 20, 2024
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
World Bank's World Development Indicators (WDI).

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“Data Page: Armed forces personnel”. Our World in Data (2024). Data adapted from International Institute for Strategic Studies (via World Bank). Retrieved from [online resource]
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Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data

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Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data. “Armed forces personnel” [dataset]. International Institute for Strategic Studies (via World Bank), “World Development Indicators” [original data]. Retrieved July 24, 2024 from