Mapped: All the World’s Military Personnel

While much of the world is living in one of the most peaceful periods in history, the spark of new conflicts like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reminds us of the importance of military personnel.

Between ongoing armed conflicts to building of defenses preemptively, many countries have amassed significant militaries to date.

This map, using data from World Population Review, displays all the world’s military personnel.

Who Has the Largest Military?

So who has the largest military? Well, the answer isn’t so simple.

There are three commonly measured categories of military personnel:

  • Active military: Soldiers who work full-time for the army
    Country with the largest active military: 🇨🇳 China (over 2 million)
  • Military reserves: People who do not work for the army full-time, but have military training and can be called up and deployed at any moment
    Country with the largest military reserves: 🇻🇳 Vietnam (5 million)
  • Paramilitary: Groups that aren’t officially military but operate in a similar fashion, such as the CIA or SWAT teams in the U.S.
    Country with the largest paramilitary: 🇰🇵 North Korea (an estimated 5 million)

NOTE: Of these categories of military personnel, paramilitary is the least well-defined across the world’s countries and thus not included in the infographic above.

Which country has the biggest military? It depends who’s doing the counting.

If we include paramilitary forces, here’s how the top countries stack up in terms of military personnel:

When combining all three types of military, Vietnam comes out on top with over 10 million personnel.

And here are the world’s top 10 biggest militaries, excluding paramilitary forces: