It added that this has made many of them to flee the country to avoid this predicament.
The report draws a picture of Eritrean secondary education as a conscription machine that subjects students to forced labor and physical abuse as they are groomed for indefinite government service.
Despite a peace deal with Ethiopia in July 2018, which inspired hope for reform, the government – headed by President Isaias Afwerki since 1993 – has not enacted meaningful changes in the system, the report said.
Eritrea home to nearly 4.5 million people, has previously been condemned by the United Nations for abuses that include extrajudicial killings, torture and slave-like conditions for citizens.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that 93 out of every 1,000 citizens are living in a form of modern slavery in Eritrea, which it ranked second-worst in the world.
“Human Rights Watch research finds that many Eritreans have spent their entire working lives at the service of the government in either a military or civilian capacity,” the HRW report stated.
“This indefinite national service has had a visible and lasting impact on the rights, freedom and lives of Eritreans.”
The conscription starts early, while many are still children, according to the report.