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Youth Underemployment, not Unemployment, will kill the Status Quo

October 3, 2011 57 comments

As many of you are aware, unemployment is a major issue in many developed and developing countries. High levels of unemployment amongst the youth has been behind recent rash of internal strife in countries from Tunisia and Egypt to Chile.

However, in my opinion, overt actions such as the ‘arab spring’ and public demonstrations in spain, greece and chile are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is youth underemployment, not unemployment, which poses the most systemic threat to the status quo. In that respect, the phenomena of “grass eaters” in Japan is a trailer for the yet to be released full length feature. And yes.. I briefly wrote about this very topic a few months ago, but did not follow it up at that time.

Let me explain you why underemployment, rather than unemployment, is the real game changer.

1. The underemployed are more numerous and much less visible than the unemployed. They are also therefore not the target of most programs to improve the economy.

How many of you have jobs which even approach the stability and benefits your parents had- at your age? How many of you work in jobs which require far less ability than you have? How many of you have any worthwhile degree of security about your livelihood, profession or vocation?

2. They are cynical insiders- not optimistic outsiders. The unemployed might believe that things will get better, but the underemployed know better.

The Arab youth think they may have a chance at good jobs after the dust has settled. Can you honestly say that? can the Japanese grass-eater who only had temp and part-time jobs throughout his adult life say that? Can the highly educated and competent Spanish guy who waits tables at a restaurant in Barcelona say that?

3. The lack of decent employment makes them delay family formation. Moreover feminism and the changing nature of the job market further affects their willingness to play by the old rules.

How many of you are going to get married, buy a house with a white picket fence and have 3-4 kids? Or should I say.. how many of you will do even ONE of those things? Between feminism, laws which discriminate against you and constant income instability- there is not motivation to play the game by the old rules. It is just cheaper buy a gaming console, the latest electronic gadget, a sweet car, hook up with willing woman, buy sex or fap to porn.

4. Consequently they do not have the same expectations, consumption patterns and behavior as their parents. However eCONomic predictions are based on similar generational lifecycles.

As I have said a long time ago, adults preferring video games and an online existence to physical reality is an indictment of the current status quo. However economic activity and maintenance of the status quo requires people to play the game in the same, or very similar, manner.

The status quo cannot function if most people don’t couple, buy bigger houses, bigger cars, drop 2-3 children, put them through school, sports and university. The economic system, and by association the machinery which allows a few to profit of it, requires most people to have a middle-class (or better) existence.

Some might use examples such as South American and some Asian countries to support the idea that a small rich elite can remain alive in a sea of poverty. However they forget that those countries never industrialized to the level of developed countries. Even today, China and Brazil are less than developed once you step outside of Shanghai and Sao Paulo.

Extensive industrialization and the information revolution do indeed change the palate of options as far the ability and sustainability of a small rich elite in an otherwise poor country. Just as the widespread use of the printing press made absolute monarchy impossible and the second phase of the industrial revolution made WW1 and WW2 possible, the current set of conditions are unfavorable to stable feudalism- as the Brazilian and Chinese elite have been discovering in the last decade.

So what does this all mean or lead to?

It is very likely that conscious, and subconscious, unwillingness by underemployed youth to maintain the status quo will be the major factor in its demise.

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