Not So Neat

Acronyms are a ubiquitous part of today’s linguistic landscape. They help tech savvy types save space when tweeting (LOL). They can seem a little too too, like saying POTUS instead of Obama. Some we have come to live with almost naturally (NASA); others, not so much (NOAA). Here’s one that’s new to me: NEET, and it is not neat to be one.

Originating in England, NEET describes a young person (usually between 16 and 24 years old) who is Not in Employment, Education or Training. The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) estimates the developed world contains 26 million NEETs. The World Bank, looking at developing economies, adds a staggering 260 million to that figure. The Economist places the total at almost one in every four young people worldwide! If you add temporary workers and the unpaid who labor for family businesses, this same magazine guesses nearly half of our planet’s youth are currently caught in such a trap.

Research suggests being either marginally attached or out of the work force altogether leaves a lasting scar, one seen immediately as a wage penalty. The longer-term effects lead to delays in both savings and family formation. These, in turn, can prove pernicious, producing a debilitating hand-me-down passed to subsequent generations. Further, they don’t affect just the unemployed. Governmental attempts to redress the problem tend to be expensive, often taking such forms as unemployment and welfare payments which in turn appear to create economic losses that measure in the billions of dollars and put a perpetual drag on global GDP. The additional expense which may result from social unrest has yet to be tallied.

The solution is easier to name than implement. Policymakers need to stimulate growth, but agreeing to solutions when divisiveness is the order of the day can prove difficult. Political and economic viewpoints both seem at loggerheads worldwide. Fortunately, technology appears to be engineering its own solutions. We spoke about MOOCs in an earlier essay, and the same solution is being adapted rapidly to vocational education. Perhaps equally empowering, on-line advances are now allowing work to be taken to people, replacing the traditional early a.m. rush hour. If necessity is the mother of invention, more advances will emerge from the private sector going forward even as the world’s leaders remain tied to cartels, taxes, and regulations. (by J R)