BOOK REVIEW NEET: Not in Education, Employment or Training
Genda Yuji and Maganuma Mie, Gentosha Publishing, 2004 (Yen 1,500)
Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) 

A few days ago I was waiting for my turn at the Post Office. Two ladies, 70 year old and 50 year old persons that were sitting down next to me were enjoying a conversation. The eldest one said, "At the end of the war I had a child with me and there was nothing to eat, so I had to work hard." The youngest one answered, "Compared to that situation, many young people nowadays that could be working are just playing around, isn't? Parents worked hard before and seemingly do not want their children to go through the same pain. They act too indulgently, isn't?" Although I'm already in my forties they were not talking, of course, about me, but because I've been hearing the same remarks quite a few times before, instinctively, I paid attention in silence.

Recently, the issue of young people who do not work (cannot work) has attracted public attention. There is an expression born in England called NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). Its meaning being, young people who do not go to school or to work, people who did not receive any vocational training. As one of the authors of the book remarks at the beginning, such young people have been treated as "lazy persons without any eagerness to work."
Nevertheless, according to the book the numbers of NEET persons have recently doubled 5 times. In 1997 they were 80,000, in the year 2000 they increased up to 170,000, but in 2003 their numbers jumped to 400,000. So far, this has become such a social phenomenon that cannot be taken as a situation of "modern young people "

The present book analyzes in ways easy to understand the situation of NEET persons with the help of interviews of the people concerned and statistical studies.

Genda Yuji, one of the authors, gives three main reasons to explain why NEET persons have increased. The first one is the worsening of the job situation. According to the statistics provided by the Ministry of Public Management in 2004, out of the 53,720,000 Japanese labor force, about 29% or 15,640,000 are not regular employees (part-time workers under regular part-time contracts or from employment agencies). In 1990 not regular employees (15-34 years old) were 1,830,000 people (10.4%), but in 2001 the numbers jumped to 4,170,000 (21.2%). The average income for regular employees of that age in 1993 was 4,100,000 Yen and 10 years later (2003) it went down by 4% to 3,950,000 Yen, while non-regular employees, receiving an average 1,220,000 Yen during the same period, saw their salaries being reduced by 16% to 1,020,000 Yen. This shows clearly that the Japanese economy is coming out from recession by sacrificing non regular workers. Young people cannot expect hope for employment under such a situation.

The second reason is education. The educational reforms through the years have provoked a two polar division between "proficient children / those who try their best" and "children who do badly / give up children." The results are that those "give up children" find an insurmountable wall when they are faced with the trials of finding a job.
A third reason is the family environment. The destruction of the local community and the exaggerated raising of children in closed environments rob the sociability of children. On the other hand, parents live more comfortably and there is no need for children to work. In other words, that comes to the opinion on top, given by the lady in her fifties. But, although that might be true, it does not explain why in the last 10 years the numbers of NEET have increased so rapidly. The authors of the book recognize that there could be more unknown reasons besides the three ones offered.

There is something true: unless we take into consideration the voices of the young people themselves we could hardly know anything. The interviews show that situations differ much and the opinions of young people regarding why they cannot work are manifold. Many cannot frankly understand why they continue as NEET persons. The authors of the book remark: "if they themselves cannot understand it, why is it that we can affirm that we know it?" I felt strongly once more that this is an attitude we should not forget at a time when we are getting involved in the anguish and mental problems of people.

This book presents the experiences of junior high school students from all over Japan in companies and factories as one way to confront the issue of NEET. According to the authors, all second-year junior high school students of Hyogo and Toyama prefectures have to go for the experience of working, at least 5 days, in the local factories. Such experiences have become an important opportunity for living exchanges among the students themselves and with the local people. In regions where there are no young people, the most efficient thing to do could be first to work together, instead of criticizing the "actual young people" or of preaching them about those times "I was a young person." There is no doubt that this becomes a good opportunity for us, adult people, to learn.
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