Young, Jobless And Angry

Duly Noted

Some ignored contributory causes of unemployment.

Youth unemployment represents a growing problem. One response is to create jobs by the government for the involuntarily idle. In this connection, the condition of the national economies that produce negative records is listed as a causative factor. True is that thriving businesses create a demand that reduces unemployment. Government interventions, whether by using their taxing power or through their central banks, can enhance employment. Regulations affecting hirings and firings will also determine who will have a job and who will not. The harder it is to fire the privileged, the less likely it is that new talent is offered positions. The over-protection of those already working resists the employment of new arrivals on the job market.

About the policies that involve government, it is to be noted that they have a negative side in job redistribution. In this case, that means the allocation of deficit-funded jobs according to the dictate of powerful unions. The practice has its losers. Judging the outcome is a matter of individual taste. Assumed gains or losses reflect personal values and the understanding of economic ramifications.

The unemployment of youth has causes that go beyond cyclical up- and downswings. That being the case, employment does not always react to the customary stimuli. 

This unpleasant, and therefore ignored reason for the unemployment of the young has to do with what we undertake while they are growing up. Frequently, the unemployment of the young is a reflection of an original sin of our popular culture. The result is the bankruptcy of the system that is to prepare for participation in the process by which communities create their livelihood. Brutally put, a relationship exists between “Dr. Spock”, educational theory’s dogmas, and the beer-can crunching young that hang out idly around the corner.

Because of the mantra of the process that should train to emancipate, we are creating hard-to-place persons. The course of misdirection sets in early. We like to indulge in a cult of “unused authority”. Remember that, not using power allocated for a purpose is also an abuse of power. Here the shedding of parental responsibility and the assignment of decisions to children that cannot assess consequences is symptomatic. Illustrative is the case of the toddler that is about to be taken outside in the winter. There is something ridiculous in the “respect” shown for his individuality when it is asked, “it is freezing. Do you want to put on your jacket?” 

In the above spirit, “grade free” schooling, therefore virtuously “non-judgmental“ training, is spreading. Children like to be told where they stand. Therefore, the pedagogues that skirt their responsibility for their teaching and its results are the ones being served. Parents that respond to grades by sending a lawyer enhance this practice. “No grades” reflect a misapplied principle. If all men are created equal then grades violate the doctrine because they “discriminate” by differentiating. Selecting pupils for tracks that fits their talent and interest, is also being abandoned. All-inclusive classes thrive. These operate according to a principle: convoys proceed at the top speed of their slowest member. Policies that ignore differences and performance might result in much “good feeling” but they fail to transmit what could be taught. The confrontation with reality comes years later. At that time, when no one wants to hire the “product”, ingenious causes for that rejection are discovered. At the same time, some real ones remain politely unmentioned. It needs to be stated: Quality education is about contents and it is not uniform but it differentiating.

The system that makes ground round out of steak reflects the idea that a citizen has, as such, a right to a degree. This principle is creeping up through the grades and it now reaches graduate schools. A case in point is America’s High School. Once the diploma was handed out to virtual illiterates its value sunk to a fraction of the same certificate earned in Europe. Through that, the claimed preparation provided to enter a university lost its value. Meanwhile, the pseudo-academic degree prevented thorough vocational training. Industry and individuals paid a price without knowing it. Grade inflation implies lost years and it devaluates the certificate issued. This means that new, higher sounding degrees need to be added on top of what everybody has.  

The lucky ones are the countries that avoided the dictate of fashion. Accordingly, Switzerland, while it has an unemployment rate of 2 to 3%, is importing tens of thousands of experts from certain countries. Significantly, the supplying countries have economies that are also doing rather well. Those with a big surplus of candidates holding impressive degrees are missing from the list. (The matter relates closely to Europe’s problem the with its unwanted and resentful immigrants on the dole.) 

The foregoing was nasty enough to get one pelted with rotten eggs. To put the coming tomato harvest to good use, more might as well be added. 

While not discounting genuine economic causes, beside dumbed down contents and watered down diplomas, there is a further contributor to the joblessness of young people. The under qualified will look for courses known for their “grades of courtesy”. Professors that teach what has little market value secure their chairs by nurturing those that drift their way. The result is that people hold diplomas that qualify them for nothing that would enable them to hold jobs that pay. How many people in diverse “ethnic studies” and gender-menders can earn non-state funded salaries? How many Ethnologists, Egyptologists, Historians, and whatever does the real world need? True, if you major in something “interesting” for which there is no demand, you might “find yourself” while having a good time. Most likely the final venue of that “finding” will come, cursing an unjust world while driving a taxi. 

Automatic promotions and degrees that ignore the demand for their certified skill raise irrational expectations. The victims of the process quickly invoke society’s responsibility. Some of these persons are competent at the level of their certifications. Yet, they find themselves mixed into the straw of misguided talents and wasted skills. To cope with superfluous graduates, we need more than an upswing of the economy. Some of the unemployable will never find jobs that respond to society’s demand in the field they pursued as a hobby. 

Government as the employer of last resort might take bitter people off the street. However, this also involves costs. The misdirected skills will be missing in productive, that is demand-fulfilling, tasks. The Ph. D. that sweeps the floor of the museum that is specialized in his subject matter must be paid. Someone with skills that earns in the real market will be taxed to support the functionally under-employed. That taxation makes his services more expensive and, due to that, he is at a competitive disadvantage that makes his employment less secure. The point is that ultimately nothing is for free. Anything that appears to come free of charge has a forgotten “third party” that pays for it. 

To conclude, here is a personal note. Our son, a fourth generation Ph.D. held by the family, has skipped a university career. He rejected the dependency involved. He also refused a job offered without an application at a major American firm. He is now an entrepreneur in a field unrelated to his studies. My daughter chose training in a “trade”. She now heads a branch office of a good bank. My friend, an MD that had worked for years as a roofer, has an intelligent son that learns a trade. If he chooses, he can study in a related field for a college degree. The prestige gained by pushing young people into theory-heavy disciplines might serve parental needs. However, that approach does not necessarily produce successful individuals. Therefore, here we face a question. Is a bad Ph.D. better than a good carpenter is?