The NEET, What’s up with Japan’s Youth?

What is NEET?

Basically, the acronym NEET stands for any individual who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”. Its dictionary definition is exactly what it stands for, these are individuals who have deliberate refusal to work or education. On top of that, it also involves a measured withdrawal from social interactions with other people. The term NEET is often used as a categorization of a youth, especially in Japan. It is an important statistic because it shows how much of the population does not receive proper training or education.

These people are normally of the age between 18 to 30 years of age and are often described as people who neither want to go to school or go to work. Normally a person becomes a NEET if they deliberately refuse to go to school or work despite the wealth of opportunities. Some of these people live on welfare aids while others are protected by family wealth.

In a lot of people’s eyes, these are people who literally do nothing all day. They do not acquire new sets of skills or knowledge. These people do not attend schools and also do not work. These are youngsters who spend hours of their time playing games while eating junk. But, is this all NEETs are?

Because they spend their time doing nothing, it would look as if they contribute nothing to society. However, the underlying reasons for their circumstances must be understood as well. It is the government’s job to find out why there are individuals who end up as NEETs.

The NEET definition in Japan’s Society                                              

Often known as niito, a lot of conservative citizens think of these people as lazy. In literature and media, these individuals are often described as people who spend their time lavishly in front of the television, the internet, their computers, and more.

What is interesting about the NEET is that this is a total contrast to the normal hardworking image of the Japanese people. It is widely known that, by culture, the Japanese are commendable for their dedication to both work and study. However, there is still a small percentage of the population that does not fit into the mold.

The social classification of NEETs in Japan came about only in the early 2000s when it was widely recognized by social psychologists as a growing and pressing the issue in society. This is due to the fact that there is an increasing number of people who consider themselves as NEETs. It is also observed that there are spikes in the population during the months of January, August, September, and November for reasons yet to be known.

In Japan, there are other terminologies that may be confused with the NEET. One is “jobless” not all people without a job can immediately be considered as NEET The difference between the two is the fact that a NEET deliberately refuses employment whereas the latter is a person who is on a continuous search but still finds it hard to find a job. There are also “freeters” who are people who prefer working as part-time or freelance work.

Some less common ones are the hikikomori and the otaku. The first word, hikikomori, are often portrayed as people who are “shut-in”. They never leave their home, they have very little social skills and more. However, not all hikikomoris are NEETs. Some of these people can work and study from their homes. It’s just that a hikikomori is too “shy” to create social interactions with other people.

The second word, Otaku, are individuals that are often obsessed or have excessive passion or fandom towards their hobby. Anyone who is passionate about something can be an otaku, but not all Otakus are automatically considered as NEET. This is because of the fact that some hobbies can be expensive thus they might need jobs to sustain their passions.

What is the NEET definition for the government?

NEET Characteristics

For a person to be a NEET, there are a variety of underlying factors to consider. Some individuals have health conditions that hinder them from going through a “normal” day-to-day grind. There are illnesses that do not allow individuals to go to school or work because their health simply does not allow them to. Another factor to consider is financial status. In spite of the fact that education in Japan is free for a number of institutions, universities, and colleges, having an education would incur expenditure. Perhaps, an individual cannot engage himself to work or school because they do not have enough money.

If not that, then maybe it is also a good move to consider their mental welfare. Since the psychological spectrum is already one of the factors used to measure one’s health, perhaps NEETs have some personal issues they deal with. It is important to note that these kinds of mental health issues are alarmingly increasing in number in today’s youth. These include depression, anxiety, among others, that may contribute to their lack of motivation to spend their time in more productive activities.

NEET Statistics

In the Japanese society, less than one percent of the population can be officially classified as a NEET. Originally the age bracket considered in this classification is between 24 to 34 years but nowadays, members of the youth that are as young as 18 to 20 years are being included as well. Today, there are more than 500,000 Japanese who are classified as a NEET. Out of this number, more than half are in the older bracket between 30 to 34 years of age.

The value of education in Japan

Both primary and secondary education is compulsory for all young members of the Japanese society. Education is so important that 99.9% of the population of Japan is literate. Even during Japan’s pre-war history, education was held of very high importance. It was given only to the noble classes. Centuries later up until modern times, the Japanese government ensured that all members of the society will be able to avail their rights to learn.

However, social psychologists noticed a recent declining trend in the percentage of individuals that actually gain a college degree. There is an increasing difference between individuals that enter tertiary education versus those that actually finish their degrees. A part of this population chooses work over education while others, like the NEETs, prefer the comfort of their own homes. This, in general, is a significant deviation from Japan’s known culture.

A lot of news indicates that the availability of short-term, freelance or part-time work that does not require a degree is increasingly available for a lot of the Japanese youth. With this and the millennials’ minimalist habits, some members of the younger generation think that this is already enough for their day to day needs.

How do they affect the Japanese economy?

What is interesting about this is the fact that current studies report that the occurrence of NEETs may actually be a vicious cycle. The population of NEETs started out in the late 80s to the early 90s where their number was about 40,000. Studies report that the decline of the world’s economy had made it hard for new graduates to look for good paying and stable jobs.

This happened not only in Japan but to everyone all over the world. Since then, the number of NEETs has been continuously increasing as demands of companies for employee qualifications have started to be more intricate. Those with more exposure and experience are preferred and are given better benefits and compensation. It has become much harder to look for jobs.

This leaves the younger generation to get more discouraged. Therefore, more and more people tend to refuse to look for jobs that will strictly force them to do labor at very low compensations with not enough purchasing power to fund a home or a car. This had made the “salary man” career which was popular to older generations unappealing for millennials.

In turn, this has lowered the working population much considerably and the unemployment rate increases every year as more and more people join the NEET force. This has lowered income tax collected by the government and the purchasing power of the younger generation is much lower. Because of this, they don’t tend to buy more than their boomer counterparts. Consumerism has declined not only in the NEET population but generally and globally as well. A lot of older generations see this as a “millennial problem” when, in fact, it is not. These younger people just tend to adjust to the economy that they have inherited.

Another interesting thing to note as well, just like how it happens in China and other aging populations, the younger generations become heirs to not only their parents’ wealth but their grandparents’ as well. As married couples choose to have fewer children, there will be more wealth available for their child. This can then affect how much these children value hard work and earning money as they grow up. They will not feel the need to work as hard as others, leaving them without a definite life goal. The reason why some NEETs have enough to live by is the fact that there is a trust fund that will cushion their fall in case of a financial decline.

How does the government help the NEET youth?

The government of Japan is very active in not only determining who but also why these members of the younger population end up as a NEET. It is now quite clear that the mindset of the younger generation has affected their views on labor and employment. Because of this, the government started to provide avenues for the younger generation to become more productive after graduation.

There are programs where the government helps link universities and institutions with workplaces to help these younger members of the population become more appreciative of working. There are internships, on-the-job training, mentorship, and apprenticeships made available.

On top of that, workplaces have become more flexible as well. Offices are now turned into creative hubs which are a definite deviation from the conservative desk-and-computer combination of a normal office. International companies such as Google, Facebook, and more started to provide workspaces which are more conducive to work.

For those who have already decided on being a NEET, there is counseling available to help them deal with their issues and become more welcoming with social interactions. There are also “youth camps” available to provide places for these young people to meet and greet other people who are like them and perhaps gain motivation from this to start working towards change.

Since most NEETs were observed to have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the government is sure to help them in their welfare. This is to aid them in fighting their illnesses, help them deal with any mental issues, or provide them with the financial means to get to school or work.

There are also non-profit organizations who help provide employment. These organizations exist to help the public see the other side of the problem, which is through the eyes of the NEET themselves. These groups help in making a difference in the lives of these people with a variety of reasons in choosing not to go to school or work.

NEET in other countries

The concept of NEET started in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s. However, it was in 1999 when the studies about this kind of behavior have been widespread. In the United Kingdom, the presence of the NEET had a very negative connotation. Local citizens consider these people as “no status”. During this time, on the other hand, there was no specific definition for the NEET just yet. It was just generally known as youth unemployment.

There are also very large statistics of NEETs in North America which includes Canada and the United States. It would seem that the economic crisis of the 1990s has significantly affected the availability of jobs and the youth’s motivation to work up until today. Other countries that experience large numbers of NEETs would be South East Asia and Latin America, but these are mostly due to the unavailability of jobs in their homes.