UK Survey Finds High Levels of Depression and Desperation Among the Young

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If you’ve been keeping half an eye on economic news, the UK has of late been looking pretty spiffy relative to its advanced economy peers, with 2014 growth forecast at 3%. Even though unemployment in the UK is at its lowest level in five years, the young and the long-term unemployed haven’t benefitted to the same degree.

One issue that doesn’t get the attention that it merits is the destructive psychological impact of being out of work. Work doesn’t just provide money, as critical as that is. It provides a way of organizing your time, social interaction, and a place in society, even if that place is not really where you’d like to be. Being unanchored is extremely taxing. Recall that the Japanese get people to quit by giving them a desk and nothing to do. The lack of legitimacy, the implicit shaming of being isolated is sufficiently punitive as to induce workers to give up their pay and being able to tell their families they have a job.

The BBC reports on the results of a survey by the Prince’s Trust called the Macquarie Youth Index, which is based on a survey of roughly 2200 16 to 25 year olds. 13% were what the survey called Neet: not in employment, education, or training.

The survey found high levels of suicidal thoughts and self harm among this group, and high levels of stress among the young generally. Key excerpts from the article:

The report found 9% of all respondents agreed with the statement: “I have nothing to live for”…

Among those respondents classified as Neet, the percentage of those agreeing with the statement rose to 21%.

The research found that long-term unemployed young people were more than twice as likely as their peers to have been prescribed anti-depressants.

One in three (32%) had contemplated suicide, while one in four (24%) had self-harmed.

The report found 40% of jobless young people had faced symptoms of mental illness, including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks, as a direct result of unemployment.

Three quarters of long-term unemployed young people (72%) did not have someone to confide in, the study found.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people.

In past downturns, I’ve seen studies that suggest that people recover quickly from unemployment-related depression once they find work. But as much as finding employment would clearly be a huge boost, I’m not sure if it will have the same salutary effect as in the past. Many jobs are part-time, and there is very little job security, particularly for young people, who as the most recently hired, are often seen as the most disposable. Again in Japan, a wide cultural gulf has emerged between those who do manage to land a job on the traditional corporate career path, and that of “freeters” who often work for the same companies, but only on short-term contracts. The difference between freeters and salaried workers is sharp in Japan, and freeters are clearly second-class citizens. From a 2011 post by Michael Dziesinski:

In Japan, globalization has caused many companies to downsize and resort to a contract-for-hire work force they can jettison at any time to stay profitable. However, unlike globalized corporations in other countries, many big Japanese companies still prefer to hire fresh 20-something college graduates as their regular employees with full benefits. The remainder of their work force are ‘outside hires’, contract workers: freeters.

Contract workers may have gone back to school as an adult or have worked for several years learning the same skills in the industry as regular hires. However, that on-the-job work-experience by contract hires is not considered valid on a job application by Japanese corporations. So re-skilling and adult education in Japan means, even if you can get hired into a middle class labor position, most likely you will be a contract worker with no real chance to become a full time employee at the “big” corporations the rest of your working life. You are relegated to a precarious working class existence in society with little job stability.

This is why there is a growing population of aged 30+ freeters (contract workers) in the Japanese work force. Freeters and NEET are basically the same group of Japanese workers either in contract employment (and show up in data as freeter) or unemployed after a stint working (and are classified in labor data as NEET) . Collectively, this marginalized population of Freeters and NEET are rapidly becoming Japan’s new working class with no viable path to a mainstream middle class career. Many of these 30-something freeters want to start families or be bread-winners, but lack the job stability to settle down into family roles with any confidence.

And there is a great deal of evidence in America that one’s early employment trajectory makes a huge difference in career earnings; a bout of early unemployment or taking lower-paid jobs appears to have a lasting impact. So while young people are presumed to be resilient, it’s not hard to imagine that differences in degrees are differences in kind, and that the post crisis era will impose long-term costs that aren’t fully recognized now, including on the mental health of young adults.

As disheartening as this story is, I find it particularly hard to take when I contrast it with a New York Times account about how investors are rebelling at out-of-control top-level pay at the restaurant company Chipotle:

In the case of Chipotle Mexican Grill, the paydays for both [chiefs] were supersized. Chipotle paid its founder and co-chief executive, Steve Ells, $25.1 million in cash and stock last year. It paid Montgomery F. Moran, the company’s other co-chief executive, $24.4 million. Those figures put the men, college buddies who are now running the country’s hottest fast-food chain, near the top of the charts for executive paydays.

Each man individually made more than the chief executives of larger companies like Ford, Boeing and AT&T. Together, they made more than all but the highest-paid chief executive among the country’s biggest 100 companies, Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle.

But that is not the whole picture. Since 2011, Mr. Ells and Mr. Moran have each made more than $100 million on top of their salaries through a complex mix of stock awards. Now the pay packages and unusual co-chief executive arrangement are drawing scrutiny from investors….

“C.E.O.s of far bigger and more complex, more profitable companies are paid less,” said Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, who oversees $150 billion in city pension plans. “They’re paid more than Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan.”…

And several shareholder advisory groups, including Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, are campaigning against the pay packages, setting up the meeting on Thursday as a public test of investors’ willingness to challenge ballooning executive pay…

Chipotle’s founder, Mr. Ells, earned 778 times the median salary at the company in 2012, the 11th highest such ratio of the top 250 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, according to Bloomberg.

And though general managers at Chipotle can earn upward of $100,000 a year, the average starting salary at one of the company’s 1,600 restaurants is about $21,000 annually. Earning that wage, a Chipotle employee would have to work for more than a thousand years to equal one year of the co-C.E.O.s’ pay.

Although this case is particularly extreme, you see it replicated all over the sorts of companies that provide fallback jobs for workers, namely restaurants, retail, low-end service jobs. The CEOs get massive pay packages as the bulk of their employees face unstable working conditions and meager wages. We didn’t have this sort of yawning disparity 20 or 30 years ago, which indicates it isn’t necessary, but has become a new normal that has become institutionalized. A few efforts to push back are underway, like the shareholder vote at Chipotle, $15 an hour minimum wage proposals, and Rhode Island’s maximum wage bill. These are important starts, but it will take a lot more to move social norms back to a healthier and more productive allocation of rewards.

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  1. Heraclitus

    The sad thing is, downsizing in Japan is just getting started. They have a long, long way to go to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world.

    This is a good piece on a often overlooked topic. Thanks for posting it.

    1. MyLessPrimeBeef

      It’s imperative that Freeters and NEET are seen as hipsters.

      We need a bigger propaganda ministry.

  2. allcoppedout

    Imagine my surprise, bulldunged on brilliant Japanese manufacturing practices and with a role to discover and transfer them to the UK, when I found a backward country with a few super-employers and a politburo called the Ministry for International Trade and Industry. Much of the labour was casual, with part-time jobs running to 48 hours. Sexism was rife and class shit everywhere. I got the impression they had about 14 levels of master-servant language. Grovelling that had made me laugh watching 7 Samurai made me cry when I saw its reality. Whatever, some Japanese girl took me home to meet her folks. They were sociologists and explained the disaster to me, from the times the US Army had suppressed strikes by force.

    They lied about unemployment in Japan even then (80s), but were being heralded here as a mega-success. At the time they were regarded as a financial success, huge numbers of people who would have been on the dole scrapheap here, were employed doing anything from passing your travellers’ cheques through ten levels of bureaucracy to filling your car because fire regulations prevented pumps being used by drivers.

    We learned the wrong lessons from Japan and were entirely gullible on how what success they had was achieved.

    1. Moneta

      In the early 90s, I was in University and subscribed to l’Actualité which featured an article on the amazing Japanese machine. It explained how they did not have to fire their employees.

      Already, I was skeptical as I believed in moral hazard and knew it would come back to bite them.

      They benefitted from net exports and quality products which permitted them to sweep their problems under the rug for a couple of decades.

      Now they are quickly losing their edge on the quality front and they are facing an energy crunch. They lived in the past refusing to adapt to the future. Big systems just don’t seem to be able to change on a dime.

      1. allcoppedout

        Japanese teenagers enter Hikikomori in millions, mostly lads. This is generally a two year phase of locking themselves in their rooms, but the average ago of Kikikomori is 31. According to Michael Zielenziger’s book, ‘Shutting out the Sun: How Japan Created its Own Lost Generation’, the syndrome is more closely related to PTSD. The hikikomori interviewed for the book had discovered independent thinking and a sense of self that the current Japanese environment could not accommodate.

  3. craazyman

    Oh man, if any Japanese companies are hiring and want to fire me, I’ll work for them. Having a desk and a salary and nothing to do sounds pretty good. You come in at 9, work on your Get Rich Quick ideas for a while, read macroeconomic articles on the internet, post a few peanut gallery comments, then put a note on your desk that says “Back soon” and head out for a few hours, have lunch, do some shopping, workout, then check back in around 3 or so. Read for an hour or two and then hit the bars. But if you have to sit there all day, that’s a problem.

    1. allcoppedout

      That’s the job on offer Craazy. They might throw in some bijin (hot chicks). But these jobs are for a favoured Japanese male-class only. You will soon be in the basement in the hamster wheel replacing what they have lost in nuclear energy. Shouganai darou, or mustn’t grumble.
      Kimochi warui hara heta (yikes my belly is in bad condition) you soon be thinking will. That’s when they give you the uncooked fish as long as you perform like a sea lion. Life, I understand, must be harder in Scandinavia, as they bury the fish for 20 years there.

      Part of the deal might involve sitting at a desk looking mournfully out of the window, pretending not to be working on the hamster wheel. Everyone will know you are. The point is to get everyone else involved in that scorn which involves the dread thought they might be next. There will be a formalised language of speaking to the ‘looking out of the window pretender’, in which phrases like ‘good morning’ will mean ‘rot in Hell’ and you receive 10 unsolicited visits from suicide knife salesmen a week.

      Sorry to disabuse you old chap, but life on the hamster wheel requires stout boots and those flip-flops of yours just won’t do.

  4. J

    And this is destabilizing the long term healtg of the system that our oligarchs’ massive wealth depends on. I know thtat during my long-term unemployed experience, I was extremely vulnerable to radicalization.

    What arguments would you make to a 20 hour / week McDonald’s worker to dissuade them from joining a communist revolution?

    1. ambrit

      I for one would try to interest them in a Menshevik movement. Then the Capitalists would have a chance.

  5. Tyler

    “[I]t will take a lot more to move social norms back to a healthier and more productive allocation of rewards.”

    I agree, Yves. I think it goes deep. We’ve become mean. We were nicer in the 1960s, when we declared war on poverty.

  6. allcoppedout

    If we weren’t such dumb ducks we might have noticed people getting ill. How can a decent person do a job of work in this crap society. It is true, as Yves says, that we Brits now have it so good we will have you colonists bending knee to our fair Queen within months. What fools you will feel when allowed retrospective glimpse of the FED accounts, discovering you paid for your enslavement yourselves. It’s so good here they are bringing old wartime favourites like tapioca pudding back and you don’t have to pay for your food if you’re prepared to stand in a queue and mouth a few religious platitudes at the food bank. That’s food bank, not those stamps they give you colonists to lick for nourishment. [Ed note: replace enslavement with “operation enlightened freedom”]

    Sure, we have some less than stout souls here who can’t hack the good life. They end up mentally ill, but this is clearly a breeding fault and soon eradicated once one slips the right poisons into the drug supply. Casualties of war so to speak, or for real once we’ve set the Germans and Russians at each other again, in traditional fashion. Nothing like a good war to purge the nation!

    Seriously people, farmers treat their flocks better than we our own. Britain is going down the pan while the economists lie – much of the country not involved in the financial Ponzi has not changed in 40 years. Lying is now utterly routine. Kids are being forced into education they cannot hack and “encouraged” by being told they would succeed if only they tried harder. They won’t even get jawbs if they can’t do maths (whatever early qualifications called maths are it ain’t maths) and they will now be taught this stuff they can’t do forever, even though it will be obvious to all and sundry they are still useless at it. The kids are sick and we are disgusting, doing nothing about it other than turning the “thick” into the “bright” whilst being amazed those with money who did private school and Ivy League fo so much better!

    We are the disgrace in this with our smug and self-centred worlds.

    1. craazyman

      Sounds like the good old days . . .

      ENGLAND IN 1819

      An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,–
      Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
      Through public scorn, mud from a muddy spring,–
      Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
      But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
      Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,–
      A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,–
      An army which liberticide and prey
      Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,–
      Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
      Religion Christless, Godless, a book sealed,–
      A Senate—Time’s worst statute unrepealed,–
      Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
      Burst to illumine our tempestuous day

      -P.B. Shelley

        1. craazyman

          Oh man, training on the job! And a boss with an open-door policy.

          You don’t get that sort of nurturing in many places these days.

    2. Christopher Dale Rogers

      Back in the land of sobriety after a day out with some free spirits, namely those not caught up in the hamster wheel.
      A few observations on UK unemployment levels – official figures usually being a fraud – and the supposed recovery – what recovery I ask?
      Having spent December and January in the UK looking for “paid employment” in South Wales, i can assure readers there is not a great deal of employment available, and that which is available is usually low pay – below £15,000 per annum or zero hours contract jobs. We must have more self employed hairdressers than the entire population of my homeland, such is the “myth” of the figures.

      Further, it’s not just our youth getting screwed, its our youth – 18-25 year olds, and our above 40 year olds – basically in the UK if you are between 25-40 with some skills you are employable, after which its the scrap heap I’m afraid, so depression is prevalent in both our unemployed and underemployed youth, as well as a sizeable proportion of those over 40 – obviously, if you are the offspring of the ruling elite, such considerations/truth do not exist.
      Nice country the UK is not!

      As for observations on the West and Asia, well I’m an exile from my own country Wales, unable to return due to racist immigration policies that are based on wealth, rather than what you can actually contribute to society – seems like we must sell out our “souls” and embrace the neoliberal lie before being taken seriously – I’ve opted out of this and will remain a free spirit, a poor one but still free.

      What I’ve noticed in Asia, specifically Hong Kong & Singapore, is that we have an element of rebellion within our youth – this is positive, and it would seem we have rebellion in Japan, with youth becoming more alienated from a “conservative” society. The Japanese and Korean’s I know I actually adore, I like our cultural differences, but am aware on the whole we share the same values – its making a viable living free of large corporations that is difficult.

      On the education front, well its now a business full stop, the rot set in in the UK with John Major – to say Blair’s “education, education, education” mantra was bullshite would be an understatement, basically we now have supposed degree level educated youths – one-in-two – most of whom have been sold a lie – there just ain’t any work so why get in debt for a useless degree that will never improve your job prospectives – most jobs requiring “O” levels at best, but employers demand degrees for these non-degree jobs.

      I believe in lifelong education for all to a university standard and beyond, but I think the key word is “education”, rather than indoctrination and scams, which is where we are today for about 60% of those in Higher Education presently.

  7. Andrea

    In (OECD to restrict) societies being employed, or on track to be so, Uni, College, training, etc., is now the only way for young ppl to attain financial and other autonomy.

    To hold a social position which affords them a ‘status’ a ‘persona’ that can interact proudly with others, e.g. allows them to go out (and pay), find a GF or BF, be confident in front of their families, make plans for a future, even if vague.

    Without a presumed future, hope is lost, they are branded as losers.

    Upper-middle and even to some extent lower-middle, manage, as they continue to pay for ‘education’ for ‘internships’ etc. until they can somehow with contacts ensure some sort of living for their offspring, or the kids just ‘beat the odds.’ – USA, GB. (The rich are a class apart.)

    Tempered by, different countries. E.g. Greece is a family Biz place and working for your father / uncle etc. is not shaming (they may be just financing the living of the nephew.) Portugal and Spain, maybe a bit similar, pardon the caricatures. France maintains a ‘social safety net’ which keeps the young off the streets. For now..

    I’m amazed young ppl haven’t revolted with violence. Or just turned to a life of crime or down into the black economy, actually common but hidden for now.

    Youth unemployment shows there is overall no belief in the future, and that the ‘social ladder’ through education no longer exists, isn’t considered realistic by anyone. (I.e. GDP growth per capita is irremediably stalled, sinking since a long time.)

    Young ppl may be the first losers, and the most important in terms of the future, but there are many others: married / over-40 women, part-timers, low-level Gvmt. workers like teachers, middle management, older men pushed away, the poorly qualified, the expendables.

  8. lightningclap

    Over 50, going on 2 years unemployed, wife / kids do not understand or respect me (all because of $$). No reason to live, check. Tossed aside, check. Fighting BofA for 5 years, etc. This place and the commenters help me remember that the reality I see around me is shared by many others, worldwide.

    OK, off to see if I have some change in the glove box for 1/2 gallon of gas. As for eating today…who knows?

    1. ambrit

      Been there, done that, doing it again.
      When I was out of work I had to try getting creative, and keep my eyes and ears open. Kids will often spot what we don’t. (Years ago, as I was pondering how to get another job, I was at the local MikkeyDs with the kids. My wife was not with us, else I’d never have been there. Sundi comes up to me and says; “Dad! There’s lots of change under all the little plastic balls in the play area trampoline! So, yours truly ends up playing with the kids in the trampoline. We snatched up over twenty dollars in change in a few minutes. When the manager ran me out of there I had that s— eating grin all over my face.) This leads into the second piece of “advice.” Get rid of any self respect and self worth you ever had. There is a wonderful scene at the beginning of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Humphrey Bogarts character is down and out in Mexico. He runs into a wealthy looking Americano, played by the films director John Huston, and asks for a handout. This happens again, same Amnerican. The final time it happens, Houstons character asks Bogarts’ why he seems to pick on this one American to pester for funds. Bogarts reply; “I don’t look at your face, just the money you’re giving me.” A perfect description of the Poverty mindset. That feeling never leaves you. You just have to make your peace with it. Finally, when circumstances make you want to cry or kill someone, do the former, not the latter. One is catharsis, the other murder. Crying often clears the air for you, lets you know things are bad, but not for ever. The other is ego in its’ worst aspect. Keep the faith, baby.

  9. Dan Kervick

    One issue that doesn’t get the attention that it merits is the destructive psychological impact of being out of work. Work doesn’t just provide money, as critical as that is. It provides a way of organizing your time, social interaction, and a place in society, even if that place is not really where you’d like to be.

    And even if the jobs come back, it might not help much, since the new normal of the 21st century West is a fairly rotten place to live.

    Western history has for centuries been driven by large ideals of social progress. At this point, no such ideals are credibly on offer – at least none that seem capable of inspiring people. A way of life committed only to going to work, eating some stuff, fu**ing some people, accepting your powerlessness, medicating your diseases and then dying isn’t going to cut it psychologically for long.

  10. lightningclap

    I think it was a commenter here in the last few weeks who pointed out that this is not the “New Normal”; it’s the way things have historically been, the post-wwII boom of an expanding Middle Class was an aberration. Those of us who grew up during those times got fooled into believing that it was “normal”. No, serfs/lords slaves/masters is the historical norm. Perhaps the coming WWIII will provide some form of employment!

    It’s very sad, not just for individuals such as myself and our personal pain, but many of us (I would include anyone who lands on this site) are intelligent, wise, caring, and have much warmth and wisdom to offer the world; yet the avaricious psychopaths have all the power.

    For today at least, I will not give in. Right about now I could use one of O’s inspiring speeches to cheer me up. Plum out of my favorite substances, ready to turn to Hopium.

    1. JTFaraday

      It’s not even new in recent history. There’s already of whole generation of X-es and Y-es and with permatemp resumes, littered with semi-used “advanced degrees.”

      Maybe these un- and under-employed 20-somethings, and the older people too, need to go talk to somebody who actually knows something about the economy.

      No offense to the nostalgics.

      1. JTFaraday

        ie., strictly psychologically speaking, the most depressing thing is people who think that there is/ is still a “normal” career trajectory.

        Psychologically speaking, ostensibly “sympathetic” hand wringing determinists are just as bad, if not worse, than active discriminators. They also help make the discriminators case for them by sustaining the fiction of the “normal” career trajectory in an era when said trajectories rapidly evaporated.

        Some forty-something is going to take your next job because he already knows his next job is “shape shifter.” (Well, unless he had it “too good,” and didn’t pay any attention, and then he doesn’t know it either).

    2. Nathanael

      Historically, the serfs had rights and were guaranteed food, clothing, and shelter. Now, the noblemen didn’t always live up to their half of the bargain… but when they didn’t, the serfs usually murdered the noblemen.

      This usually didn’t turn into an overall rebellion, largely because the serfs were kept *very* ignorant — they were generlaly not *permitted* to learn to read.

      I don’t think the same sort of oppression can be maintained with even a half-educated populace. You could still maintain “bread and circuses” oppression, but if you’re not going to provide the bread, you need a very uneducated population if you want to maintain control.

      1. Nathanael

        UK-specific, there’s already been one set of London riots, the first among generations who aren’t lead-poisoned. The government and bankers apparently learned absolutely nothing from this. The analogue from UK history would be, perhaps, Lord Liverpool’s administration.

  11. Hugh

    It all comes down to what kind of a society we want to live in, what kind of lives we wish to have. It means revisiting all our basic values and concepts. What is work? If a CEO draws a salary of millions plundering his/her company, is that work? If tens of millions are doing meaningless tasks as our people languish and our infrastructure falls apart, is what they are doing work?

    Work ultimately is doing something socially and personally useful. People gain self-respect from such work because it has meaning and purpose and it is recognized both by themselves and the rest of society as having meaning and purpose. They value themselves because they know what they are doing is valued. Contrast this with what we have in actuality. Throwaway people, throwaway jobs, money as the measure of all things. The rich are more worthy, more “valuable” simply because they have more money. Doesn’t matter how they acquired it, theft, celebrity, inheritance. They deserve to be rich because they are rich. The rest of us merit our fates through our comparative lack of money. And society? The planet? Commie socialist anarchic nihilist trivialities.

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    Left the town library mid-morning to grab a cuppa and a muffin at a coffee shop opened a couple years ago by a guy with local roots. Says he did it in part to provide a place for the kids to get together. He displays their art, has put in a foosball and pool table, has a number of small wooden tables for seating, and sells sandwiches, soup and pastries at a reasonable price.

    Passed a homeless woman towing her “stuff” on the sidewalk on my walk to the coffee shop, maybe in her late 30’s to mid-40’s. Her head was high. After I passed her I thought to myself, ” ‘They’ haven’t won, and ‘They’ won’t.”

  13. Beppo

    What’s a young person to look forward to in the offshore tax haven known as the UK? If you’re not a banker or a lawyer, you’re fucked. There is no future, they’ve seen to it. If we don’t start scrapping, it will never get better.

    1. Nathanael

      The oppressors should watch out. People are sick of foreign wars and very cynical about them.

      So the next war is likely to be like the French Revolution.

  14. OMF

    This is why there is a growing population of aged 30+ freeters (contract workers) in the Japanese work force. Freeters and NEET are basically the same group of Japanese workers either in contract employment (and show up in data as freeter) or unemployed after a stint working (and are classified in labor data as NEET) . Collectively, this marginalized population of Freeters and NEET are rapidly becoming Japan’s new working class with no viable path to a mainstream middle class career. Many of these 30-something freeters want to start families or be bread-winners, but lack the job stability to settle down into family roles with any confidence.

    What I’m about to post is actually going somewhere.

    I used to play a Science Fiction game called “Battletech”. In it, there was a human society called “The Clans”, a hierarchical warrior society with many strange cultural and economic practices. The whole society was ruled by an ostensibly meritocratic warrior caste, whose positions were won by combat trials. Failure or invalidity meant relegation to a lower caste, with only the “best” remaining.

    Relevant to this discussion is a word coined inside the fictional game: “Solahma” meaning effectively “old and useless”.

    “Solahma”: An old Clan-warrior (~30 years and older) that has not gained the rank or reputation to stay in a frontline unit. They are dispatched from their old units and concentrated in Solahma-units, where they get combat tasks deemed unworthy for frontline warriors (cannonfodder, hunting bandits…)… hoping they will find a way to die in honor.

    While it is a little odd to bring up terms from a science fiction game, this concept of “Solahma” is about the closest thing to the casual discardment of supposed “washouts” in many modern corporations and industries. Modern society sees business and employment as a constant competition, where workers must constantly compete against each other to prove their worth, or face relegation to a lower “caste”. Banking and trading is the classic example, with most active traders in their twenties, with “inferior” employees forced out before hitting thirty. But in many other sectors, those who have not risen to stardom(or more importantly, made connections) by the time they hit 29 are considered fit for the scrapheap.

    People aged 30+ are not being given opportunities to show their worth. Only the most brash, overconfident, amoral, risk-taking, and above all inexperienced 21-29 year olds are noticed, with other qualities effectively being filtered out. This is a stark shift in corporate policy. Previously, it was workers in the 35-50 year range who were regarded as enormously productive, due to a combination of experience and still active health.

    But the present model favours fervent energy over experience, and the modern day cult of careerism reinforces and rationalises this profound shift in employment norms. This also suits companies shifting to ever fewer permanent positions on their payroll. These policies are probably viewed as rational by our present leadership caste, generally composed of single urban professionals, themselves living in hotels/apartments, and all scrambling up the greasy pole.

    With corporations regarding employees as disposable, indeed planned obsolescent, parts, and Governments priding themselves on having no industrial policies for all the resulting discarded generations, who is going to bear the cost of actually creating, raising, educating and caring for these people when they are no longer seen to be fit for work. Ideology, short-term thinking, corporatism and careerism, a belief that the best workers are “born” not “trained”, are leading us to a future which more resembles a science fiction dystopia than stable society.

    Who ever said there was nothing of value in all those old-school nerdy tabletop games?

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