02 SES 03 A, Researching VET for the Future
For some time now young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) are viewed by policy makers as a problem about which something should be done. This is not only a feature of European and western policy contexts but extends to the global south (African Economic Outlook, 2013; Eurofound, 2013). Whilst there is a certain fluidity in the way in which NEET is defined, in as much as its age span can flow from 16 – 18 (Furlong, 2007), with Fumagalli and Morini (undated) extending it in Italy to 29; there is nevertheless an international concern with workless youth and the consequence this may have for society. These young people's lack of employment is thought to pose difficulties for wider society in relation to social cohesion and inclusion. It is feared that they will become a 'lost generation' (Allen and Ainley, 2010).
The notion of NEETs has been exported from the European context to other societies for which it may not be suited. For example Kraak (2013) mobilises the term in the South African context and the African Economic Outlook suggests “The NEET category is made up of three distinct states of employment: unemployment; discouragement; and inactivity” (unnumbered).
Whilst we could discuss the re-composition of class relations and with it a re-formed reserve army of labour (Ainley, 2013), it might be more appropriate to reverse the logic. Rather than applying concepts developed in European and Western contexts to postcolonial situations, we could consider what we could learn from such social formations. Davis (2006) for example has discussed the surpluses of labour found in the megacities of the world which has resulted in the growth of the informal economy and often intense competition between workers, which has in turn led to further levels of ‘immiseration’. Such processes it could be claimed have been exacerbated by the policies of the IMF and World Bank which are informed by the tenets of neoliberalism, structural adjustment polices and the like. We can discern the play of not dissimilar policies in Europe. We could consider Greece, Spain and Italy where cuts in public expenditure have resulted in increased levels of unemployment, partly a consequence of EU policies informed by the tenets of neoliberalism. Beck for example discusses the Brazilianization of the West as a result of the ubiquity of temporary and insecure labour. Such arguments are echoed by Standing (2011) in his discussion of precariousness.
The paperdraws largely on English research, seeking to historicise the debate whilst acknowledging that these have a much wider purchase. They are a feature of not only the European but also global context with worries about workless youth having a resonance in many societies. The notion of NEETs rests alongside longstanding concerns of the English state and middle classes with unruly male working class youth as well as the moral turpitude of working class girls. Waged labour and domesticity are seen as a means to integrate such groups into society with schooling as well as vocational education and training playing a significant role in this process (Jones, 2012; Pearson, 1975, 1983; Skeggs, 1977). The paper places the NEETs debate within it socio-economic context and draws on theorisations of cognitive capitalism, Italian workerism, as well as emerging theories of antiwork to analyse such debates (Berardi, 2009; Boutang, 2011; Weeks, 2011). It aims to consider the usefulness of such theorisations when attached to youth and also to examine the questions these pose for the development of NEETs policy. In addition it is useful to explore the impact of these arguments on the provision of vocational education and training.
African Economic Outlook (2013), Who are the Unemployed, Discouraged & Inactive Youth in Africa? http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/in-depth/youth_employment/youth-in-african-labour-markets/who-are-the-unemployed-discouraged-inactive-youth-in-africa/ accessed 26 August 2013 Ainley, P. (2013) Education and the reconstitution of social class in England, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 18(1-2), p46-60 Allen,M., Ainley, P (2010) Lost Generation? New Strategies for Youth and Education, London, Continuum Beck, U. (2000) The brave new world of work, Cambridge, Polity Berardi, F. "Bifo" (2009) The soul at work, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e) Boutang, Y. M., (2011) Cognitive Capitalism, Cambridge, Polity Davis, M. (2006) Planet of Slums, London, Verso Eurofound (2013), NEETs – Young people not in employment, education or training: Characteristics, costs and policy responses in Europe, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg Finlayson, A. (2010) The broken society versus the social recession, Soundings, No 44, p22-34 Fumagalli, A., Morini, C. (undated) The Precarity-Trap and Basic Income: the Labour Market in Cognitive Bio-capitalism. The Italian Case, Unpublished paper, http://www.bin-italia.org/pdf/Paper%20Fuma-Morini%20-%20eng%202.pdf accessed 4 January 2013 Furlong, A. (2007) The zone of precariety and discourses of vulnerability: NEET in the UK, Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, No. 381, pp. 101–121. Kraak, A. (2013) State failure in dealing with the NEET problem in South Africa, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 18(1-2), p77-97 Pearson, G. (1975) The Deviant Imagination, London, Macmillan Pearson, G. (1983) Hooligan: a History of Respectable fears, London, Macmillan Preston, J. (2003) White trash vocationalism? Formations of class and Race in an Essex further education college, Widening participation and lifelong learning, Vol 5, No 2, p6-17 Purvis, J. (1987) `Social class, education and ideals of femininity' in Arnot, M., and Weiner, G. (eds) Gender and the Politics of Schooling Open University Press. P253-275 Research in Post-Compulsory Education (2013) Special Issue: Reclaiming the Disengaged: Critical Perspectives on Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training, 18(1-2) Social Exclusion Unit (1999) Bridging the gap: New opportunities for 16–18 year-olds not in education, employment or training, London, Stationery Office Shildrick, T., MacDonald, R., Webster, C., Garthwaite, K. (2012) Poverty and Insecurity: Life in low-pay, No-pay Britain, Bristol, Policy Press Simmons, R., Russell, L. and Thompson, R. (2013) NEET young people and the Labour Market: voices from the margins, Discourse Power and Resistance Conference, 9th - 11th April 2013, London Standing, G. (2011) The Precariat: the new dangerous class, London, Bloomsbury Weeks, K. (2011) The problem with work, London, Duke University Press
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