Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Unemployability Or Social Change

I have been distracted by this idea of the "unemployability" of a whole new generation of children around the world, even in the developed world.

If the problem of "unemployability" is limited to a small society like Malaysia, then there is a need for the education system to change. But if the problem is spread across several societies, then it would seem that there is a need for change or that there will have to a change (by policy or otherwise) in the way society will function and look like in the years to come.

I am reminded that the IT revolution of today was and still is helmed by a few hippies of the sixties who seemed to have dropped out of the system and went on their own path. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. The focus is not on their not having completed their education, but they saw different things.

"Unemployablity" can be elaborated in several ways. The first impression is that these young people who have passed through the educational system are "useless" - being "unfit for job vacancies that are currently available." Precisely. If only these young people would come up with ideas based on things they know how to do or wish to do.

Young IT savvy people who spent their formative years interacting with an illuminated piece of glass are typically shy and ungregarious. They are totally unfit for the incessant talking and cajoling required of the modern sales people who are now called business development executives or whatnots. There is stress in present industries because of overproduction and overconsumption of hackneyed products - which define the jobs that are typically available to young people who may feel they would rather be involved in other lines of "business."

The world is today caught in probably one of the most significant structural changes where the focus of the global economic power is slowly but surely shifting to the east - and not without must protest from the west. We should therefore expect societies around the world to change and transform and take on an entirely different shape. What that shape wil be will depend on the currently "unemployable" young people - who being unemployed will have to then employ themselves by doing whatever they can do.

I think the young people do not need new things. Their parents have already cluttered the whole house. Their parents have already bought more houses than any one family however extended will need. Their parents have enough big cars to drive around empty. I think the young people will do simple things which they really want to do and live a fulfilling life. At this, the GDP that measures quantities produced will have to fall sharply. The young people could save the world from being dug out wholesale to make things which the world do not want. The young people could eat simply and healthly - and they do not need to have a glib tongue to earn money and pile up on the material stuff.

Am I right or will I be right? I do not know. It doesn't matter. What matters is the way to get out of the box that we find ourselves in, without doing violence to the box.


Anonymous said...


walla said...

Modern society seems to self-construct in such a way as to try and achieve something: anti-entropy. It wants to beat chaos. Because it realizes the effect of malthusian scarcity is to create the need for premium which comes from progress which has been universally defined by materialism.

Take the case of moving into a new house or condo. The place looks nice. The smell is of fresh paint. Everything is cheery and clean. Especially the new dutch-designed beemer five series (metallic dark green with nappa leather seats, richter-scaled stereo and gps in six languages). And as the furniture and fittings are trooped in with the equipment, there is some sense of a new beginning, a cleansing of memories, a shedding of skin. Even rebirth, perhaps.

But coming with that fresh start, there is also a tinge of concern. Perhaps the workman may accidentally scratch the marble floor or the measurement of the space for the new giant fridge is off by two millimeters or the cable for the induction cooker to the power point is too short? Or the job is not that cushy after all because the industry in which it sits is about to keel over before the last mortgage can be settled?

The concerns are the risk abiding to satisfy the craving for the premium perceived as the antidote against malthusian scarcity.

As if to drive home the point that life is a load, the premium comes at a price. The equanimity of simplicity is forfeited, perhaps swept away by the calculus of risks.

To find comfort in that self-persuasion, it is rationalized in a Pirsigian way that only on hard-to-climb slopes do plants grow and that is because the top, itself existing to the extent its slopes exist, is too small for anything to open to the skies above.

Therefore modern society is made of materialism built by labor riding on risk to plug the holes of chaos.


Thus order is the order of all days. Unless modern society can reconstruct itself to change its priority from order to something else which is not chaos, anti-entropy will continue unabated and employability will continue to be defined by organization charts constructed by stiffs running errands for chiefs whose eyes are however fixed on other things like quarterly results, bottomlines, stock prices, market shares and exit parachutes. Such a state of affairs stack one on top of the other until the pyramid is formed but with the wealth at its top, not base. Nowhere in the annual reports is there mention of corporate social responsibility towards the unemployables.

Society knows that. So it also values change. Sometimes its valuation runs ahead of itself.

The hardware cannot work without the software applications which cannot work without the operating system. The harvard degree can wait. The race for the OS cannot.

So too the idea of ranking search results. And tapping social computing by exploding electronic diaries and albums on the web based on human yearning to self-advertise and communicate in order to salvage personal identity in a malthusian world of increasing greyness and graininess.

walla said...

The basic ingredients in such premiums are:

first, share something; then sell something from it; then build an electronic community out of it run on an ecosystem infrastructure peculiar to it; then create social currency out of it so that connectivity increases communal registration increases adsense increases eyeball value; finally corporatize, valuate and list it; then exit with the cash and repeat the cycle.

The other factors are a greedy venture capital and stock market industry, a receptive market of educated users, and a continuous stream of applications, not unlike the new models of automobiles and handphones.


Thus the unemployables can still be successful if they are:

- educated and perceptive of trends;
- alert to what is needed around the next corner;
- open to ideas, or creative on their own;
- driven to make it on their own;
- resourceful to find the other factors and persistent until the end.

Which leads to the other conclusion that a society can be more modern faster if it can provide avenues to tap this social change which has come about in the turmoils of recent years.


And there are opportunities. The materialism of the west has moved to the east. What was chaos in the east has become order. What was order in the west is becoming chaos. Entropy has relocated.

The hippyism movement in the west happened when its society got jaded with crass materialism. Then the movement died when a new generation found the simplification too simplistic. Cycles within cycles. They went for MBA's, especially in finance. Thus the materialism returned. With that, greed. With that, self-destruction.


What is the endpoint? Not the middle east which is somewhere between the west and the east.

The endpoint could be individualistic pragmatism based on lifestyle balance with loyalty to self rather than loyalty to employer.

Right now it is the latter in the west because a job is the only asset left there.

And it is still that in the east because too many are clamoring after too few jobs.

So the target top is to have a nice job from mondays to thursdays, and have a nice laid-back rustic lifestyle from fridays to sundays.

In some cases, telecommuting or work from home beckons.

In others, they seek gainful employment that pays for creativity not measured by hours put in. Nice would be creative commenting in economist blogs.

Perhaps employers will also see the merit of that in the light of the present global market situation where opportunities for pre-crisis performance are hidden in the new values that must be created that are not the norm. Normalization has become the entropy of the malthusian state.


walla said...

But what about the unemployable? Will they be consigned to pick the crumbs at the base of the pyramid for the rest of their lives? To die asphyxiated in monoxidized boilers or five kilometers under the earth digging for something to light the world that they will never see?

Tragic is the state of mankind to have unemployables. None would want that because all would want to be a salt of the earth, a statistic of the income tax department, a person of worth to society. The fragile child who was taken care of until he becomes an adult would want to take care of others until they can take care of him again when old. Another cycle. But society and economics are only concerned with the productives. The non-productives are in a state of limbo. They cannot aspire to be at the top of the peak because they have no chance to ascend the slopes. They cannot plant things at the slopes because land, seedlings and water are pricing at higher and higher rates beyond their means. They can only remain at the base of the pyramid and watch the clouds float by above.


Until their time is up. And time moves very fast these days. Check the hitrate of this site. Doubled in a month. Even when no activity of late.

Time is the same to both rich and poor. But not the same for the infirmed and old. And the unemployables.



The luggage is a big bag that goes onto the electronic weighing scale at the check-in counter before a decision is externally made whether it is overweight in which case to be accepted means paying a surcharge which can equal the price of the air-ticket.

A risk which has to be avoided at all costs. Which means one must know beforehand how much the luggage weighs. The hotel doesn't have a weighing scale. And at the airport, what to do with surplus material?

So construct a luggage with its inner base suspended by small springs whose tension is measured by a small electronic meter embedded in the luggage. The meter is calibrated to add the weight of the empty luggage bag to the weight that is weighed. In the hotel room, things are then put in to the maximum permissible by the airline. Once, say, the meter reads 25 kilograms for international flights, the bag is closed, locked and ready for action.

Make that self-weighing luggage bag. Hopefully this idea will reduce unemployability somewhere.

For it is a sin to be unemployable which is defined as cannot live but not allowed to die.