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Nuria Chinchilla and Maruja Moragas, Professors, IESE, University of Navarra

Generation ni-ni: a systemic problem

Sat, 06 Feb 2010 09:08:20 +0000 Published in Expansion (Madrid)

Sociologists refer to young people who neither study nor work as the NEET Generation. Parents are the main cause of the employment rate problems these kids have. But who takes care of the parents? Many families are alone, with no one to help them.

We live in an ecosystem where everything affects everything. The family is not the only one manager. What surrounds it, schools, business, unions, governments and the media, do not help it either and are co-responsible for the collapse of many young people. We are facing a vicious circle: parents do not educate nor set limits, the school demands little and sends to the professional training or to the Universities young people half developed; many lower the bar to admit them and graduate them, not getting the best out of them and launching to the labor market people of leave human and professional qualification; the business then receives a subject of worker difficult to recover, whom it rarely trains; trade unions overdo their protection work; society is permissive and conformist and does not act against these dysfunctions; the media transmit and promote antisocial referents, ill-mannered, arrogant young people, whose energy and vital objectives are focused on sex, hedonism, anything goes and whatever. Lulled to sleep, the State interferes in people's lives, directing them according to its way of thinking. It occupies roles that belong to the citizens, who, instead of acting, are increasingly distancing themselves from the politicians, which worsens the problem.

Who puts order in such disorder, who bears the unpopularity of setting limits, who financial aid to think about the consequences of their actions and who dedicates the time and energy necessary for them to develop positive habits, when there is a great burden of negative habits? These boys and girls are people without illusion and hope, and it costs a lot of energy to give them and educate them not only by embedding knowledge, but by extracting the potential of each one.

We were struck by the social expectation and the very high audience ratings of the reality show "Curso del 63" (Course of '63). It showed the public's curiosity to know not only if these boys and girls could resist in an austere boarding school, but also if they had any way out, any hope of reconversion. What did we learn from this experiment? They were students with very low self-esteem, the result of their lack of self-control. They arrive at a school where there are timetables and rules of the game, discipline and authority, and where they are asked for responsibilities. Teachers are demanding and give them only what is necessary. They suffer limits: what's for dinner is what's for dinner, either you eat it or you don't have dinner. They take away objects that differentiate them, such as piercings, and put others that equalize them, such as the uniform. This raises their frustration threshold: there are things they have to put up with whether they like it or not if they don't want to be expelled. In spite of this, they create bonds of affection and respect with teachers and classmates. Before, they did not work as a team, but they end up doing so and show solidarity with others. Little by little, they develop positive habits and climb steps in their capacity for self-control.

Labor market

Many of these young people arrive at business egocentric, capricious, comfortable, always doing whatever they want, appealing to their freedom. It is a shock to find that at business there are rules and layoffs, and that they are also socially excluded when they are expelled from the labor market. The network of security that gathers them are their families, but, if they are broken, the difficulties increase exponentially.

The business has always been the one that has given official document to people. Before it educated only in technical competences, now it has to do it also in human competences, because the "rawsubject " that arrives to it is more and more defective. It may be that one of these young people will win the lottery of having a good boss who will take him in and develop him, doing what his parents did not do at home. However, not every young person will see in that demanding and disciplined manager an opportunity to overcome his or her worthlessness. It is almost miraculous that this boss exists and that, in addition, the boy understands, wants and can improve.

We are all part of the problem and, therefore, we must all be part of the solution. Let's put our feet on the ground. We will have to offer them better ideals and references than the ones we give them, and not settle for mediocrity that makes them lower the bar. If we continue to give them what we have been giving them up to now, we institutionalize a culture that produces personal, work, family and social uselessness. And no one deserves to be this.