Can the NEET test be written several times?
Working world in Japan
• The dregs of the Japanese performance society asked for a photo session. It appears: a woman with a black and white painted face and cat ears who kneads her hands. Click the cameras. Next to the cat woman sits a lady in school uniform, a man with a construction helmet and one with a balaclava on his head. Average age 28 years. The cameras keep clicking. Suddenly the four of them say: “I'm lazy and absent-minded.” - “Somehow I haven't done anything for a long time.” - “I prefer to be at home.” - “I want to play the computer all day.” The four characters are company bosses this is their first press conference. They hope that with their newly formed joint-stock company Neet they will find what they are looking for: work and fun. Fun at work. A job that doesn't keep them from having fun.
Neet stands for "not in education, employment or training" - that is, for people who are not employed and are not in training or further education. People who do nothing and don't want to change that either. Couch potatoes.
“Your elevator at the conference was of course a show,” says Yujun Wakashin, an androgynous man with reddish-brown hair, a necklace and a wide-cut mesh shirt, “but I wanted to show people that there is no dress code at this company . “He is not a Neet himself, but a communications consultant and a graduate of the renowned Keio University. He started a heart for freaks and the company. When he talks about Neet, he sounds like a dad who wants his kids to be tennis stars because it used to be his own dream. You can well imagine Wakashin doing makeup and singing in tight clothes in a visual kei band in his spare time. “I would have liked to have done this professionally,” he says, but his parents, both teachers, wanted him to learn something decent. He obeyed. And thought to himself: “If I am already studying, I would like to give work a new form and shape a new society.” Nothing less than that is Wakashin's goal to this day.
The term neet came up in Great Britain in the late 1990s and described young people between training and their first job, often a short blank space on their résumé. Japan adopted the term in the early noughties. There he describes young unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 34 who are mostly supported by their parents. Depending on the study, the Neets number between half a million and 850,000 people in Japan. At some point you will get off the hamster wheel or be thrown out. And with their refusal to do so, they are reducing the growth of the third largest economy in the world, which is already stagnating. The Japanese Ministry of Education has been problematizing the Neets for years. Attempts to reintegrate into the world of work have so far failed.
Now some of the idlers are trying to structure themselves. 166 of them founded the Neet joint-stock company on November 21, 2013 with capital equivalent to 7,600 euros. Each employee became a shareholder of the company with 43 euros. "I want to give the Neets confidence," says Wakashin in a soft singsong. “In Japan they are considered rubbish, but with us everyone is an immediate boss. We have gathered promising talent here. ”Everyone does what they want. That is the business model. One woman can divine fortune, one man specializes in English tests, others in computer games.
Company communication mainly takes place over the Internet. The colleagues work from home and meet via Line, the Japanese WhatsApp, for Skype conferences. There are hardly any costs. "We cannot go bankrupt," says Wakashin. When joining the company, everyone chooses a user name, the real names remain unknown.
Company boss Yoichi, 26, is sitting with company boss Sayaka, 28, in a café in Shinjuku. A neighborhood known for its skyscrapers, where suits rush to their offices and young Japanese people with their hair up on their dates. Yoichi has set up a department in the idler company called the “Yoichi Department”, and Sayaka is also part of the team. “Doing what you feel like doing happily” is the department's work instruction.
Yoichi, lean figure, thick-rimmed glasses frame without glasses, perm, has been a full-time loaf for five years. Immediately after leaving school, he worked full-time in a day nursery for three years. “I really liked my job. But I prefer to go out, ”he says.
He uses the word asobu, literally translated it means to play; it can also mean having fun, but also: being unemployed. Yoichi has given up making money for the sake of leisure. A wasted human resource and at the same time the alternative to karoshi, death through overwork.
Sayaka, too, with a leather jacket, tattoos, black hair, was once employed as a clerk in a clothes shop, “but I wasn't ready to be a shakaijin yet”. Shakaijin literally means social person and stands for "full member of society". Shakaijin becomes the one who starts to work. In conclusion, those who do not work are not really members of society. "I just couldn't do it, all the stress," says Sayaka, "and I didn't want to take pills to make it through my day-to-day work either."
If you want to understand what can drive young Japanese into voluntary unemployment, you have to know the alternative and the attitude towards life that Japan offers the young and talented. For this you should speak to someone like Makoto Yamada (name changed by the editor). He goes the straight way towards the top of the Japanese performance society and says: "I'm sorry for Neets." About the newly founded company, he says: "As a rehab, it might not be bad for them."
Yamada, 29, has been with a long-standing Japanese company since April 2010, one of the country's major employers. His path was the usual: from prestigious kindergarten to prestigious school to prestigious university to prestigious company. You prepare for the respective entrance exams in extra drumming schools.
So did Yamada. In the fourth and final year of his mechanical engineering degree at Hokkaido University in northern Japan, he began applying like his fellow students. They bought counselors, learned the Japanese language of courtesy, put on suits and costumes and dyed their hair black again. Companies do not expect applicants to have specialist knowledge; they expect a blank sheet of paper that they can describe themselves. The engineer Yamada had to pass a Japanese and a math test, write two essays, had two interviews and made it to the last round: the final interview. Every April the company recruits 150 university graduates. Yamada was one of them.
Learn! Be docile! And drink!
His training there lasts six years. He has been rotating through the departments for a good four years, getting to know finance and law, and taking advanced training in critical thinking and debating. With each step, his rank and thus his salary increases. Loyalty is paid, not performance.
Large companies offer security, some a guarantee of lifelong employment. In this way, companies wanted to retain their self-trained workforce during the post-war period of economic growth. If you change jobs, you start all over again in the hierarchy and salary.
Yamada says he works "eight hours plus X" a day. His wife says he usually doesn't come home until midnight, to her apartment with a terrace and a walk-in closet near a chic shopping street.
Overtime is a good thing in Japan. He also has to go out for drinks with older colleagues several times a week. Officially, this is not part of working hours, but it is still mandatory. Yamada says he has ten hours of free time a week.
That was not enough for the Neet Yoichi. He decided to stop working five years ago. "What for? Someone always has money to invite me over, ”he says. For a while he lived with friends. You also pay when he buys clothes, goes out to eat or drinks a cappuccino for the equivalent of five euros, as is the case today. He has moved back home since he was CFO at Neet AG. “They said I needed a computer for work, and there is one standing around there.” It is what the Japanese call parasaito shinguru. This term is used to describe young adults who are financed by others. Yoichi's mother is a housewife. He sits with her on the couch during the day and watches TV. Baseball. Or cooking shows.
Yoichi avoids his father. It annoys him when he says to go to work. “I could work at any time, but I don't feel like it.” Often he is out with friends all night and only comes home when the father has already gone to work. Or he sits for hours in one of the pachinko arcades, which are loud and colorful and have hundreds of slot machines. "You lose a lot of money there," says Yoichi. It is not his money that he is gambling away. The Neets can be lazy because Japan is a rich country. Because there are still enough people who work and don't have time to spend their money themselves.
But the system is crumbling. Economic output has stagnated since the real estate bubble burst in 1990. The baby boomers of the post-war period are retiring and are a burden on the fewer and fewer young people who are less and less permanently employed. And when they do, they go with the flow instead of giving new impulses. If the Japanese economy is to flourish again, it would need more creativity.
"The Japanese don't think for themselves. It is clear that the country is losing its innovative strength," says Yujun Wakashin, who used to want to start a band and now prefers to propagate idleness. “The Neets are freer in their thoughts. If you let them spin around in peace, the Japanese economy can also benefit from it. ”The dregs of Japanese society as their salvation.
Many in Wakashin's company want to launch new types of products: One department deals with cans in which they want to preserve the smell of pretty girls' rooms, another is developing an anti-product for an energy drink for a relaxed life, and one wants to make T-shirts. “I want them to understand that it's okay for them to be who they are. And that they can do something great, ”says Wakashin. It sounds like he's trying to prove it to himself.
Product development of a different kind
The t-shirt workshop runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Ikebukuro in northern Tokyo. Loud laughter can be heard from the fourth floor of the parish hall. There is work going on here. Five neets are already there, and it will be 15 within the next two hours. There is a pile of colorful T-shirts in the room with pots of paint next to them. The logo that should be on the fabric is in the printing press: “You are branded as trash. Neet & Co. ”, plus a man with a garbage can on his head. In a corner of the room, the woman who had cat ears open during the press conference is eating fried chicken on a spit. Two others start a conversation about the correct position of the logo. "Above all, it is important that the writing runs sideways so that you can read it while I sleep." "Which side do you sleep on?" - "When I lie on the sofa during the day, on the left."
At half past three, Yoichi also comes. He sits down with those who are eating and helps himself. He sticks toilet paper in his nose against the hay fever and finally takes a pink T-shirt, which he brushes black and prints in pastel colors. The writing is upside down. Is that the creative potential Wakashin was talking about?
A few weeks later a general meeting of the Neets, who usually only meet in the chat room. Wakashin has prepared PowerPoint presentations. The company needs a little more structure, he says, and presents concepts of how to structure internal and external communication. The 50 or so people present should then take turns to express their opinion and at the end vote on how to proceed. The rest are connected via web conference. One of the young entrepreneurs writes the minutes in a concentrated manner, another is chatting, a third has wrapped himself in a curtain and is following the action from the window. The conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
At half past seven, Yoichi comes too. He sits cross-legged on the floor. “I overslept,” he says and grins. “Let's play cards,” says another and sits down on the floor with him. "Clear. I don't understand what they're saying anyway, "says Yoichi. While the other Neets vote on whether there should be permanent contacts in the company to better solve problems and a company bank account, he places three fantasy cards on the carpet.
When Sayaka arrives half an hour later, she sits down on the floor and begins to put on make-up. “You overslept too?” Asks Yoichi. “Nah, I was working,” says Sayaka, who isn't a full-time Neet at all, but a freeter, an English-Japanese word creation for freelancers. Her dream is to become a yoga teacher, and most of all she would like to be trained in Australia. Wakashin's lecture is currently about tax issues. When the Neets are finally supposed to vote on whether to overthrow the entire organization, Yoichi raises his hand. He is one of three who don't want any structure. Wakashin notes the result. Yoichi asks: “What have I just voted for?” At the end of the seven-hour conference it is decided that everyone should think again and then there should be more votes.
Japanese corporate conferences are considered ineffective because they keep talking until some kind of consensus is reached. In this regard, Neet AG is a typically Japanese company. On the way out, a colleague asks Yoichi to try the prototype of the anti-energy drink. A herbal tea blend with a rich hint of sage. “That tastes disgusting!” The beverage inventor bows. "I'll keep trying."
Yoichi wants to celebrate now. Eating out, Shabu shabu, Japanese fondue, in which wafer-thin slices of beef are cooked in broth. In the subway he lounges on the bench, says: “I'm totally exhausted, and I only got up three hours ago.” A woman in costume moves one seat further away. As in a real company, Yoichi and his colleagues will drink until the next morning. You are sitting with beer cans under blossoming cherry trees. Nobody talks about work. But there is still a sense of community.
Yujun Wakashin would like to accompany the company until 10,000 neets have gathered there. If there are so many, Neet AG may no longer be necessary, he says. Then the reputation of the idlers could have risen. Maybe you could expand abroad, to South Korea or China. In two years he wants to make a profit. He believes that the other Japanese would then understand that another way of working is possible. One that is fun. One that it's okay for everyone to be late, not to wear a suit, or to use polite language. That the full-fledged society people then maybe quit their jobs and think about what they actually want in life. But he is afraid of the time when the company starts making sales, says Wakashin. He fears that there will be an argument. How can it be clarified which Neet is entitled to which share of the profit for his work?
The T-shirt group is now selling its tops at Yahoo Shopping. For just under 20 euros there is also one in which the writing is only legible when the wearer is on its side.The Japanese idlers are well-rested business people. ---
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