Going Through The Motions

 

51tgilp1VzL._SY300_It doesn’t take much sympathy to feel for the long-term unemployed, especially those who held down jobs for decades before discovering that — due to changes in the market, financial collapse, or injury — neither they nor their skills have useful employment. I’d even say that one needn’t be a raging leftist to at least consider whether the state should have some role in helping them transition into something new and remunerative, rather than let their skills and work habits atrophy to the point where they’re incapable of ever getting a new job.

It should come as little surprise that in Europe — where more than half of the unemployed haven’t had a job in over a year — consideration often turns into implementation. Sometimes, as this New York Times piece describes, that goes to some very, very weird places:

Sabine de Buyzer, working in the accounting department, leaned into her computer and scanned a row of numbers. Candelia [her employer] was doing well. Its revenue that week was outpacing expenses, even counting taxes and salaries. “We have to be profitable,” Ms. de Buyzer said. “Everyone’s working all out to make sure we succeed.”

This was a sentiment any boss would like to hear, but in this case the entire business is fake. So are Candelia’s customers and suppliers, from the companies ordering the furniture to the trucking operators that make deliveries. Even the bank where Candelia gets its loans is not real.

More than 100 Potemkin companies like Candelia are operating today in France, and there are thousands more across Europe. In Seine-St.-Denis, outside Paris, a pet business called Animal Kingdom sells products like dog food and frogs. ArtLim, a company in Limoges, peddles fine porcelain. Prestige Cosmetique in Orleans deals in perfumes. All these companies’ wares are imaginary.

According to the article, these virtual companies spun out of — and still operate largely as — training centers, with the objective of helping people back into the real workforce. They don’t pay wages, so those using them (if that’s the right phrase), still have to get by on their unemployment benefits.

But before we get back to that, it gets weirder:

Some of the faux companies even hold strikes — a common occurrence in France. Axisco, a virtual payment processing center in Val d’Oise, recently staged a fake protest, with slogans and painted banners, to teach workers’ rights and to train human resources staff members to calm tensions…

Several of the firms slid into virtual bankruptcy when they became [virtually] unprofitable. When that happened, the staff members took steps to shut down the company. They also learned how to open a new one, including applying for loans at a fake bank. The lenders will even reject them if the application isn’t properly filled out.

Now, I’m enough of a nerd to know that a good, immersive simulation can be extremely educational, and it’s worth noting that 60-70% of those who graduate from these virtual firms subsequently find real jobs. Even if we stipulate that we should be highly biased against government — and that the welfare conditions it creates often foster the conditions that allow long-term unemployment — that’s not nothing.

Still, there’s the weirdness. On the one hand, I can see the value in reminding people that — not matter how immersive or realistic — their training is just that, and they shouldn’t confuse it with a real job. But is there really nothing for these people to do that would provide them with training that’s actually productive, even if highly subsidized and unprofitable?

Published in Economics
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There are 22 comments.

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  1. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    How about having the Government establish partnerships with private sector companies whereby the long-term unemployed can work as “interns” at no cost to the company?  The Government could extend unemployment benefits to people who are working as “interns” for a few extra months.  Another idea would be to put some long-term unemployed to work at Government offices with chronically long lines and slow service.  There are certainly many more ways to put the 93 million Americans who are out of the workforce in temporary jobs that would benefit society.

    • #1
  2. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Perhaps instead of giving people welfare payments we should put them to work building the border fence and guarding the border.  That would be the equivalent of giving them a real job, not a potemkin one.

    • #2
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Pelayo:How about having the Government establish partnerships with private sector companies whereby the long-term unemployed can work as “interns” at no cost to the company?

    That would make a whole lot more sense to me.

    • #3
  4. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    This little game sounds a lot more immersive than real employment.  Getting a job would be quite a letdown.

    • #4
  5. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Still, there’s the weirdness. On the one hand, I can see the value in reminding people that — not matter how immerse or realistic — their training is just that, and that they shouldn’t confuse it with a real job.

    The Left likes fantasy. Pretend jobs and pretend strikes are all of a piece with the utopian fantasy of a socialist worker’s paradise. Reality is simply too nasty for them.

    Don’t harsh my mellow, man.

    • #5
  6. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I guess it beats sitting on the couch playing Xbox and surfing Facebook all day.

    • #6
  7. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Pelayo:How about having the Government establish partnerships with private sector companies whereby the long-term unemployed can work as “interns” at no cost to the company?

    That would make a whole lot more sense to me.

    What is the incentive for companies to hire these people long term? Free workers? Hell, I may be a libertarian but I’d be a fool not to milk that for all its worth.

    • #7
  8. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Just cash out your virtual stock options and start your virtual retirement.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OldBathos

    Getting ready to operate in the private sector is such a hassle. They could just watch porn, play solitaire and leave early to get ready for a government job instead.

    • #9
  10. Jason Rudert Inactive
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Is there a wii mop for the janitors to practice with?

    • #10
  11. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    The casual dismissal of people who are learning skills that will help them secure a job exhibited in this thread is pretty disheartening. What are your solutions for the long term unemployed?

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @bridget

    I tend to think that making volunteer work a condition of receiving unemployment would solve most of this. It forces people to get out of bed in the morning, gets some structure to their day, helps them network, and at least reduces the stagnation/depletion of their skills.  You could even require a mere day or two a week (perhaps the latter for those who don’t have young children at home).

    One of the worst things about extending unemployment compensation to two years is that people stayed unemployed (rather than bagging groceries at the supermarket, even) for two years. At that point, our number of “disabled” people skyrocketed, because people started using disability as a substitute for an unemployment check.

    Just get people out of the house and doing something. That’s the goal.

    • #12
  13. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    I don’t think our society has quite come to terms yet with the economic shakeup of the 60’s and 70’s and beyond. Solid (often mindless yet still needed) jobs moving offshore or being replaced by technology. What kinds of jobs have absorbed the great mass of people in the middle of the intelligence and skill curves?

    • Menial office jobs (greatly diminished since the 80’s); movies like Office Space and TV shows like the Office portray well the ubiquity of make-work and real lack of skill intelligence one encounters in  these environments. What’s the alternative? Not everyone will strike it rich with a new board game.
    • The trades (despite a protectionist mindset they’re still facing the same trends and forces toward increased labor productivity and implementation of more productive technology);
    • Government work (this has swelled so much to the point of being on the verge of bankrupting various communities of various size and influence);
    • Service jobs (think Amy Schley selling shoes with her law degree safely and irrelevantly tucked into her back pocket);
    • Extended time in school
    • Nothing – unemployment, disability, welfare, debt, eating our savings, etc.

    What is the best way to employ the average and less than average? I don’t think we’ve hit on anything good yet.

    • #13
  14. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Temp or contract work would be better than pretend work. The problem is, the way our unemployment insurance works, you could end making less working than you would by not working. Creating disincentives to work is not good.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Vance Richards:Temp or contract work would be better than pretend work. The problem is, the way our unemployment insurance works, you could end making less working than you would by not working. Creating disincentives to work is not good.

    I presume the disincentives for temp and/or part-time work are even greater in The French Republic.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: It should come as little surprise that in Europe — where more than half of the unemployed haven’t had a job in over a year — consideration often turns into implementation.

    I wager many in Europe might be offended having their reputations tarnished by the idiotic labour policies in The French Republic.

    I wager this kind of policy would never see daylight in Germany, at least not at the federal level. Probably wouldn’t even happen in the Scandinavian countries either. Certainly not in Estonia, Poland, or the Czech Republic.

    On the other hand, it might find enthusiastic support in Greece, Italy, or Spain (or an independent Scotland, for that matter).

    Blaming “Europe” for the idiotic policies of one country is a lot like blaming the United States for the idiotic policies of California.

    (Of course, if this sort of policy is ever mandated by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels, that’ll be a different story…)

    • #16
  17. Tuco Member
    Tuco
    @Tuco

    This program seems more suited to initially training someone to join the workforce (vo-tech) rather than address the long-term unemployed who presumably were employed at one time.  It’s an interesting idea, but I’m skeptical about the quality of the feedback/critique that the participants receive.  In the end, I think that this is not much different than other job training/retraining programs – folks will get out what they put in.

    Anecdotally, I have participated in training programs in which the majority of the participants had their fees paid and in fact themselves being paid to attend via job retraining programs.  Their performance in the program was pretty poor.  They may have been poorly matched to the content based upon their individual intellect and interests, I don’t know.  All I know is that someone around here likes to think that having skin in the game works to eliminate those without the appropriate commitment.

    • #17
  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Misthiocracy:

    Vance Richards:Temp or contract work would be better than pretend work. The problem is, the way our unemployment insurance works, you could end making less working than you would by not working. Creating disincentives to work is not good.

    I presume the disincentives for temp and/or part-time work are even greater in The French Republic.

    And how. I should write a post about this; a comment is insufficient. Remind me.

    • #18
  19. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I agree with what Jaimie said above. There are many high quality people out of work or under-employed. Unfortunately no matter what you do to stay involved in your industry, you are still running hard just to catch up.

    Long-term unemployment is quite damaging and at least these people in France are getting pretty transferable experience.
    What they are doing is likely far more relevant to their future work than the part-time job as a wine sales/consultant my husband has done for the past 18 mos.

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:  . . . it’s worth noting that 60 to 70 percent of those who graduate from these virtual firms subsequently find real jobs.

    I think that’s impressive.

    I wouldn’t compare it to doing nothing to help the long-term unemployed. I would compare it to existing efforts and money being spent to help the unemployed.

    In Massachusetts, that would be a lot of money.

    It sounds like the program in France might get better results than our existing programs.

    • #20
  21. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    I’m a little floored by the mock-strikes.  But then, with programs like these, I guess I’m not sure where to start… no idea how you found this, but it was entertaining.

    • #21
  22. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    How about this for a jobs program…

    Job Center Apologizes for Offer in Bordello

    No experience, training or education needed….

    • #22
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