July 08, 2017

What if we had to face structural unemployment without fantasy games and with only books a la Jane Austen’s days?

Sir, Tim Harford writes: “young men in particular — are completely disengaged from the labour market. (They don’t count as unemployed because they’re not looking for work.) In 2016 — excluding full-time students — 15 per cent of men in their twenties did not work a single week in the entire year…why are so many young men not even looking? One explanation is that they would rather be playing a game” “Fantasy gaming beats having a job”, July 8.

Harford finds this to be an alarming trend: “If basement-dwelling videogamers are turning their backs on reality, they are missing a vital opportunity to pick up the skills, experience and contacts they will need if they’re ever to earn a proper living. The long-term prognosis is worrying.”

I am not so sure. It looks like the world, because of robots and automation, (and lousy risk adverse bank regulations) could soon face severe structural unemployment, in which case what to do with those unemployed, in order for social cohesion not to break down, becomes a major challenge.

Not long ago I remember reading about a city that, in order to keep large groups of youths from littering and causing a general disorder, was exploring plans to install speakers in the main square to play "nice, easy listening" music to calm behavior. I believe some Barry Manilow songs were to be on the repertoire.

I’ve no idea if that plan was put into effect, or if so of its results, but there is no doubt in my mind that keeping the youth busy with interesting games sounds like a more effective strategy.

Of course we should hope for those games to inspire good citizenship. Who knows, down the line there might be a Nobel Prize of Peace awaiting some specially deserving game designer.

And even if “Food is cheap; living with your parents is cheap; computer games are cheap” some type of Universal Basic Income must be present, in order to be able to at least half-bake a solution. If not young men could soon be telling their parents “Mom, Dad, you move down to the basement, now its my turn to live upstairs!”

But what are we to do with “Women — who spend less time playing games”? Will embroidery still do?

or this?