When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

Misunderstanding Mexico's So-Called Idle Youth

Youth who neither work nor study number in the millions in Mexico, though not exclusive to it. The state should be laser-focused on this mostly female segment of the population.

Teens in Oaxaca City, Mexico
Teens in Oaxaca City, Mexico
Fernando Chávez

-Analysis-

MEXICO CITY — When sociological studies go into details, it sometimes reveals the unexpected presence of pockets of people living in intolerable conditions. This is not confined to backward or developing countries, showing up frequently in flourishing democracies and dynamic economies, and more so today as the equalizing winds of globalization create very similar panoramas in different countries.

One such segment consists of young people who neither work nor study: NEET (Not In Employment, Education or Training) as they were termed in the United Kingdom, or NiNis (Ni trabajan ni estudian) in Spanish-speaking countries. The term is applicable within the 15-24 age range (all of whom numbered 21.4 million in Mexico in 2015, or 18% of its population), where a negative perception has spread of NiNis as idle and lazy. It has indeed led certain members of the political class here to propose — rather shamelessly in their case — idiotic solutions to the precarious state of this population. One of these proposals came from the former governor of the state of Chihuahua, now fleeing justice, César Duarte, who suggested in 2011 that they should be recruited into the army.

It is not easy to gauge the size and state of NiNis in Mexico. Studies in recent years figures have cited them at 7.0, 4.7 or even 2.6 million, though none is really reliable, and various calculation methods and information sources are used. Indeed, it is time that the state statistical agency INEGI. begin to monitor this sector specifically, given its ability to forge social and economic data that help mold relevant public policies.

They are distributed throughout the country and found in all social classes.

NiNis everywhere are marked by the discrimination they suffer in both the labor market and education system. In 2016, the estimate for Latin America was that one-fifth of all youngsters aged 15-24 neither worked nor studied, which did indicate a relative decline between 1992 and 2010, and an absolute increase in the NiNi population by two million.

About 50% of NiNis are thought to be engaged in housework, which means they are not available for the labor market, and 95% are female, who also remain the longest in this position.

While the group is part of the Not Economically Active Population, the household chores it performs typically — shopping, paperwork, housework or even voluntary work — are socially useful, though not all NEAP are NiNis. The term NiNi was defined recently (by Gerardo Leyva and Rodrigo Negrete, 2014) as "neither useful nor pertinent," perhaps for the negative perceptions, it has engendered.

Non-remunerated housework in Mexico was valued in 2014 at 20% of the GDP, which forces one to reconsider both the pessimistic view of NiNis and of work done at home by women.

Briefly, we may say of NiNis: they are distributed throughout the country and found in all social classes (though most are poor). The media generalizations about this group highlight other problems relating to them, like youth unemployment (with or without qualifications), and precarious employment conditions (expressed through low wages). Being a NiNi is not a permanent state, and most would never choose to live this way. NiNis show mobility in time (when they find work or move to study for example), their situation is more precarious when they have studied less, and generally, they are characterized by a relative dearth of education.

A Mexican teen smokes marijuana before a rally demanding the decriminalization of drugs Photo: Javier Rodriguez/ZUMA

A part of the NiNi population is always close to certain acute problems like drug or alcohol addictions, violence, risky sexual practices or emotional instability. Their migration, in many cases to the United States, is part of a risky bid to integrate themselves in an alien society that is easily, and immediately, inclined to criminalize them, especially in the Trump administration.

Being a NiNi is not a permanent state.

The neoliberal economic model winds up destabilizing the development of NiNis. The mediocre economic growth patterns of recent years, interspersed with recessions (1995, 2001 and 2009), have created higher joblessness, disguised unemployment, precarious job contracts (or none), and inflationary episodes (most notably in 2017) that produce sudden bouts of extreme poverty and middle-class decline.

All of these macroeconomic indicators have helped nurture the NiNi class in Mexico. And this prompts the need for a debate to identify them as a social challenge that requires specific study, an assessment of their considerable creative potential — and ultimately public policy solutions.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ