21 October 2013


Trainer Tales, Volume 2

Me: Have you seen the video Young and Unemployed?

Colleague: The French one? Yes, it's a big hit with the trainees.

Me: I meant the British one.

Colleague: No, not yet. Why?

Me: I assigned it as homework the other night and noticed something about the NEETS . . .

NEET -- Not in Education, Employment or Training

Colleague: What?

Me: They're mostly the children of immigrants.

Colleague: AH! I know exactly what you mean! I see a lot of it myself.

Me: You see a lot of . . . what? 

Colleague: First generation immigrants working so hard to make it in a new country . . . but then spoiling their children rotten. And the children growing up soft.

Me: Oh. That's sort of what I'm getting at . . . but I think the same thing would have happened even if the parents had been hard on their children. They were willing to work in menial jobs so that their children could have office jobs. But this meant that when the second generation grew up, it had to compete with the children of the locals whose refusal to take the menial jobs in the first place created a demand for an immigrant workforce.

Colleague: And then it starts all over again! Did you read the article about the Italian business owner who says he'd rather hire foreigners than young Italians?

Me: Yes! That one is a big hit, too. 

Colleague: I discussed it with an Italian trainee earlier, and he told me that all the best pizzerias in his city have kitchens full of Egyptians.

Me: Well, good for them--but if their children want cushy office jobs when they grow up, they'll be just like those British kids in a few years. 

Colleague: Don't you think there's also an element of discrimination? 

Me: I wouldn't rule it out, of course . . . But even if immigration had not been a factor, there would still be a lot of competition for the white collar jobs. One of my French trainees is an engineer with [Company redacted] and he says it wants to close its office in his city. That will cut over 300 jobs. The managers are willing to transfer as many employees as they can to offices in other cities, and even in other countries--or if people want to remain in the city, to help them find work with other businesses. But that doesn't mean they'll be doing the same work they were trained for, or even getting the same pay. 

Colleague: At the same time, there are so many blue collar job vacancies in Europe. But how can you advise someone to take a job in, say, construction, when his entire education made him take for granted that he'd get to work in an air conditioned office? 

Me: Another French trainee told me that she talked to a young man in the metro who hadn't been able to get a job interview for almost two years, though he'd been sending his c.v. out right and left. She told him, "We can't all work in offices."

Colleague: That's true--though it sounds a little elitist coming from someone who does work in an office.

Me: That's not even the richest part. She's the company's Human Resources partner.

Colleague: Hahahahaha! But she would know, right? Having to screen all those applicants . . .

Me: Sigh! I have no idea how Europe is going to solve its problems, but I do know what the takeaway is from our end. Every Filipino considering emigration says the he wants to do it to give his children a better future. Well, Britain has just given us one case in which that long-term outcome has definitely not been achieved, and I'm going to bet that the rest of the Big Five have similar issues. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the first generation should have just stayed home, but it's amazing to see how fast those "greener pastures" dried up.

Colleague: In the meantime, the Europeans can start having more babies. Do you know what the birthrate is in Germany???

Me: Ich weiƟ es nicht. But even that isn't going to help them if none of the children want to do blue collar work when they grow up.

Colleague: Hey, what did you mean by the Big Five?

Me: It's a Eurovision thing. You don't want me to elaborate . . .

But for my curious readers, there is this video

Image Source: NEET


love the girls said...

I don't know what it's like in europe, and elsewhere, but I do know that in my small corner, i.e. the construction industry in the Denver area of Colorado, the problem is Not an unwillingness of the locals to work blue collar jobs, the problem is the immigrants drove up consumerist expectations by accepting subsistence level wages that made it impossible for locals to any longer work in the industry.

Housing, food, transportation, utilities and similar are now priced at a level to where it is simply not possible for a man to support a family in the construction industry except in a supervisory position.

$10 an hour wages or $1,600 a month won't even cover rent and utilities.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's part of it, too. How can immigrants expect there to be a rosier future for their children in their adopted societies when they directly contribute to bringing down the standard of living there by accepting lower wages?

Belfry Bat said...

Yes, but it doesn't help that the capitalists are happy to employ so many at less-than-living pay.

love the girls said...

Bellfry Bat writes : "it doesn't help that the capitalists are happy to employ so many at less-than-living pay"

Capitalists? Employees? No.

The businesses are mostly no more than handful of men selling their services as subcontracted labor in direct competition with other small businesses.

And those immigrants do earn a living wage according to their cultural standard because they bundle up with multiple members of an extended family where private space is at best a bedroom. Sometimes a shed out the backside.

The problem is that it's not an american living wage standard.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- I'm afraid that passing the buck doesn't work here, inasmuch as "the capitalists" make it very clear that their end is simply to raise their profits by reducing their costs: they may hurt themselves in the long run, too, but that damage would be a secondary, non-intentional effect. I'm sure there are Thomistic words for this.

The immigrants, on the other hand, are looking for a First World lifestyle--if not for themselves, then for their children. In that case, they should know that their actions are directly contributing to turning their "promised land" into an annex of the Third World they only believe they've left behind.

Incidentally, this is what I've been saying for years about converts who want to continue doing in a Catholic culture what they were formed to do in a Protestant culture.

LTG -- No kidding. Right now, I'm making an above-average salary for someone in my position, with an occasional bonus to sweeten the deal. But at home, I share a bunk bed with my sister (both of us sharing a room with our mother) because the only place I could afford to move to would require tenants to share a bathroom and a kitchen with strangers. My family's living arrangements happen to be the Philippine cultural standard: it is normal to live at home until you get married, then to move into your in-laws' home, and maybe to get your own place when you're in your forties. We're quite comfortable, but I don't know anyone accustomed to First World norms who would like to live as we do.

Belfry Bat said...

OK, not capitalists.

Enbrethiliel, I wasn't proposing to acquit price-undercutters; what I mean is that there is an interaction (a transaction) going on that at least two people must consent to. I might visit a thrift shop (usually not, but I might...) but I try to avoid that thing owned by the Waltons.

That is, it's still a case of, simultaneously, the new people overvalue dollars, and the locals undervalue hired labour. If the new folk also undervalue their own labour, (or living conditions, or... ) that compounds the issue.

What I'm getting at is that it's still a local man's duty to communicate the local economic value system to new arrivals; which really should include consenting to do one's own work himself if he can't afford to pay a hired hand local-fairly. And it's a catechist's duty (which reaches back to the Bishop's duty) to impress upon converts that they will in important ways not now live as they have lived before. Certainly, the converts have power to flourish or revert at their choosing, but the Elders too have a special duty of care in their regard.

Enbrethiliel said...


First of all, it must be said that the immigrants are not "undervaluing" their labor. If anything, they're overvaluing it. Meanwhile, they are properly valuing their living conditions, in the sense that they're truly okay with them. (Would you make someone pay for a palace when he is honestly happy in a cottage?) Basically, what they're getting are living conditions they're used to but in a First World country. What an AMAZING DEAL!!!

In short, there's a problem with your model beyond my disagreement that the immigrants are "overvaluing dollars." (That's like saying they are overvaluing good sanitation.) While there is a sense in which the local companies are underpaying the immigrants, it is also true that the immigrants are blatantly overpaid. And you can bet that those newbies know it! (The subconscious fallout of having successfully closed this con job is the reason the Ugliest Filipinos you will ever meet are first generation immigrants to North America.)

It is enough for me to be able to point out, to any prospective emigrants on my end, that unless the work they will have to do to get into and to remain in their "promised land" is also work that they envision their children doing, then they should not go. For the con will eventually bite them in the bum. What you want to do on your end, I have no idea. I propose making them pay for palaces--and not just in the economic sense.

In the case of converts who are also professional apologists, I've already proposed that they try to find other jobs, but at least one of them got hysterical and accused me of snatching food from his children's mouths. I wonder what would happen if I proposed an actual boycott . . .

Belfry Bat said...

Hmm... the more I think about my initial reactions and your reactions to them, the more confused I feel (and this must be a good thing, because we can't find what is true if we insist on thinking we've already got it.)

Just to clarify, when I talk about "undervaluing" labour, I mean the fact of (ostensibly) occupying some other person's day with some job to be done; and when I talk about "overvaluing" dollars, I refer the intriguing phenomenon that the buying power of an american dollar against local goods varies in interesting ways the further one gets from indoor plumbing. This is, probably, more due to american dollars being relatively scarce compared to local currencies that suffered runaway inflation during the Cold War etc, and may be declining as America runs into its own inflation... but, anyways. Immigrants will tend to have unnatural notions of the actual value of a dollar, just because these things really are context-sensitive.

Where I can see how a new arrival might overvalue their own labour, as you put it, is not in the fact of being a freely-willed imago D., but in personal skill, commitment to quality, the worth of the thing made. I think that there I might have cause to agree with you, if that's what you mean. Is that what you mean? Thinking back to the Waltons: I might avoid them because I think they will eventually destroy the West; but I also avoid the "Dollar Store"s, for the different reason that I can't afford to spend another dollar every time something from that store breaks; which they would, often enough.

But... does it help the discussion if we have these three things in mind: localized value, human dignity, and skill/quality of the thing made... ?


Make people pay for palaces? No, that would be silly! I don't object to people living densely (I do object to shunting folk into the back shed, probably --- it might be a really nice shed!); things are quite dense here, too, the product of living urban. Houses only get to be huge 1) when people have way too much money, or 2) in rural areas, or 3) in sprawl, which is an unholy mix of 1) and 2). But I would insist (if it were up to me; thank goodness... ) that people understand something of the shape of the economy they're moving into, and that if they try to make it look more like the one at home (or pretend it only looks like the top crust they might want their kids in) they will at best only break the thing they were chasing. An economy, unlike gender, is a cultural construction, and one shouldn't consent that an economy somewhere else is better if one wishes to deny that whatever in the culture produced that economy is also better.

DMS said...

Well- this has been a fascinating conversation to read. Lots to think about and an interesting cycle taking place in many places. Another difference with some immigrants I know is that they are all willing to share a residence together, and not have their own space. This helps them to live when their wages might make it harder. Many people in my area wouldn't be happy living with their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, or other co-workers and their kids- even if it was considerably cheaper.

I guess we all come from different places and what we are looking for out of life come from where we came from and what we know.

Lots to think about!

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- If localised value, human dignity, and the skill it takes to produce quality things are what you have in mind, then no wonder we're not on the same page! =P

What I have in mind is the blissful delusion that all one needs to do to secure a better future for oneself and one's children is to move to a better place. It really won't work if the very act of moving there directly contributes to turning your new home into a carbon copy of your old one.

Jess -- I'm always a little culture shocked when I watch a Western movie in which someone got fired or went bankrupt and had to move back in with his parents. It's portrayed as a humiliating "rock bottom" rather than a practical consideration. Someone from my city would wonder, "Why did you move out in the first place? Couldn't you have just paid rent to your parents?" LOL!

Bob Wallace said...

I've always been astonished the way economic theory is so often divorced from reality. Immigrants, when there are too many of them, have always destroyed the host culture. They are not assimilated, they want to keep customs that are at odds with their hosts, and they want to destroy the place, mostly from envy.

I live in the U.S. and the prisons are full of Africans and Mexicans. The ones who aren't have driven wages down a lot, and living six to a room is for the Third World and is not the way to keep a decent society going. It's the way to poverty, death and destruction - which I see every day.

Enbrethiliel said...


When I was in uni, I had a roommate who said she didn't ever want an immigrant to feel that his original culture was inferior to his new culture. I asked, "But by choosing to move to the new culture, didn't he already admit that it was superior?"

Sheila said...

The living-with-family thing is cultural, but it's the cultural effect of partly economic causes. My generation is living with their parents much more than the previous two -- and this is called "failure to launch." Meanwhile older people proclaim proudly that they have their retirement home all paid for and they wouldn't *dream* of asking their children for a cent, much less a bedroom or funeral expenses.

That was all very well in the late 20th century when the economy was good. But it's worse now and getting worse all the time, so a return to multigenerational living may be the way to go.

But then I think of my own parents, or my in-laws, and I feel a hesitation ... most of us were raised with a very cold upbringing and the understanding that you "shouldn't be your child's friend" and that they will leave home at 18.

Yes, this IS me saying that an end to breastfeeding and cosleeping has resulted in cultural fragmentation! My pet project. The net effect is that we have chosen to live states away from our parents because we don't get along with them. As this shifts and more parents try to have actual relationships with their kids, those kids often stay home longer -- and are labeled by older people as "failing to launch."

As far as immigration goes, in the US our issue is the minimum wage. Illegal immigrants can get away with undercutting the minimum wage, and natives hate this because they would gladly have that job for $5 an hour if they legally could. (Though they'd like much better to get $8 an hour for it because there weren't any immigrants around.) So the native poor fight illegal immigration tooth and nail, while most business owners tacitly accept it because they want to pay $5 an hour and can't or don't want to pay $8.

Another issue is that some parts of the world are crumbling economically. In some cases land rights are undermined, commons are enclosed, and people can no longer make even a third-world living there. In other cases global trade has forced down the price of agricultural products like corn or chocolate so that farmers can't make a living even though they do have land, so they go to rich countries to survive. They're not hoping for riches or to live like natives; they just want to live.

I haven't really experienced the children-of-immigrants-being-spoiled phenomenon. Most that I know are Asian, and they tend to be given a ton of pressure to excel and exceed the native kids ... which they do. So the Asian kids get 4.0's and scholarships, and the white kids, raised to think they can coast and still make it, are unemployed and living with their parents. And the immigrant parents beam as their Harvard-educated lawyer children visit their laundromat or restaurant. The dream really does work, for some at least.

Sheila said...

However, I don't care much for the prestige of an office job anyway. There's nothing magic about sitting on your duff all day till you die of heart disease. When I had a summer job cleaning houses, I had the assignment to clean an office once. I joked to my coworker, "Oh, I always wanted to work in an office!" She made a face. "Really? I would hate to be cooped up in a place like this all day!" She was in her 50's and had worked every kind of blue-collar job.

I do think it's funny that white-color workers get paid more, especially when we have a cultural narrative that "wealth comes from hard work." Lots of office workers don't work hard at all. Blue-collar workers usually have to, or they'll get fired, but you don't see them getting rich.

The trouble is, there are fewer and fewer blue-collar jobs in America (farming and manufacturing are both losing jobs, partly because of mechanization and partly from competition from other nations) so it's not like all the people who borrowed money to go to college can turn around and get blue-collar jobs if the white-collar ones aren't available. The best they can hope for is 20 hours a week at McDonalds.

One more reason why Americans love to hire immigrants .... they've gotten a better high school education than is available in American these days. Our school system is in bad shape.

Excuse the stream of consciousness; I was interrupted dozens of times over the course of this comment. ;)

Enbrethiliel said...


Stream-of-consciousness comments are totally welcome! =D I remember that Blogger ate one of your long comments once, which was as sad for me as it was for you.

I agree that the nuclear ideal was a shibboleth that was able to exist thanks to a special economic bubble. And I think that there is more to a real "launch" than just moving out of one's childhood home. If there is a "failure to launch," it has been caused by extending adolescence. How odd that the expectation that teenagers will move out of their parents' home as soon as possible coexists with child rearing and educational practices which hardly help to teach children independence.

Of course, there are many factors contributing to the huge mess many First World countries are mired in these days; but I focussed on immigration because it's the one which I and my peer group would be (and collectively have been) most likely to cause. I really think it's rooted in a delusion that good economic conditions just exist and will continue to exist for anyone who moves to where they are.

Now, in theory, it's perfectly possible for those in my special demographic (i.e., prospective immigrants who might be very attractive to employers) to let common ideals band them together and to create better economic conditions where they already live. But as I'm sure you've observed, sometimes people are just powerless to change things. There doesn't seem to be any grassroots solution to inflation, for instance. You could work your butt off to make the kind of living your parents had, but if the government reduces your purchasing power and the value of your savings, then most of that labour went to waste.

Picking apart the modern understanding of blue collar jobs vs. white collar jobs is more your forte than mine. So let me just respond that to that part of your comment by smiling and nodding in agreement. =)

Sheila said...

It's frustrating to me because all my life I was raised with the expectation I would have a white collar job. Academics were of vital importance and physical fitness was not. There was never any question of whether or not I'd go to college. And family members pushed me toward academics or some scientific field, because I was "smart." My grandpa suggested engineering! I felt like he didn't know me at all.

But you see, I would about die if I weren't with people, particularly kids, and I am not happy being always indoors either. Teaching was pretty much the only choice at that point!

It was only when I had the housecleaning job that I realized I really, really liked working with my hands. I liked how physically fit I got and how my mind was free to daydream while I scrubbed. And my coworkers, who were all "uneducated" according to my mindset, were just as smart and thoughtful as anyone I'd met anywhere. I also made pretty good money, considering I hadn't had to go to school for it, only a two-week paid training.

Luckily my current line of work engages all my talents quite well, but I ponder quite a bit what I'll do when the kids are grown and gone. Probably just farm, if I still have my health.

I read in a Gene Logsdon book recently (I love that guy -- an agrarian writer) about how every smart kid from a rural community gets told by teachers, preachers, and even sometimes his farmer parents, "You're too good for this. You're too smart to be a farmer. You should go make something of yourself." And then he comments, "Is it then any wonder that farmers make such terrible decisions, when only the D and F students stay around to farm?"


Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, also does a lot of campaigning for increased respect for blue-collar jobs. In an ideal world, you could make an adequate living and be respected for your peers at a wide variety of jobs, so the people who preferred to work with their hands could do so with no disadvantages. Sadly not the case now.

Smile and nod?

Enbrethiliel said...


Smile, nod and swoon! I love Mike Rowe! <3

When I was younger, everyone said, "You should be a lawyer because you love to read!" It certainly showed a poor understanding of what a lawyer actually has to do! But since I didn't know it at the time and was a huge people pleaser, I went along and told everyone for years that I was going to get into law as an adult. =P

By the way, did you ever watch the remake of Sabrina? I love the character of the father, who chose to become a chauffeur because he wanted a job that would let him have a lot of time to read. The script cops out a little by making his boss a wealthy investor whose tips he takes to play the stock market and to make some money of his own--as if the only way to celebrate such a choice were to show that it can make you rich in the end. The point is that he would have been perfectly happy with a normal working class existence--and perhaps, so would most of us who feel pressured to shoot higher.

Unlike you, I'm not naturally good at working with my hands. But I can learn as I go and figure out systems that work for me. I think that if I had to stay home for some reason, and for an extended period, I'd manage to get into a comfortable groove that would make use of my talents and keep me from being bored. But I'd require a bit of a grace period from whomever would have to depend on me!

love the girls said...

Sheila writes : "Is it then any wonder that farmers make such terrible decisions, when only the D and F students stay around to farm?"

To the contrary, those D and F students typically have more common sense.