‘Neets’ band together to up esteem

Like-minded group forms company to counter social perceptions, inner feelings of inferiority

by Koichi Tsujimura

Kyodo

Some 170 “neets” have jointly established a company, hoping to defy the social view of them as underdogs.

A neet is a young person who is “not in education, employment or training.” Currently, there are an estimated 630,000 neets aged between 15 and 34 across the country, accounting for a record 2.3 percent of people in that age range, according to a government report.

Called Neet Co., it held its inaugural meeting in late November, when it announced it will offer services such as planning social gatherings and selling card games and T-shirts.

“Neets may have a sense of value very different from the generally accepted one, but it doesn’t mean they’re inferior,” said Yujun Wakashin, a senior researcher of social communication at the Keio Research Institute at Keio University’s Shonan Fujisawa Campus and one of the people who called for neets to establish a company.

“Though neets are in a minority, there are many talented people among them,” he added.

Last April, a group of people, including Wakashin, began calling for neets via the Internet to participate in a project to set up a company.

A briefing session held by the group in June was attended by some 3,000 people, including those through the Internet hookup.

Eventually, some 170 neets became shareholders and board members of Neet, with each investing ¥6,000 to buy 12 shares in the new company.

“We’re determined to put our ideas into practice,” said 25-year-old Tatsuya Suehiyoshi, leader of a group at Neet planning to sell T-shirts.

Suehiyoshi joined a university to become an artist but quit after six months for health reasons.

Although he worked at a cram school and bookstore on a part-time basis, he stopped and returned to his parents’ home in Tokyo, concluding that people “cannot become happy because of low pay even for full-time employees and busy work.”

He likes to draw manga. “I will draw what I want to draw and will be happy if people buy them,” he said.

Suehiyoshi wore a T-shirt with a design showing someone whose head is hidden in a trash box and the message “You are branded as trash” as if to protest the social definition of neets as underdogs in a self-deprecating manner.

“Wearing this T-shirt, I’d like to tell society that I am what I am,” said 30-year-old Saya Ikuma, a member of the Suehiyoshi group.

Ikuma graduated from a university but failed to find a regular job.

She became a part-time worker at a day care center for children and then at a cake shop but developed wrist and waist pains as a result of her work.

“I realized there’s no social security for an unconventional way of thinking,” Ikuma said.

She is happy with her decision to join Neet. “It’s fun to say, ‘This is our company,’ and we’d like to belt a home run by swinging many times.”