Dealing with the Scandal of Youth Unemployment: Opportunities and Educational Processes in the Digital Age

The development of a civilization comes from the passing on of knowledge from one generation to another. This means not only knowledge but also the ideas, values and social ethics underlying behaviour[1] mainly as stated by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura: mortals live by mutual trade and as runners passing on the torch of life.[2]

According to Karl Polanyi,[3] the civilization of the nineteenth century, which was founded on four institutions: the system of balance of power between European States, the basic international aura that symbolized a unique organization in the world economy, the self-regulating market, source of economic prosperity, and the liberal state, all collapsed following the outbreak of the First World War, which put an end to these four institutions. Following the great transformation that took place at the turn of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, today we are living through  a new major transformation, not a crisis. It started in the late eighties of the last century, with the advent of the internet and the rise of globalization, an ongoing financial and economic crisis exploded a decade ago at the same time as awareness of a potential environmental crisis. The political and economic - financial institutions are striving to find answers to the current economic crisis, with a plan to exit from the crisis through the use of digital technology and robotics, not fully understanding the great transformation now taking place. In fact, the increased use of robotics and digital technology is accelerating this transformation, with permanent effects on future social systems, production and consumption. What can be seen more and more is the emotional state of the individual especially in Western economies, a fear of what is new and of hope, not in the future, but in a return to the glories and status quo of the past, where the entrenched landmarks reassured the individual : an affirmation of the principle of identity as an element of stability. There is a  risk  that democracies and politics today fail to grasp the great changes of our time: their vision is tied to  the localised and short term, to election deadlines and they find it hard to acknowledge that the world is changing. The relational model remains the same. The politician chases after the masses and promises to fulfill their demands and this raises hopes. We have to understand that over the last century what has emerged is a growing conviction of the right to wellbeing. Already "in the eighteenth century some minorities discovered that every human individual by the mere fact of being born, possessed certain fundamental political rights, those which today are called human and civil rights. Strictly speaking, these common rights for everyone are the only legitimate ones. Any other right linked to special conditions was condemned as a privilege. This premise was developed in the nineteenth century and later took root in the twentieth century not as an ideal, but as a reality, not in democratic laws, but in the ego of every individual, whatever their ideas. The sovereignty of the individual has become a juridical idea or ideal, one man's "psychological constituent state.[4]

Since the first industrial revolution, the development of science and technology has led to a more  structured wellbeing and has obviously strengthened this concept. " In fact, today's man has an original and fundamental impression that life is easy without tragic limitations, so each individual discovers in himself a feeling of power and success leading him to exert an act of supremacy."  The philosopher Ortega y Gasset describes this individual as, "mass-man" the spoiled child of human history, the heir who behaves as an heir where the inheritance is civilization, comfort, safety, in short, the benefits that science and technology have given the world". If in the last century technological innovation nourished wellbeing, today the development of digital technology and robotics is causing a major social crisis where the first signs can already be seen,  and this is a problem.

On the other hand, today's mass-man sees and believes that welfare belongs to him." Let us imagine that in the public life of any country a problem or a difficulty arises: the mass-man will claim immediately that it is up to the state to solve it." "When the masses become aware of some impending misfortune, there is the great temptation of this permanent and safe possibility to obtain everything without effort or struggle, without doubt or risk; the masses say, I am the state." The fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of relativism, put an end to the strong link with the sacred simultaneously with the collapse of the opposing ideology - communism-liberalism. The lack of these reference points, should have been offset by an economic system with social fluidity which should have enabled any potential aggressiveness to be controlled. The process however put the economy but particularly finance on a pedestal. They were viewed as the new faith and economists and bankers as the new prophets of the right to wellbeing. Prophets who only reason with the logic of numbers, using the numerical aspect simply as  a paradigm of assessment: it all comes down to cheaper models, but the economy is not  yet science, reality is more complex while cultural and sociological models are party to this behaviour..

Innovative and reactionary elite vie for the consent of the masses who are more and more populist, and more and more influenced by the media, fake news, anxiety and stress. They reassure with the hope of returning to the past, achieving broad consensus as in the last US elections, or reassure with the hope of the future of technology and innovation.  In short, global progress as a winning solution to current problems. The issue must be addressed from a cultural point of view, that is the basis of the thinking of civilizations, protagonists of globalization. In fact what is now involved is a huge modification of structures and social values. Technical know-how is the expression of man's reaction to the changing environment and the problems created by his peers.[5] In a nutshell, it is the propensity towards "a change of culture." A culture that is rooted in the capacity to listen, observe, experiment and be curios about the future. Obviously these attitudes and activities are not divorced from the social context and therefore from existing institutions, which themselves must adapt to  new requirements. The development process is complex and must be multi-faceted, if it wishes to develop slowly and harmoniously.[6] What is certain is that in global communication, where information circulates immediately from one part of the planet to another, (just think of the Internet phenomenon and data, documents, images, video, etc.):, slow progress as an independent variable to the harmonious growth of a community, is no longer feasible. This is a vulnus. The speed of technological development creates confusion and uncertainty of identity: the external effect of the single market, globalization, first affects the old certainties, the old codes of belonging to a territory, a story, a faith, then acts as a reaction to the change taking place.[7]   Everyone needs centres of stability, each functioning according to his own dharma and extremely important to our way of life. And everybody is terrified of losing those centres, mainly for selfish and material  reasons.[8] Man remains anchored to the Thomistic view of the world, he is the measure of all things and his way of life must conform to his social class, to his environment, to his traditions.[9] One of the causes of today's social instability in the Western world is the fear of losing one's social status. The 4.0 digital revolution will fuel instability following the disjunction between man and work as the source of his satisfaction: in other words, it weakens the self and the confirmation of his human dignity in his hard work as recognized by others. The loss of manual jobs for unskilled classes, the most fragile, will have a psychological and behavioural impact. We cannot understand the social effects of this. What will these people who are forced out of work do? How will they be reabsorbed into society? And in the future, will the number of employed increase or decrease? Can they adapt to working less? Will this great transformation have a negative impact on current generations alone or equally on those of the future? And finally: the man of the future, absorbing experience that will dominate digital robotics, can he still affirm mensura omnium rerum homo?[10].

A final comment. Some contemporary historians[11] believe that for several reasons the present digital technological revolution is not the way out of the economic crisis. They point out that the combination of the technological breakthroughs of the past quarter of a century and the opening of Asian markets to capitalism, was a mix not repeatable in the future. Productivity gains will  decrease; expectations of the innovations in medical science must also include interest in the medical and scientific discoveries in neuroscience, it must lengthen the life of the mind and not merely that of the body. Otherwise we will have more old people who are not self-sufficient with negative economic and financial consequences. In short, more information, more digitization, more automation, more speed is not always good in itself. Knowledge is not always a cure. The effects of the web are not always positive. There had been great progress in the Thirties of the last century, but these were not enough to exit the Great Depression. What was needed was a war,  What is to be done? In the short to medium term - about twenty years - the problem will manifest itself in all its gravity. Who will be excluded from social life and from work will be those who do not adapt to the environment, probably today's 30-40 years old generations, not those of 10/25 years if they seize the opportunity. The beginning of the last century for example, saw the invention of the internal combustion engine, which  put an end to the blacksmith's trade, but today no one is concerned about the lack of this professional skill, others, such as the car mechanic, have replaced it. This simple observation shows that those who are excluded from work are those who live doing that job, and become obsolete because of technological innovation, but not their offspring. When the child or grandchild enters the working world, other professional skills will be present or required in the labour market. The critical period, ultimately, is the moment of generational transition in working life, not innovation as such.


 We suggests focusing  on policies for education and professional training. This focus must be on the formation of the new generations,  with a clear emphasis on the culture of change already analysed in the introduction. Dissemination of knowledge of the major transformation now taking place will help young people to accept  the anxieties of the future logically, and not go chasing after backward-looking solutions, such as  defence of income or fixed employment. The new entrepreneurial forms should not be opposed by  corporations working against change such as the lockout of Italian taxi drivers. It should stimulate politicians to get out of the electoral vote trap, stretch their gaze towards the common good of future generations, inculcate awareness among the aged and privileged elite who absorb resources from earned revenues but which are now anachronistic. In other words, politics must find solutions to include what is new, and anticipate the effect, by including programmes of educational formation in a rapidly changing economic model that offers no safeguards, not hiding problems or postponing them, but instead favouring meritocracy and not relationship. "When you look more at individual virtues rather than at assets or blood relationships, more at good deeds than words, more at merits than at the vain ostentation of the family tree or family wealth, only then will each person receive their proper due. The poor and those without blue blood, can then hope to make  progress, they can take heart from the stimulus of honour and reward, doing wonderful things for the common  good.” [12]

And finally, at least in Italy - the inability of the scholastic system, especially universities,  to   adapt formation programmes to the new demands of the labour market, are creating a problem. Even today there are degree programmes with outdated specialisations, which wrongly persuade young people into training courses with no outlets and no working prospects within the next decade. As part of specialised professions - such as radiology technicians or medical laboratory technicians - new high digitization technologies and substantial reduction in occupational hazards, will mean a radical review of their role in the production processes, for the benefit of technical or professional figures more consistent with the new ways of computerized and robotic management. One needs answers to these and other questions from short-sighted and self-regarding academic and political elites. In other words - recalling one example already mentioned - you cannot invest in the education of a blacksmith when the internal combustion engine requires a car mechanic. In conclusion, one must look up, otherwise the future will always be behind us.


[1]N. Ferguson, The decline of the West, 2013

[2]Inter se mortales mutua vivant et quasi cursores vitae lampada tradunt

[3]Karl Polanyi,   The great transformation, 1944

[4]Ortega y Gassett, “The Revolt of the Masses”, 1933

[5]A. Toynbee, Civilization on Trial,1949

[6]C.M. Cipolla, vele e cannoni, 2003

[7]G. Tremonti, La paura e la speranza, 2008

[8]R. Girard, Origins of Culture and the end of history, 2003

[9]W. Sombard, Modern Capitalism, 1994

[10]Saint Thomas, Summa Theologica, 1265-1273

[11]N.. Ferguson, Civilization on Trial, 2013social

[12]Fr. Pedro de Ribadeneira, Le virtù del principe cristiano,

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